Reviewed: 3rd August 2013
Michael Glover, the winemaker at Bannockburn is a (self-proclaimed) very lucky man! According to Michael, the quality of the fruit that comes from the Bannockburn vineyards is so exceptional, that it makes him look good.
I am the first to agree that the fruit that goes into the Bannockburn range is truly outstanding. I am not so naive as to say, however, that the winemaker has not had a significant role in harnessing the quality fruit and transforming it in to a range of stunning wines.
One of the highlights of the tasting was to see the terroir of the vineyards expressed in each wine that we tried. Michael is passionate about site expression and believes that this only happens when yields are very low. I use the term terroir loosely, as for me, it is the intersection of the soil, the climate, the vines and, most importantly, the people who transform the grapes in to the finished product.
Michael’s fingerprints are all over these wines, but that is a very good thing. There is a consistency across the entire range, where texture, complexity and depth are valued over power and where the winemaking inputs are supple and subtle. Having said that, with the exception of sulphur, these wines are made without additions in the winery.
These are very high quality wines where the winemaking has allowed the fruit to truly express its sense of place, albeit in a very tight, age-worthy package. Even the sauvignon blanc (a wine of great complexity) would benefit from three to five years in the cellar.
The two highlights of the tasting were both from the stellar 2010 vintage. Both the “standard” chardonnay and the Stuart pinot noir are nothing short of spectacular. The rest of the range is remarkably consistent and of very high quality. In many ways my choices come down to personal preference, as these are all excellent wines.
Two caveats for the tasting: Firstly, this was not a blind tasting and the winemaker was present. Secondly, all the reds were sealed with natural cork.
Bannockburn – Sauvignon Blanc – 2012 (17.7). This wine has a very complex, worked and powerful nose, with spice, struck-match and flint-like minerality. The palate is dense and powerful, though surprisingly closed and restrained at present. Lemony, long and fine, I would like to see this again in a year or two, as it is sure to age well for 5+ years. 100% barrel ferment in puncheons. 2/3 French, 1/3 Italian (made from acacia rather than oak). The vines are 25 years old and have low yields (2kg/vine). Aims to be uniquely Bannockburn!
(After 3 days on the tasting bench, this developed remarkably floral fruit aromas).
Bannockburn – Chardonnay – 2010 (18.5+). Beautiful nose that stands out for its elegance and finesse, with hints of almond meal. There is a delicate minerality running through both the nose and palate. There is crisp stonefruit, with layers of creamy oak and delicate floral notes on the palate. Very long, though this is restrained and a touch linear now. Superb balance between the restrained fruit and quality oak. With near seamless palate transition, this is a spectacular wine! From 30-year-old vines, the wine spends 2 years on lees and has 100% malo-lactic fermentation. It took 24 hours on the tasting bench for it to open up and show its best, but the result was memorable!
Bannockburn – Chardonnay – S R H – 2009 (18). Richer and more developed, but yet retains the elegance of the standard release. Fine and restrained, with seamless oak and very precise, focused acidity to close. Mouth-feel and texture the key here. Whilst I marginally preferred the focus and poise of the 2010 “standard” release, this is a remarkably fine wine. Wait 5 years to start drinking. ($77, only 100 cases made).
Bannockburn – Pinot Noir – 2009 (17.8). Chewy, dense, textured, long, sappy and savoury. This wine is not about primary fruit, it is about the textural experience. There is, however lovely fruit underneath this, with spicy, dark cherry notes. The silky finish brings it all together, but it needs years for the fruit to emerge from its cocoon. Lovers of structured Burgundy will get a kick out of this wine.
The similarities to Nuit St George were remarkable, to the point that I had to open a bottle of 1er Cru Burgundy as a comparison. The similarities were marked, though there was a touch more ripeness to the fruit of this wine. 2009 was a low yielding, tannic vintage, and the wine had 100% whole bunch fermentation. 12.5% alc. $53 rrp.
Bannockburn – Pinot Noir – Stuart – 2010 (18.5+). In contrast to the structure of the 2009 pinot, this wine is seductive and totally gorgeous. Initially, this is lighter in structure, while the fruit is more floral. This is immediately approachable, yet has elegance, length and persistence. The perfume flows from the palate back into the nose, boosting the enjoyment further. Silky and very fine, though the structure and power really builds with time in the glass.
A delightful wine now or in five + years. The ethereal notes that this wine offered up as it sat in the glass harked to the great wines from Chambolle Musigny. (Named after the founder Stuart R Hooper. $70rrp and a bargain).
Bannockburn – Pinot Noir – Serre – 2008 (18.5). Gorgeous fruit on both the nose and palate, though this is cloaked in a shroud of restraint. On the palate there is cherry, spice and a wonderful silky mouth-feel. The long and savoury finish cries out for food. Again, this is near seamless. Amazing intensity with the proverbial peacock’s tail finish (the fruit really fans out and evolves, providing flavour and texture to the entire palate).
Using the comparisons to Burgundy again, this is more in the mould of Vosne Romanee. The fruit for this wine comes from a separate, close-planted vineyard. (9000 vines per hectare, average yield 500gm of fruit per vine, but can be as low as 250gm/vine). $91rrp.