It’s all about Chardonnay…!
Our release this month of the 2018 Single Vineyard Chardonnays and Pinots will be a little different to our usual Pinot-dominant offering.
For the first time, the number of Single Vineyard Chardonnays will outnumber its more fancied sibling, Pinot Noir. This has led us to refocus our consideration of soils and sites through the eyes of Chardonnay.
Background on our Single Vineyard range
While in Europe in 2003 (two years before our first vintage) I decided I needed to return to the Yarra Valley to start exploring the stories my back-yard might be hiding.
Few single vineyard wines, criticism of our old soils and possibly just not enough experience led many to dismiss the validity of sub-regional expression.
I was convinced we only had to peel back the layers to find our story.
Today the objective has shifted from ‘if’ to ‘what’ our story looks like. Factors such as farming, climate, clones, wind and aspect all play major parts, but the more I dive into this complicated discussion, the more I am convinced that soils are the key factor determining sub-regional and site expression.
We have just completed our 15th harvest. At this point in our journey, I reflect on the three main stages that we have worked through. All were major undertakings at the time and all have brought us closer to the dream of better understanding and capturing the Yarra Valley.
Stage 1 (2005-2010) – We commenced by purchasing fruit and gaining an understanding of broader climatic influences of the Yarra Valley, and a basic introduction to the range of Yarra Valley soils.
Stage 2 (2011-2015)– We commenced farming our own sites. Trials began in earnest, we built up our inventory of equipment to better work with our sites and vines. Learning increased dramatically as all trials revealed more about best practice.
Stage 3 (current stage)– We started securing vineyards and sites to longer term agreements, allowing us to make significant investments in better but often more demanding farming practices. We commenced our shift to dry farming and organic farming across most sites. Soil biological health has improved dramatically.
Within the next three years, we will introduce three more single vineyard sites and introduce the ‘Village’ range to our line up, sitting between our Yarra and our Single Vineyard range.
Single Vineyard Chardonnay
Call me crazy, but I contest that Chardonnay is as challenging as Pinot Noir in the pursuit of vinous excellence.
It’s widely appreciated that Pinot is incredibly fickle. If, along the way of planting, growing and making, anything is missed, out of place or nuance replaced by brute force, it is often a large fall from grace.
Chardonnay is quite another proposition. Chardonnay is a highly adaptable green-skinned grape with naturally high acid. Popular in regions ranging from cold (eg. Jura, Champagne) through to warm/hot regions like the Riverland and parts of California, it now sits as the fifth-most-planted grape variety.
Styles vary wildly and with huge commercial demands, Chardonnay can readily make solid commercial wines where Pinot cannot.
And here lies the heart of the problem. Where Pinot requires complete dedication, Chardonnay can be a lovely drink with a lot less attention. BUT can it be as complete as Pinot with the same level of input and care? The answer is yes, but the highest notes of purity and clarity can be more evasive.
So, to our release, and why our 2018 Chardonnays are an exciting bunch for us. Possibly it’s the addition of Yarra Junction Chardonnay (from the same vineyard as the Yarra Junction Pinot) offering a third contrasting personality, which reassuringly shares the same structural DNA as the Junction Pinot. Perhaps it’s simply that our Chardonnay journey is catching up to Pinot.
Either way, we are excited by the quality of the wines, but also just how vivid they are.
The wines include our long-standing vineyards at Woori Yallock (Sedimentary Rock), Hoddles Creek (Red Volcanic) and now the Yarra Junction which is a deeper alluvial grey loam. Each is distinct and expressive. We are very happy.
2018 was a tricky year for some sites and some varieties. It was the third year for many of our vineyards to be dry-farmed, and in what became a warm season with some decent rain events, disease-pressure was high and humidity oppressive.
While Chardonnay shone, some Pinot sites were not as focused or as dense as we expected. Sadly, Woori Pinot was the biggest casualty with all fruit being declassified. As a footnote, these vines in 2019 have responded to our changes in farming practice and look simply stunning.
Our two Pinots being released from 2018, Coldstream and Yarra Junction, both look wonderful. They’re a little more open and delicious, and showcase the wonderfully contrasting compact midpalate of the Coldstream against the greater depth and finer tannins of the Yarra Junction loam soils.
Thanks for reading and happy drinking.