Michael Dhillon is a sixth-generation member of the Gisborne community and an outstanding producer of fine wines at Bindi, his property south of Gisborne. Bryan Power spoke with him. Read the article here.
The 12 most significant innovators in Australian Wine
“Free of the regulatory controls that could stifle the development of what remains an essentially young, if 200-year-old wine industry, Australia has a proud, if perhaps obscure record of innovation in wine……
Now for something out of left field. Since his father, Bill, set up Bindi in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges in the 1980s, Michael Dhillon has overseen a steady expansion and ongoing development of the property’s vineyards and winery. Today, with eight different sites – each located on the original property – at his disposal, Dhillon owns an extraordinary microcosm of Burgundy-inspired landscape within one of Australia’s coolest wine regions. His two latest sites are turning the expectations of Australian pinot noir on their heads. Over the summer of 2012/2013 Dhillon began to survey and work the soil of what is now his Darshan vineyard, after the Indian name that his father dropped in Australia, becoming ‘Bill’. A mere acre in size, it’s largely planted in rows 1.1 m apart, with vines planted at 80 cm intervals. A small section is planted at double that density – a staggering 22,600 vines per ha. Two years later, on another site named Block 8, Dhillon planted another 1.9 acres in identical fashion. His objective, which he’s now finding the sites deliver without much manipulation, is for each vine to deliver around 400-500 grams of fruit! What kind of wine do you get with that? The nearest thing this country has produced to Chambertin, that’s what. Dhillon will release the first wines around 2022/2023. There will be around 150 cases of each. These are game-changing wines.”
“This patch of land produces what I think are some of the very finest renditions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the whole of Australia. In a couple of hours spent looking round and tasting with Michael Dhillon, one of the most perceptive and thoughtful winemakers I’ve had the pleasure to meet, I was completely blown away by the wines in cask, and again by the bottles I bought and drank during the rest of our time in Australia.” Read the full article here.
It was about a month after my arrival in Australia I attended my first Saturday afternoon wine tasting at Five Way Cellars. I remember that I was more interested in the free tasting concept than what wines would be poured. Not really paying attention to this tall humble man pouring wines labelled “Bindi”. After the second sample (Quartz Chardonnay) I started to become interested and curious, and after the last sample (Block Five Pinot Noir), I had to bend down to search for my chin that had dropped down somewhere between the shelves. Following the tasting and a very nice chat with this tall and humble man, later discovered to be Michael Dhillon, I decided to visit the Macedon ranges and his estate.
Read the full article here.
Acknowledging their mentors has always been important to the Dhillon family of Bindi Winegrowers. Bindi, one of the leading Macedon Ranges wineries, has re-designed its labels and changed some of its wine names, starting with the newly released 2013 vintage.
Key people in the evolution of Bindi have been enshrined on the labels, either in name or pictorially. The inscrutable face of Kostas Rind, the “Lithuanian sage” and teacher at Ballarat Grammar School where he mentored Bindi founder Bill Dhillon (later introducing him to wine) adorned all of the early Bindi labels. He remains on the Kostas Rind Chardonnay, which is the new name for what was formerly the Composition Chardonnay. The 2013 is a fine wine, although the 2013 Quartz Chardonnay, which keeps its name, is in a higher league befitting its higher price. It’s an outstanding wine. Bill Dhillon passed away last year at the age of 75… Read More
“This was one of my favourite winery visits ever. In the Macedon ranges, a short drive from Melbourne, Michael Dhillon is currently making some of Australia’s finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.”
“Few Australians come closer to the Burgundy model of the vigneron than Michael Dhillon of Bindi (pictured). Working entirely with a single, 6ha (hectare), cool-climate vineyard, Dhillon crafts spectacularly refined, delicate, compact and multi-layered Chardonnays (and Pinot Noirs) of great precision.”
“I think Romain was right. It started with the curve of the hill. It had a subliminal effect on me. I just didn’t know it when we drove up to Michael Dhillon’s winery, Bindi. The first thing that struck me was the impressive amount of kangaroos grazing silently just meters away from the buildings. I mean tens, dozens. The Aborigines have a deep connection to the land – secret sites, sacred spaces in the heartland of Australia. Maybe the kangaroos have it too.”
“One of the icons of Macedon. The Chardonnay is top shelf, the Pinot Noir as remarkable (albeit in a very different idiom) as Bass Phillip, Giaconda or any of the other tiny production icon wines. The addition of Heathcote-sourced Shiraz under the Pyrette label confirms Bindi as one of the greatest small producers in Australia.”
“Firstly you have to have a fantastic vineyard site. You have to be honest about what you have. We can’t all own Richebourg. With Pinot Noir its important to be thoughtful about what each vine can yield. I was happy with ½ to 1 tonne/ acre. A few years down the track it has been possible to get a little more”
Australia’s Benchmarks: Winery Profiles
Bindi Wine Growers, Macedon, Victoria
Average case production 150
Winery production 2,150 cases
Current vintage 2005; 92 points, $55, 150 cases made
Best recent vintages (pts.) NA
When Michael Dhillon kicks at the soil under his vines, halfway up a slope between a lake and a
eucalyptus forest in the Macedon Ranges of Central Victoria, the dirt actually sparkles from bits of
quartz scattered in broad swaths through the soil.
The son of founder Bill Dhillon, Michael has been making the wine for 12 years. He discovered that
the parts of the vineyard with the highest concentrations of quartz in the soil make a Chardonnay
richer in texture and riper in flavor than the rest, while Central Victoria’s characteristic zingy acidity
adds to the wine’s juiciness.
He bottles the product of these vines as Quartz, and danged if it doesn’t have a strong minerality to
it. Composition, the other Chardonnay, is steelier and less expressive. Both wines age beautifully.
Although I have tasted vintages back to the debut 1988, the wines were not available in the United
States until 2005.
Other wines of note: Chardonnay Composition ($40), from the rest of the vineyard, is more tart
and angular than Quartz. Three Pinot Noirs, similarly priced, show bright flavors on a silky, vibrant
frame. The best is Block 5, made in minuscule quantities.
“It is the afternoon after the night before, and Michael Dhillon is feeling OK except for a “fuzzy head”, the result of a few bottles of celebratory champagne.
Nominated by Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine for its winemaker of the year title, Michael missed the final pick graciously, accepting that the winner, Pete Bissell of Balnaves of Coonawarra – the generous provider of the champagne headache – was the right choice given his “extraordinary body of work”.
Anyone who knows Michael knows he’s not just being polite, he means it.”
“Michael Dhillon, nominated for Winemaker of the Year, is standing on a ridge looking over his vineyard in the shadows of Mount Macedon and talking about the grass. Not about the vines, just the 60 hectares of grass behind him. Grass that has no commercial use that he knows of. But it’s indigenous grass. And it’s rare. The local council’s environment officer has told him it is one of the few places in the state where it’s still intact.”
“There’s a great cliché in cool-climate winemaking that the very best wines come form the warmest sires. Bindi is a special vineyard on such a site, a basin-shaped heat trap south of the small town of Gisborne in Victoria’s little know Macedon Ranges region. It is perhaps a unlikely place to source some of the country’s leading chardonnay and pinot noir, but Bindi has a lot more going for it that the average vineyard.
Bindi is managed by it’s founder, Bill Dhillon, a complex and fastidious individual who ensures that it’s not only picture perfect to his demanding eye, but is also perfectly focused on ripening its small yields of carefully exposed crops.”
“Macedon is yet another region in the Melbourne Dress Circle that produces exciting Pinot Noir. The Bindi wines were extraordinarily impressive, with the 2000 Original Vineyard leading the way. Borne was a strong supported finding it “sleek, supple and fine, with great length”. Other tasters found ripe, black cherry fruit, spicy oak, a rich, sweet flavour and lovely balance. The 2000 Block 5 is more closed on the nose at present, but the rich, latent fruit is showing well on the palate, which is strongly built with great concentration. This wine has a wonderful future.”
“Although I had tasted the Bindi wines on several occasions, I was bowled over to see the full line-up. All exhibited sheer class. The Bindi vineyard is planted on a hard and meager ironstone and quartz site on the Dhillon family-owned property. Father Bill set up the vineyard aided by his son, Michael, who worked in France in Champagne and the Rhone Valley, as well as visiting 80 different Burgundian growers. Michael has also made wine in California and spent four vintages in Tuscany, while back home he has worked with John Wade in the Lower Great Southern, WA. He returned to Bindi in time for the 1998 vintage, and I regard him as one of our rising stars. The wines have a purity of fruit rarely seen in this country.”
“How’s this for a quote:”…the best thing about it was it didn’t taste like bloody chardonnay; it tasted like Bindi”? So says Berlin-based English wine writer Stuart Piggot…..Piggot had been to Bindi winery at Gisborne, Victoria on a whirlwind tour of the wine regions of Australia. The point he was making about the Bindi chardonnay tasted from the barrel was that the winemaker had successfully retained the vineyard-driven characters in the wine, rather than masking them with winery-created flavours. Piggot says the Bindi chardonnay was as good as you’d find anywhere in the world, including chardonnay’s spiritual home in France’s Burgundy.”
“Style, elegance and a kind of international feel and flavour make these wines the default drink of every sophisticated wine woman. The pinot is suave; indeed it has suavity to burn. The fruit flavours are intensely concentrated and remind you of small dark, but wonderfully ripe cherries. Given the vineyard’s sunny aspect and the vines low yield, it’s no wonder. The chardonnay is less suave but reassuringly laconic. It’s a white wine that’s not easy to sum up with a few standard wine bore adjectives, like minerally or biscuity or rich. It’s a restrained wine, and has that wonderful oatmeal flavour that so much ocker chardy doesn’t have. Yum. These are wines to impress, but also to sinfully enjoy – they’ll put wine bores back in their boxes and press all your buttons too.”
“I tasted the wines Michael Dhillon and his father, Bill, were producing at their tiny Bindi vineyard in the cool-climate Victorian region of Macedon Ranges, from the Burgundy grapes pinot noir and chardonnay, and was impressed all over again. The pinot noir is fine and complex with intensity, texture and marvelous perfume – more than you might hope to find from a young vineyard. The chardonnay is also delicious in a subtly-oaked, understated yet complex style.
Some months ago I tasted Bindi’s sparkling wines, a pinot-chardonnay blend and a pure chardonnay, both with some barrel-ageing of the base-wine, and was again gobsmacked. These are superb bubblies in a full-throttle, big flavoured and very yeasty, Bollinger-esque style…
At 32, Michael Dhillon is an utterly unconventional young winemaker. He cites veteran Victorian winemaker Stuart Anderson as his main influence. Anderson, who established Blagownie at Bendigo in 1969, moved to the Macedon region coincidentally at the same time as Bill Dhillon was planting his first pinot noir and chardonnay cuttings at Bindi.”
“When I had lunch with Renato Sardo of the Italian Slow Food Organisation, he said the best wine he’s had in Australia was a Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir. I rang Bindi, and was told the only Sydney distributor was Gary Collins of the Wine gallery in Pyrmont. Collins agrees with Sardo. “Probably the best Australian Pinot Noir I’ve ever tasted,” he says. Can I taste some? “Er, sorry” says Collins. “The one bottle I had for tasting was smashed en route.” Can I buy some? “Um, it’s all spoken for. It’s one of the problems with the smaller vineyards – they only made a hatful.”
“Nurtured in a heat-trap site in the cool Victorian region of the Macedon, Bindi is an exciting newcomer to the premium pinot noir scene. Since 1993 its pinot noirs have displayed a rare degree of concentration and character, coupled with a classically fleshy, supple texture. Made under the supervision of Stuart Anderson, these are distinctive, highly spiced wines with that all-too-rare quality of Australian pinot noir, fine-grained fruit tannin and an ability to age. Like the 1996 wine, they start life as tight, lean wines before fleshing out later as the sumptuous, superbly fleshly 1994 vintage illustrates.”