Some friends of ours recently gave us a bottle of the superb Bindi Pyrette Heathcote Shiraz 2009. According to James Halliday “only a skilled pinot maker [ie. Michael Dhillon] could induce Heathcote to provide such an elegant shiraz.” (James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion 2011)
Indeed! Along with Curly Flat, Bindi is one of the icons of Victoria’s Macedon Ranges, the coolest wine region on Australia’s mainland. These two wineries have established the Macedon Ranges as one of the best sources in the country for pinot noir and chardonnay. The intensely aromatic yet elegant Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir is rated as “Outstanding” in Langton’s 2010 Classification of Australian Wine V, and the Curly Flat Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are both critically acclaimed, regularly featuring on the wine lists of Sydney’s and Melbourne’s very best restaurants.
The Macedon Ranges, the highest and coolest of the five wine regions surrounding Melbourne, is home to mountains and forests alternating with open, windswept slopes. It’s an unforgiving place where exact site selection is critical. The best sites are north facing to catch the last rays of autumn sunlight and are protected from the worst of the wind and the spring frosts. The well-draining, quartz riddled, grey sandy loam soil that overlays a clay base is ideal for varieties like chardonnay and pinot noir, which perform best when their roots are forced to dig deep to survive. In most years moderate rainfall typically guarantees a long growing season but also naturally keep yields low. Consequently, most of the 40 or so vineyards in the region are small, family-run businesses.
Granite Hills and Hanging Rock Winery, two of the oldest wineries in the region, have also highlighted the region’s potential for sparkling wines. John Ellis, who founded Hanging Rock in 1982 with his wife Ann (daughter of Australian wine legend Murray Tyrrell) recognised that the Macedon Ranges provided the ideal conditions to make a world-class sparkling wine in the style of famous Champagne houses Bollinger and Krug. According to wine critic Nick Stock, the Hanging Rock Macedon Brut Cuvee LD VIII NV, which spent almost 12 years on lees, is “an heroic attempt to put Australian Sparkling firmly in Champagne territory.” The Mount William Winery Macedon Blanc de Blancs 1998, which spent 10 years on lees, was the top-rated sparkling (97 points) in James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion 2011.
Definitely a region worth following!
Photo Credit: Granite Hills