The week of sub 30 degree weather and 15mm of rain has settled our nerves and gifted the vines some respite from the debilitating heat of February. The fruit is fully veraised and the flavours and sugars are accumulating at a modest pace. The crop is not large and the canopy has held exceptionally well in the face of a heat and wind combination we’ve not experienced. My best guess at this point is that the harvest will begin in the last few days of March and progress into April.

In the past week or so two significant stages of the year have been reached. Last weekend we bottled the Bindi 2008 Composition Chardonnay and Composition Pinot Noir as well as the 2008 Pyrette Heathcote Shiraz. As done in the previous three vintages, we also bottled a special cuvee of Bindi 2008 Pinot Noir for restaurant Vue de Monde. All the wine was packaged straight off the bottling line and in the next few months we commence sales doth domestically and internationally. I am currently writing up tasting notes on these wines as well as barrel samples of the Quartz, Original Vineyard and Block 5 and the unfolding impression of the 2008 vintage is very exciting. In short, there are similarities to 2004 (fragrant and silken) with elements of 2005 (spice and intensity).

The other significant point reached it was the arrival and crushing of the 2009 Heathcote Shiraz last Monday. The vats have taken four days for the ambient yeasts to get working and as of this morning the winery is filled with yeast and fruit aromas. I am conscious of focusing on enjoying this intense period of the year for it is the exclamation mark at the end of a season’s worth of hard work in the vineyard and mind. The life of a ferment and the sensory thrill they offer is relatively short lasting and the workload is unremitting so it can be understandably easy to just focus on coping rather than appreciating this exciting time. And the fruit? Colin Neate and his team in Heathcote have done a brilliant job in a significantly difficult season and quality of the balance, purity and length of the fruit flavour is very high. The canopy was healthy, as was the fruit at a modest yield (six tonnes per hectare). My initial impression is of depth with elegance and persistence. More, obviously, will be known in a couple of weeks after fermentation.

Last week I had the fabulous opportunity of be part of a panel with Ben Edwards from the Australian Sommeliers Association and Randall Pollard of Heart and Soil Imports presenting a masterclass of fine red Burgundy. The focus was principally on 2006 wines with a few 2005s thrown in to add perspective. As was the case at the Victorian Pinot Noir Workshop last November the wines from Etienne Grivot, Vosne Romanee, were absolutely outstanding. The previous week I had the good fortune to participate in a masterclass presented by Frederic Mugnier from Chambolle Musigny and this too was a stunning tasting for the expression of purity, balance and intensity on display. And 2006? A stunning vintage. For sure, 2005s are monumental but 2006 is more beautiful, at least for now and the next half dozen years.

It seemed, at least for a few days, that everywhere Frederic Mugnier went our paths crossed; at the Mornington Pinot Celebration, at the Musigny masterclass, at an enthusiasts private dinner and perhaps most interestingly for me, at Bindi. It was great to get Frederic’s thoughts on our vines and wines and some important issues of vines and wine styles were discussed. The bunch and berry size and cropping level of MV6 Pinot Clone were discussed as Frederic is keen to take this clone to Burgundy. Why? He explained that studies he has been involved with looked at each vine in 40 hectares (400,000 vines) in an endeavour to find small bunch and berry size without excessive bunch tightness. The outcome was about 700 vines they were happy with and, in Frederic’s words, none showed the outstanding qualities of MV6. I was stunned. We find MV6 to be an outstanding clone which naturally sets a very low yield and has exceptionally small bunch and berry size. It varies from block to block pointing to a high sensitivity to specific site; a good thing. In regard to wine matters, the quality known as tension is observable in very fine Burgundy and it is something that the wines from Mugnier are renowned for. When tasting several of our wines from barrel he gave a wry smile and acknowledged the tension in the wine. For me that notion is about life, vibrancy, intensity and the like. It is not about richness, flesh and juicy fruitiness. Tension and length. Mouthfeel and complexity. These are the things that make wine extra exciting to me.