Tuesday, 5th September 2017

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.

The first high density vineyard will produce its second crop this coming season and the second high density block will establish to the wire and be set for its initial crop the following year. With the Original Vineyard now hitting 30 years old it’s exciting to have some new beginnings to give contrast and aspiration to elevate what we are producing.

My Natural Whine

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 weighing up but the simple measure for mine is for a finding of deliciousness in wine. Finding charm, finding grace.

The above detracting winemaking techniques are outcomes created with consciousness. They come from decisions made with absolute known results. And the wines speak less of their vineyard origins for this. And they show less grace and charm because of it, and, to my mind and palate, they are, ultimately, less delicious than they could have been.

Similar to the above instances, where the mind and hand have interfered to the detriment of sense of place and deliciousness, I find wines that are dominated by a singular character equally disappointing. When a wine shouts of oxidation, brettanomyces, mousiness or volatiles I find it impossible to find deliciousness, let alone enjoy a search for sense of place. I find this frustrating when winemaking techniques obliterate the wine’s farming origin and speak of a heavy hand and imposing mind. The wine itself may possibly be additive free but the deciding mind has its hands all over the wine.

For some wines what detracts from and destroys others is indeed stylistically positive. Like flor and Fino, maderisation and Madeira. One wine’s fault can be another wine’s signature. But there are limits. There are tipping points. To find where the limits are takes stepping beyond the brink and then reflection as to how far is too far. We are in these moments and it’s intriguing to watch from close range.

Fine vineyards are very valuable. They take up land, they take up time, they take many years to mature. Each season they demand enormous care and funding to produce their valuable crop. The closer your link to the life of a vineyard, the closer your connection to its annual crop, the greater the demand you do your best to honour the fruit. There’s a responsibility not to let the winemaking get too far out of hand.

Conversely, the looser the connection to the vineyard and the works of the season the more freedom exists. There is more room for experimentation, for risk taking, as there is less depth of relationship at stake. Quite rightly, this is where much of the boundary testing is happening and it’s exciting and intriguing to witness.

The Lo Fi wine event that Jen conceived and successfully presented was an important occasion. It was inclusive, sincere, fun and stimulating. And hopefully it’ll be repeated.

Weather; Maker and Breaker. 

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 with four weeks of thrillingly sunny warm days punctuated by refreshingly cool nights. In the conjuring of comparisons of vintages prior it’s a little heart racing to recall 1991 and 2000. Chickens, hatch, counting….don’t! This present tropical, brooding thunderstorm system pushes us out onto the tightrope of ripening as the season threatens to fracture. We approach the games of risk and return; balancing the risks of disease and dilution, awaiting the return of the sunny splendour.

We begin the deep breaths in weather watching and willing the grapes across that tightrope.

Bindi news

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]To follow some Bindi news please see @bindiwines on Instagram.

The season is now well underway and has required quite a deal of patience.  The Spring is nearly over yet we have hardly had a warm day and the vines are running a course of lateness that will perhaps see harvest in mid April.  No bad thing.

In 2016 Easter was very early and the harvest was also very early.  Next year Easter is a month later and it seems the vines are corresponding.  Makes sense.  Nature governs the seasons, we respond as required, hopefully appropriately!

The vines look quite healthy and the crop potential is good, but flowing in early December will determine how well the crop sets.  The new High Density vineyard (11,300 vines per hectare) is going very well and will provide its first crop in 2017. This is very exciting.  We are also establishing another vineyard in this way just alongside Block 5 and there are 8,500 vines going in in the next few weeks.

It has been a challenge to get the time and timing right to plough, mow, spray and prepare the new vineyard for planting.  Being too wet is a forgotten difficulty and we are constantly adjusting our activities as the weather turns and disrupts our endeavours.  Again, we are being patient![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

USA Trip 2016

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Warning: No photos, just words.  Quite a few.

There’s a lane way that looks a likely place for a mugger or rough sleeper to inhabit.  Seemingly a street to nowhere good.  It just so happens to house the hottest restaurant in Chicago right now.  Don’t bother looking for illuminated signage, there is none.  Walk though a working goods lift, dark and industrial.  Beyond the curtain veil in to a 28 seat room open to the kitchen.  Effectively, every table is a chef’s table.  Eight hours later I left with a mind bended by outrageously great food and hospitality.  Staff training in the way of Bindi beforehand, serving eight Bindi wines to guests over their degustation dinner, then three hours of tasting, vocabulary stretching conversation about impossibly fine and complex dishes and great wine pairings all was done.  I said wow a lot to your excellence Oriel Restaurant, Chicago.

Whilst the premise of these past two weeks was the Oregon International Pinot Noir Celebration the opportunity to be despatched nationwide by Ronnie Sanders and Aaron Meeker of Vine Street Imports was too good to pass up.

IPNC is an iconic, soulful, confident gathering of passionate producers, professionals and consumers.  Having been a guest winery in 2008 under the Conservation banner it was hardly entering the unknown but formally presenting 14 Australian pinots to 900 American sceptics was a first for the 30 year old IPNC.  It’s fair to say some minds and palates were turned, or at least the ship is edging in the right direction.  After years of Critter Wine and souped up Shiraz these fine, fragrant, persistent pinots proved to be somewhat of a revelation.  A special mention to Belle Pente winery and Domaine Gouge for including Bindi in the night one on farm dinner.  Sincere and serene.

From Oregon (Portland’s Le Pigeon Greg Basser?  Small and perfect) to Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa Florida was a hell of a trip for a dinner but the legend of Bern’s was upheld.  All the way back to 1929!  A good way to do business and put another line through a name on the bucket list.

As is the Sanders way, opening and maintaining markets in exotic locations is a life calling and The Island House in Nassau Bahamas is both a great customer and more than enriching location.  Tranquil.  Soothing.  Reaching.  Further from the rain, cold and wind of Melbourne you could not be!

Twenty four hours in NYC and tasting Bindi wines with the brilliant Michael Engelman MS and 50 staff at the stunning Modern Restaurant was a remarkable entree into the pace and quality that their intensity and passion deliver.  It’s hard to imagine that this beautifully located restaurant is now closed for a very significant renovation that will surely see it strive for a move from two stars to three?  Talk about ambition!

I’ve got a lot of affection for Philadelphia and to walk it’s streets and neighbourhoods again and to see old industry contacts and meet new customers was wonderful.  It’s a conservative, old city but scratch the surface and there’s a lot of love in the wine community that Vine Street have connected with and built up.  As always, the lamest of lame background soundtrack in my mind switches from Rocky to Springsteen, no matter what I listen to.  Cringeworthy sentimentality.

The plains of Oklahoma and its own City and sibling Tulsa are warm hearted (well, ok, summer time hot bordering on sweltering) and the people look you in the eye when you pass on the street.  From five years ago the wine culture is racing along and eclectic bars and eating houses proliferate.  The team at Thirst Wine have a lot of love for Bindi and it was here I enjoyed quite a few of our wines from the mid 2000s that shone and looked every bit as young as the wines we hold in our own cellar.  That’s careful shipping and storage at its finest and the longevity of the wines was compelling and appreciated.

Reputations are hard won in a country of great culinary cities and Chicago’s bounty of grand and niche restaurants makes for a deserved claim to a place on the dais.  Showing wines to 17 restaurants in two days looked arduous but in reality was a revelation and full of energy.  So much goodwill, knowledge and smiles.  And a genuine engagement with the Bindi path.

The USA faces some tough issues right now with its unique electoral choices, the enormous presence of guns and their advocates as well as the more global shared issues of race and extremist violence.  The wine and food sector is usually filled with lovers not fighters, carers not haters so perhaps my impressions carry a bias to compassion rather than fear.  Over two weeks I’ve seen and heard a lot of concern, a lot of thoughtfulness.  Of a hope for fairness, opportunity, safety, to be acting and perceived as progressive and enlightened.  It’s been uplifting.

Tonight, before flying on Saturday, I tentatively begin the journey home by presenting a Bindi dinner for the Australian Consulate in LA.  Edging home with work to do.

And next time?  There’s an inspiring event in Dallas that’s captured my imagination called TexSom that is calling for 2017….[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

15/16 season

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The season of 2015-16 is the season of early.  Early Flowering, early fruit set, early veraison and, of course, early harvest.  All early by the calendar, but the whole season seemed shunted forward.  October was the new November, December was the new January and so on and February saw much of the ripening through mild and quite autumnal days.

The end of March and early April has become, over the past 15 years, the normal time for harvesting at Bindi (which compares to the decade from 1991 to 2000 where we averaged mid April).  And the harvest is pretty much 110 to 115 days after the fruit set, which is normally at the end of November to early December.  In 2016 we again harvested between 100 and 115 days from harvest.  It’s just that starting the harvest on March 4th and ending March 10th is quite mind boggling and sets an early record well ahead of the previous set on March 17th in 2008!

And the quality, the style?  Well, at this early point the wines have great intensity, balance and length.  The winery was full of fine perfume as the Pinots fermented and the structures built with time on skins but overall the ferments were quite quick and exceptionally clean and easy.  At the very least it is a very good vintage.  I suspect as the wines fall bright and they evolve in barrel the vineyard definition and transparency will elevate and we may well be looking at another exceptional quality vintage to parallel the sublime 2015s.

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December 2015

The season that is ahead of it’s time shows no signs of abating.  We now have January weather, yet we are still to pass GO and still yet to collect our $200 (Christmas and associated presents).  A strange season yet sensical in some way seeing Easter is very early in 2016 (end March).  The harvest is anticipated to be in the mid to end March range compared to recent years harvesting very end March and early April.

The vines are in fine form (though some of the most bony, hard old soils are seeing some some vines with reduced shoot growth) with the majority of the vineyard having a beautiful, full canopy.  The flowering in November (again, very early) has seen an excellent crop level set and we will be doing some judicious green harvesting/crop thinning in late January.  The bunch size is quite small at this point but the bunch and berry numbers are high.  So far, the disease pressure is low and the rigorous early season shoot thinning and positioning sees the canopy quite open and airy.

The new high density Pinot Noir planting (1.1m by 0.8m for 11,300 vines per hectare) is developing well and is on track and is growing some strong shoots which will set it up for a 2017 harvest.  The (5,000) vines have been worked completely by hand (hoeing, spraying) to this point and next year will see the introduction of a narrow (68cm) tractor (Niko on small tracks) for undervine cultivation and spraying.  The vineyard is managed without herbicide so the amount of hand work is considerable.

The 2014 Bindi releases (small crop of intense and very age worthy wines) are long gone and we are looking forward to bottling the 2015s from March 2015 onwards.  The wines have a beautiful fruit weight and structure and their harmony is exceptionally attractive.  There is plenty of positive noise around about the fine 2015s in southern Victoria and the vintage looks to be a success along the lines of the outstanding 2010 season.

To our friends and family in wine and life, have a great holiday season and here’s to a prosperous and contented 2016.

Spring Break

The 2015-16 season has commenced and what an unusual beginning it has been.  From the coldest, harshest winter in 20 years with just enough rain to achieve good soil moisture we have jumped straight into an exceptionally warm, dry Spring.  Sadly, the promising rains of mid winter have seized up and things are drying out rapidly.  The positive to this is that the new shoots are really pushing along and not getting trapped in a restrictive Spring cold snap.  We have begun our series of intensive vineyard passes with ploughing, mowing, aerating, mulching and spraying (sulphur, seaweed and fish) and it’s a great pleasure to see the under vine strip of soil gently turned and opened.  Certainly, the prolific number of earthworms are testament to the health of the soil!

The 2014s we offered have all but run out and we are paying careful attention to the evolution of the outstanding 2015s in barrel.  All those we show these wines to are quite astounded at the fruit purity, depth of flavour and harmony the wines already show.  As we always say, these are early days and we look forward to nurturing the wines to bottling and seeing how they settle and evolve.
There has been concerning news north of the range with some incredibly early season fire danger.  Thankfully nothing has been close to Bindi however friends and fellow vignerons have been distressed with the proximity of fire, particularly so early in the season.  We will be doing our usual clearing and mowing and organising our fire fighting gear earlier than usual this season with the hope it is not required.
Now, may the warmth of Spring continue with the addition of a few hundred millimetres of rain!

Bindi Harvest No. 25

Bindi Harvest No. 25.

The crop is in, long live the crop!

In fact, the crop is now a crop no longer but rather has been transformed, by the miracle of native yeast fermentation, into beautiful wine.

The 2015 harvest has one similarity to 2014 (stunning wine quality) however there the comparisons end. Where 2014 produced an extraordinarily small yield, 2015 saw the vines return a yield in line with 2010 and 2004 at around five tonnes per hectare (comparing to below two tonnes per hectare in 2014).

Following a treacherous year like 2014 the temptation is to accept a very high yield, if that is the season and the vines response, in 2015 however we did considerable shoot thinning in Spring and followed up with a green harvest removal of 15% of the crop in early February. This focus on vine balance saw the stunning crop ripen evenly and the harvest ran between March 25th and April 1st.

The fermentations have progressed very evenly, though, as is typical, half the Chardonnay barrels are still fermenting six weeks after harvest! They continue on and some may even ferment for ten months. The Pinot Noirs are resting in barrel with the odd barrel fighting the cold and throwing out a bung as some malo-lactic conversion takes place. All the Pinot barrels contain fine yeast lees and the Chardonnay barrels will likely keep their solids and yeast lees until the end of the year. Interestingly, all through the growing season and harvest our mindset was “patience, patience” and the same held for decisions on pressing (to achieve good tannin structure). The same is holding true with the Chardonnay ferments and the time the wines spend on yeast lees in barrel.

Pleasingly the new High Density (11,300 vines per hectare) Pinot planting done in October 2014 grew very well and may even produce a few barrels in 2016. All clones grew evenly and the enormous amount of hand cultivation care saw the soil remain generally weed free and gave the vines an excellent start. This coming season will see the arrival of a specialist French over row tractor to manage this and the next three small plantings we embark upon.

As we enter the chill of winter our feelings are of good news, good news and challenging news. Good news on the new vineyard, good news on the outstanding success of the 2015 harvest and a challenge ahead with the upcoming release of the tiny amount of 2014 wine.

The only sense of extreme experienced at this point the 2014/15 growing season is that it has been extremely mild.

The only sense of extreme experienced at this point the 2014/15 growing season is that it has been extremely mild.  Which in some ways makes it seem odd that harvest across Victoria is running very early however the whole season has tracked that way and, in fact, the lack of extreme heat has seen the vines progress in a very evenhanded way.

The flowering in late November and early December occurred during generally lovely stable weather and the lack of heat spikes during the summer has seen the inter-row and paddocks in general maintain a green tinge.  Whilst there have been several grass greening rain events along the way overall it has been very dry and a post harvest, strong autumn break would be much appreciated.

We expect to commence the harvest on about March 26th and have it completed over the following week or so.  This will see us running about a week earlier than is now usual and compares to picking from April 6 to 10 last year.  The fruit is in exceptional health and is not far off a perfect crop of around two tonnes per acre (five tonnes per hectare).  The flavours have developed very slowly and the mild autumn has seen the acids holding strongly as the sugars build.  The temptation is always to pick but the reward will be there for our patience and restraint.

Tasting juice samples from all parts of the vineyard sees the personality of each site already evident.  The racy, citrus fruit purity of the Kostas Rind Chardonnay area is there to see.  The volume and length of the Quartz juice is showing.  The fragrance and red fruits of the Original Vineyard and the structure and drive of Block 5 are emerging.  The drive and grip of Block K is emerging as well.

The season is concluding, the pickers are booked and the personality of the wines of 2015 are being glimpsed.