Macedon Ranges yield classy rieslings, roses and pinot noirs - Max Allen - The Australian - 30/8/2016
The winemakers of Victoria’s Macedon Ranges came to town recently for a big tasting, raiding their cool hillside cellars to bring plenty of bottles to try. It was a good opportunity to catch up with the goings-on in this high, sprawling region north of Melbourne, to see what’s working well in its vineyards, planted variously on the slopes of old volcanoes, in forest-fringed gullies and on boulder-strewn granite plateaus.
I was particularly impressed by the finesse and clarity of the aromatic whites — riesling and gewurztraminer — the delicacy of the roses and the juicy liveliness of the pinot noirs, particularly from the low-yielding 2014 vintage.
The Macedon Ranges have a great reputation for riesling, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Knight family and its Granite Hills vineyard, established in the early 1970s. The Knights weren’t physically there at this tasting, but their influence could be keenly felt in many of the wines.
Hunter Gatherer is a new label from Macedon winemaker Brian Martin, and the 2015 Hunter Gather riesling ($25) is my pick of his range: a gorgeously intense example of the grape, with flavours of citrus and white flowers bouncing across the tongue. Martin also consults to the high-altitude Hesket Estate vineyard, whose 2005 Sarah’s riesling ($40) is another cracker: all thrilling lemon pith delicacy and a crisp mineral undertow that makes me think it’ll age well for many years. For the past few years Hesket Estate has leased the nearby Straw’s Lane vineyard, which has long been the source of some of the best gewurztraminer in Australia: the 2013 vintage, bottled under the Hesket Estate label ($25), is typical of the variety and site — spicy and exotic, with aromas of rose petals and lychees, and a deliciously rich texture.
The pink wines from the Macedon Ranges that took my fancy came in a wide variety of styles. The 2015 Curly Flat White Pinot ($26), made from the freshly pressed juice of pinot noir, is barely a rose at all, really — it looks more like a white wine with just the faintest hint of bronze. But it’s just lovely to taste: creamy and fragrant, the kind of wine you want to drink with sushi.
The bubblies from Hanging Rock Winery are renowned for being powerful, complex, nutty and rich, thanks to the inclusion of lots of aged wines in the blends. But the latest bottling of the non-vintage Macedon Brut Rose ($30) is a little fresher and lighter than previous releases and all the better for it: there’s still lots of savoury complexity, but it’s topped off with an entrancing wild strawberry perfume.
And I loved a pre-release barrel sample of the 2016 Il Pinko from Cobaw Ridge vineyard: a tangy, textural, pale-dry rose produced from the juice of the estate’s syrah grapes. It’s only the second rose Cobaw has produced in 20 years: based on what I tasted, it should do it more often.
The 2014 vintage in southern Victoria was notable for incredibly low yields — small bunches of tiny grapes. In some regions this led to red wines with unusual concentration and density, but most of the 2014 pinots I tasted from the cool Macedon vineyards had lovely charm and brightness.
Hanging Rock Winery’s 2014 Macedon Ranges pinot noir ($35) was perhaps the biggest and plumpest of the lot, but it still had a juicy, floral lightness that kept its balance and drinkability. The 2014 Lyons Will pinot noir ($31) is nervy, snappy and crunchy, with a wonderful slinky quality to its purple berry fruit that reminded me of the gamay grape and beaujolais (indeed some gamay has been planted here and it’ll be fascinating to see how it fares). And the 2014 Cobaw Ridge pinot noir ($75) boasts enticing spicy aromas of heady dried herbs leading to supple black cherry fruit framed in snappy tannins