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….
A few weekends ago I participated in a wonderful wine event in Daylesford conceived and organised by Jenny Latta. As is the way, my attendance was for work, which happens to be my pleasure, and the aptly titled event ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ was indeed a pleasure to be included in. Having vinously grown up with the classics, having been generously graced with great wine by equally great people, my lessons and subsequent aspirations (and hopefully outcomes) are pretty conservative. Not in a 1980s acid and oak academic Australian style, but rather with an embrace of vine farming and the wine grower’s way. I like my wine’s ambition to embody an attempt for it to taste of where it comes from. I mean this in a landscape sense, not a human sense. It’s about where from, not who from. Show me land, not hand, in a wine. My sensibilities have been honed such that my nose is turned up at aspects of wines that are not in place. The term ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ makes so much sense to my wine mind. I have come to mind the dominating caramel sweetness of new American oak (most confrontingly in young wines). I’m jarred by the hardness of theory chasing acid additions. Balancing where you find your balance takes some Read more …
From start to finish, from September to April, the season gives a long ride. Sometimes exhilarating, continually challenging, occasionally debilitating and always, always, satisfying. For whatever the outcome of quality and yield the season must ultimately be viewed positively and the journey itself as a fulfilment. There are gifts to be given and there are gifts to be taken. There’s a certain fatefulness that must be held and accepted over these months. The striving work is done upon the accumulated lessons of seasons past and in this there is an inherent energy tinged with some yearnings, some anxiety and, over-ridingly, much hopefulness. The calmness, the swirl of wisdom from having seen many outcomes does soften this anxiety and heightens the level of acceptance. To a point. Seasons early, seasons late? In 2016 we see the earliest ever calendar pick in early March, yet still 110 to 115 days from fruit set. Abnormal by the calendar, but normal by the period to maturity. In 2017 we are tracking for a harvest early to mid April, about 110 to 115 days from fruit set. Normal is as normal does. And Easter? Well, that was mid March in 2016 and it is mid April in 2017. This telling by the moon is telling. We have experienced the most stunning run of Autumnal weather Read more …