Vintage 2017 is now officially complete, all the ferments are finished, the press has been cleaned for the final time and all the wine is now aging slowly in oak barrels or in tank. The 2017 vintage was a return to a more orderly and typical harvest with the consistent warm weather ripening the grapes in turn and allowing each to be hand harvested. This has been much to the relief of the winemaking staff after the very quick and compressed vintage last year where all the grapes ripened at the same time.
The warm summer temperature and the dry weather combined to produce ideal conditions to produce quality fruit almost across all varieties. 2017 is shaping up as a standout vintage likely to be on par with the outstanding 2002 wines. Tony is confident of being able to produce an Old Vine Shiraz from the exceptionally ripe and balanced fruit that was harvested. We should also have an outstanding Estate Shiraz,
The Cabernet Sauvignon harvested in Bendigo has been remarkable with the best quality fruit that we have seen in recent times. The Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley was also fabulous and was harvested in excellent condition at the optimal level of ripeness.
For our ever growing number of Sangiovese lovers, our new planting of the Brunello clone Sangiovese has been harvested for the first time. The Brunello clone originates from the town of Montalcino in Southern Tuscany where it is the single variety used in Brunello di Montaclino, - one of Italy’s noble and long-living wines. The addition of the Brunello clone will add more concentration and structure to our Sangiovese as well as meaning we have a little more wine available to sell.
The Estate Wines from both the Yarra Valley and Bendigo, as well as the Old Vine Shiraz are set to be outstanding when they are released - they will certainly be wines to savor or to cellar when they are released.
"Discovered in the back of the tasting pile. Always smartly priced Pinot this, and no different in 2015.
A light wine, but not in the underpowered way. Just mid-weight and vibrant, the style a luncheon Pinot, if that makes sense. Lots of bright raspberry fruit, a dash of herbs at the edges too. Easy to pick this as Yarra Pinot from first go, and still building in the bottle, if a little simple.
Best drinking: 2017-2022. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.5%, $25. Would I buy it? Sure would. Enjoyable style."
Rae’s Restaurant at Balgownie Estate in the Yarra Valley has launched a delicious new lunch menu with a range of fabulous new dishes. The Grilled Pork Sirloin with baby fennel, apple Waldorf salad and mustard mayo was a stand out.
"Ripeness. That’s the focal point in this Balgownie Cabernet, which flirts with some of the rum and raisin dried fruit characters seen in other ’13 Vic reds, but saved from the dried fruit excesses. It’s less Cabernet-like than some vintages and more ‘big red’, but the sheer volume of dark fruit, cosseting oak and punchy, choc mint fruit cake flavours makes this satisfying. Just a little warmth on the drying finish, but not enough to do anything but push home the bold agenda. Personally I’d want to drink this much later, as it is just a little heavy now. A decade will be kind, and the length and breadth are well up to the ageing.
Best drinking: 2025-2035. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $45. Would I buy it? I’d put a bottle in the cellar, but not quite drink now."
The late burst of warm Spring weather has produced the ideal conditions to ripen the grapes and produce beautifully balanced fruit. In Bendigo the vineyard staff have been kept hard at work picking the Merlot and also the original planting of Sangiovese. The fruit from both vineyards reached the winery in great condition and look very promising. For our ever increasing number of Sangiovese aficionados the 2017 vintage should be fantastic.
In the Yarra Valley this week the pickers have been up in the hills at Yarra Junction picking both the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. The berries are looking great with nice ripeness levels and lovely balance between and sweetness and acid. Tony was especially glad that we were able to pick all the vineyards before the rain showers.
In the winery Tony and the winemaking team are keeping very busy – most of the Chardonnay has finished their fermentation and have been pumped into French oak barrels to mature. The Chardonnay for Estate wines are still fermenting in oak where lees stirring is utilized to add creaminess and complexity to the finished wine. Meanwhile the Shiraz is busily fermenting away in traditional open fermenters where they undergo hand plunging twice a day to gently extract the colour and tannins from the grape skins.
We have had a busy weekend harvesting at Balgownie Estate Yarra Valley with sunny and warm weather bringing the grapes to a perfect ripeness and balance. Our picking crews have been hard at work hand harvesting both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir over the course of just three days. This has been a mammoth effort to pick all the fruit in such a short time and extra pickers were brought in to ensure that all the grapes were hand-picked in a timely manner.
In Bendigo the crews have been hard at work harvesting Shiraz from a number of different vineyards. The fruit has been looking terrific and the winemaking staff are excited at the potential for exceptional finished wines. This week Shiraz from Rock Block, Railway Block, North Block and the Lone Gum Vineyard have been harvested by hand to ensure that only the best grapes are used. Each vineyard is picked in three separate passes to ensure that the best quality is picked first and kept as a separate batch in the winery.
All the fruit coming ripe together and being picked together means that Tony and the winemaking staff are in for a busy time over the following weeks.
This week the staff have been hard at work picking in the vineyards in Bendigo. The consistent warm weather in the area has ripened the grapes beautifully and resulted in many of the vineyards being ready to pick this week
Shiraz from the Triangle Vineyard has been picked this week and is destined for our delicious Rosé. The balance between ripeness, acid and flavour is outstanding this year and Tony is confident of producing a beautiful wine that is sure to delight.
As well the Three Cows Vineyard was hand harvested yesterday, which is quite early for us to be picking Shiraz. The Three Cows Vineyards is a relatively new vineyard planted in 2012 and seems to consistently ripen early. The fruit was harvested at 13.5° Baumé with wonderful balance. Part of this fruit was destemmed and added to the fermentation tank as whole berries with the more usual crushed berries added on top. Having a proportion of whole berry fruit will encourage bright, lifted fruit flavours in the finished wine.
The remaining Chardonnay was hand-picked this morning from our Old Vine Chardonnay vineyard. This vineyard has been picked over three separate passes to ensure that the fruit is picked at its optimum ripeness. All the chardonnay is undergoing fermentation using a combination of wild and cultured yeast to increase the level of complexity in the wine.
Shiraz from The Three Cows Vineyard being destemmed before being added to the ferment as whole berries.
The 2017 vintage has begun with the first pick of Chardonnay from the vineyards in Bendigo. The first vineyard to be picked was the Old Vine Chardonnay, Balgownie’s very first Chardonnay vineyard planted in 1976. The fruit was of exceptional quality with good acid and flavour; winemaker Tony Winspear is very excited about the quality of the fruit and the potential to produce an outstanding Estate wine.
The Young Chardonnay block has also been picked, a much younger vineyard planted in 1983. These grapes are also of exceptional quality and look to be headed to Balgownie’s Estate wine. All the vineyards at Balgownie Estate are handpicked which results in only top quality fruit reaching the vineyard as our pickers are able to discard any berries that not fully ripe. It also means that the fruit is excellent condition for its trip to the winery and not subject to oxidation.
The first batches of chardonnay are currently being fermented using wild yeast - that is indigenous yeasts that are present in the vineyard. These yeasts add an individual character, as well as texture and complexity to the finished wine.
There has been a long history of wine growing in the Bendigo area with the vines being planted following the discovery of gold in the area. The first vineyards were recorded being planted in 1855 and by 1861 there were well over 40 vineyards producing in the area. Production in Bendigo peaked around 1880 with 540 acres under vine divided among over 100 wineries.
In 1893 the vine louse phylloxera reached Bendigo, have being first being detected in Geelong. Originating in the US, there is still no cure other than prevention and it quickly laid waste to the Bendigo vineyards before devastating the remainder of the vineyards in Victoria. The spread of the phylloxera and an oversupply of wine coupled with the depression meant that the vineyards in Bendigo (and much of Victoria) were not replanted.
Stuart Anderson led the resurgence of wine growing in the Bendigo area, planting the first new vineyard in the area in 1969. Stuart initially planted his vineyards to Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon but in 1976 added a block of Chardonnay to his vineyards, doubtless inspired by Max Lake in the Hunter Valley. Although Bendigo does not readily spring to mind as a Chardonnay area, the Balgownie Estate Chardonnay has built an impressive following since its first release in 1979.
With the vineyard now over 40 years old, the heritage and the experience with this varietal are evident in the new release 2015 vintage. Produced consistently from the original vineyards in Bendigo, the 2015 Estate Chardonnay is a wonderful complex wine with sensational balance of peach, honey fruit, crisp acid and gentle integrated oak.