From wide to close, our pinot journey.
It’s a nice nostalgia to reflect on the explorative days in 2010 and 2011 as plans were made to establish the Darshan and Block 8 sites, for an evolution from our 1988 commencement plantings at 2,500 vines per hectare to 11,000+. Whoosh….time flies! It’s a sadness that founding Father Bill (Darshan) isn’t here to enjoy the results of those discussions and decisions; we are farming relationships with family and friends as much as we are farming vines for wines.
In 2010 an enlightening visit to the adventurous Erinn Klein at the Adelaide Hills winery Ngeringa was made to discuss closer planting and its management. Erinn showed me his narrow German Niko ‘tractor’……
We were very keen for rebounds of many kinds. The angst and grind of 2020 surely couldn’t remain shackled to us so far into 2021? Despite the wet spring and summer, the 2021 viticultural season ended incredibly kindly; amazing finishing warmth that concentrated the flavours and sugars while preserving the acidities. The amazing finish, the equal of any wonderful weather experienced over our preceding 30 vintages, capitalized on all the work done to keep the canopy open and the crop clean and the fabulously intense and ripe fruit was harvested in perfect weather conditions. The ferments have gone cleanly and smoothly and the wines are ticking along doing some malo-lactic in barrel. The push and pull, the rush and drive from September to April has its reward and the line up of barrels in the cellar is the equal or better of any season gone before. Who’d have thought this in mid March?!! A simple summary; we worked hard through spring and summer for two fine and final brilliant weeks to make the vintage. This remarkable 2021 vintage reminds us to stay patient and hopeful ‘cos it’s not over until it’s over!
This is the summary from my presentation to the Victorian Pinot Noir Workshop in November 2019 detailing the establishment of our Darshan high density vineyard. It is sourced from these photos and records documenting and explaining the nature of the works.
Pictured is a bloody big bulldozer, but this Cat had no idea…….
You really would think that when driving a powerful D6 dozer the driver would know exactly where they were headed before the gripping and ripping began. But on this day this Cat was all over this park….all over the Darshan vineyard site. To the operator’s defence, this was the first time he’d deep ripped such narrow vineyard sites. After much head scratching and cursing the driver, vineyard surveyor and technology agent eventually got their collective minds around the software alignment and the big Cat got purring. That day they burned plenty of their time and diesel and they burned a lot of our money!
The big Cat was here in May 2013 as we established the Darshan site by deep ripping twice to a depth of 1m for 1.1m wide rows for 11,000+ vines per hectare. After working in vineyards and making vintages in Europe in the 1990s it could be perceived that these new Bindi works were based on those inspiring experiences and places, and in part they were. With domestic pride and no cultural cringe, it is important to understand the establishment practices commenced in 2012 and implemented through 2013 to 2016 were fundamentally local. There was no specialised equipment or imported technique used to establish the vines until the third season, which then saw different equipment doing similar work to that already being done in the wide rows. How parochial, Oi, Oi Oi!
The ride was long and radical. When we thought ‘this season has had it all’ it gave some more, and what more it gave!
The early winter rains were a blessing and the soil saturated and the dams overflowed, as did our level of satisfaction. Then things dried out. Spring was dramatically dry and cold and then turned nastily windy, hot and dry. The countryside suffered. With the dry and cold of early spring came frightening freezes and hard frosts that damaged the new shoots. Here we go we said. The fruit set was disrupted by winds and wildly swinging weather and the crop was further reduced. The summer was so severe, the countryside so vulnerable, the mood was glum and our concerns went well beyond our own crops. Our colleagues and countryfolk and the fauna and flora of many states were scorched and tormented by smoke and fire in unimaginable ways.
Then things turned, and then they turned again.
September is always an exciting month at Bindi. The vineyard comes to life, as does the flora and fauna around the property as the birds’ chorus builds and the wildflowers colour the bush and grass lands. It is also the month we release the final set of the previous vintage wines. There is a lovely loop as the last of the 2018s are released, the 2019s rest in barrel and the 2020 season bursts from the canes as buds then shoots.
The 2018 season has produced beautifully balanced and expressive wines. This fine season was neither cool nor hot and the balance in the weather and vines is evident in the charm and beauty of the wines. All the 2018s have a long life ahead of them yet will drink beautifully as they age due to their harmony. The 2019s are a different story, all bright and brash and charged with vintage and vineyard character as they slowly gain finesse and beauty. What will be the outcome for 2020? We have the vision, the usual fastidious processes will be followed and refined and then, in the autumn, we shall see!
High Density Vineyards….
After fifty consecutive winery days it finally feels like the harvesting and fermenting are done! The resulting wines in barrel tell the story of a remarkable and exceptionally successful season. It is now we take our first steps off the roller coaster that began in September 2018 and concluded in these first April weeks of 2019. Whilst still slightly giddy, the mind, like the wines, is naturally clearing and brightening.
This growing season began with the driest September in 110 years after a winter disappointingly devoid of saturating rains. It was an eerie omen and had us on edge for what could unfold as the Spring progressed. October saw an unprecedented run of frosts and our nerves were further frayed. Then, thankfully, the season making rains came. November and December provided relieving rainfall and the vines flourished and the dams rose. It really was a dramatic turnaround and the scene and the fruit became set for a potentially great run to harvest…..
One + One + One = Five
In 1992 Bindi was just four years in and for money and love I worked for a wine retailer/importer. Newsletter writing and offering themed dozens was part of my go and selecting the Australian Shiraz dozen was a highlight. The mixed dozen in 1992 included many single site wines such as Jasper Hill, Craiglee, Dalwhinnie, Wendouree, Armagh, Aberfeldy, Mount Edelstone, Brokenwood Graveyard, Tyrell’s Vat 9 and Plantagenet. A delicious roll call both then and certainly now.
For some soap box reason, having never visited an export market nor exported yet (Bindi being just two vintages in), I wrote that these were the wines and stories that Australia should be championing to the world. Under the heading ‘A message for exporters’ this audacious 24 year old bemoaned the international image of Australian wine being focused on wines like Lindermans Bin 65 rather than place and people wines such as Wendouree Shiraz. And for the next 20 years I felt it was mostly much the same.
EQ and IQ
The wine at the end of the tunnel appears brightly as these two months of increasingly narrow focus, of declining physical, mental and emotional energy, give way to a sense of lightness, contemplation, softening. Slumbering even.
The harvest and all that surrounds it is a compelling and demanding time. All is heightened. It’s a time where vulnerabilities are laid bare. The weather and it’s vagaries test and threaten. The logistics of the vineyard demand. The Groundhog Day(s) and weeks in the winery create a blur of and in time. What day is it, what week is it, what vintage is it? Where’s the bloody fitting for that tank?
It’s a time for serious analysis, and I’m not talking pH and sugars. Every thing done, by any and everyone, has an impact on capturing a year’s work and how the market duly unfolds in a year’s time. These critical weeks of pitching in, working for the common good, striving for an outcome of excellence and beauty is marked by the generosity and energy of many contributors. As it is and as it must, these are viewed and reviewed, observed and analysed and appreciated and stored away for the quiet times of deeper autumn and wintertime.
Loire Valley 1998. Claude Bourguignon 2018.
We spend a lot of time looking across and above our vineyards. We admire the easily evident beauty of ordered vines embellishing the landscape. It’s very infrequent, and certainly not Instagram worthy, to focus below the surface and below the microscope.
In 1998 I spent my usual few weeks roaming the vineyards and cellars of Burgundy before spending one week following the Loire from Nevers to the coast. Much of my trip was visiting producers for importer Paul de Burgh-Day (which is now Robert Walters’ Bibendum Wine Co) where the focus was (and remains) on the finest vignerons with a bent for promoting soil life and low input vinification. Burgundy was its usual inspiring self for wines and conversations of terroir and typicity however it was in the Loire that I felt the dynamic stirring for a lowering of the vision. It was in the Loire that I felt a gathering momentum for seeing and feeling the earth. It shook me up and put us on a patient and determined path to improvement.
As we exit the cold and dark dormancy of winter the promise of spring and the growing season to vintage 2018 begins. This will be our 30th year of vines at Bindi and it’s with excitement and the usual caution that we make our seasonal plans. There are no new projects set for this season and we are inspired to work carefully and in timely ways as each stage of the season approaches.
We are releasing the last of the 2016 wines and it’s been very pleasing to see the wines evolve so well in barrel and now settling in bottle. They are harmonious and textured wines that have the intensity to age very well. Most of the 2017 Pinot Noirs have finished the malolactic and we have been keeping a close eye on their progress and racking where appropriate. There are a few 2017 Chardonnay barrels still to ferment the last of their sugars (as the weather warms again) but most are dry and resting brightly on their yeast lees….