In his review of the Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir 2010 The Wine Front’s Mike Bennie sets the scene: “One of those holy grail sites in the Australian wine landscape – half of one hectare, quartz riddled, sits the right way for sun, angels sing, dogs howl, a single dove rests with the weight of a feather, precariously on a vine, as a rainbow arcs across the sky and a unicorn appears. That kind of thing.” (The Wine Front, 13 September 2011)
Bennie’s description of Bindi’s Block 5 vineyard in the Macedon ranges reminded me of that famous photo of Burgundy’s Romanée-Conti vineyard with the old stone Cross on the vineyard wall. The Romanée-Conti vineyard originally belonged to the Abbey of Saint Vivant, and the medieval monks approached their vineyard lands as almost hallowed ground, believing each individual vineyard site was a unique expression of God’s handiwork.
Oh, the romance and mystique of the single vineyard! Bindi’s Block 5 is up there with Henschke’s Hill of Grace as one of Australia’s most famous vineyard sites. And just as the wine from Romanée-Conti vineyard is different in character from its neighbour across the road, La Tâche, according to Bindi’s winemaker Michael Dhillon, the wine from Block 5 is “always darker in fruit expression and immediately more spicy and earthy than [Bindi’s] Original Vineyard. It is less immediately perfumed and has more tannin and fruit power. The wines from this vineyard require more bottle ageing to develop the same suppleness and delicacy as the Original Vineyard but even in their youth these wines are more profound.” Yes, the analogy to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti does indeed seem apt.
In her review of the 2009 vintage of Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir, Jancis Robinson remarked that “you’d be thrilled by this in Burgundy.” Indeed, Dhillon has a very Burgundian, terroir-driven approach to managing his vineyards. Labour intensive practices such as hand-pruning and hand harvesting are complemented with the use of biodynamic and organic principles. Everything is done with an eye to fully expressing magical qualities of the very special terroir.
The Bindi property was originally purchased in the 1950s. Only six hectares of the 170 hectare farm are planted to pinot noir and chardonnay. The sheltered, north-facing, shattered quartz over siltstone and clay Block 5 vineyard is only a half hectare. The wine spends 15-17 months in French barrels of which about 35% are new. In a typical vintage only 150-200 cases are made. The current vintage retails for around $100. A bargain if you can find it!