A note from Alex Dale:
Located 40 minutes east of Adelaide, up in the Adelaide Hills, near to the village of Oakbank, the farm and subsequently Murdoch Hill Winery has been owned by the Downer Family since 1939. They planted their first vines here in in 1998 and have built a reputation today on making some of Australia’s finest and most vibrant Chardonnay and lighter style red wines, including Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Syrah. Michael Downer is the current young generation running the vineyards and the winemaking, having injected his considerable personality and individuality into the Murdoch Hill range of wines. He’s certainly among the cult, young-Turk winemakers in Australia (reluctantly though that may be) and a leading figure in the contemporary movement towards wines of freshness, non-intervention and provenance.
My first encounter with Murdoch Hills was the Pinot Meunier (made as a very light and dainty red wine), during a Junk (boat) trip in Hong Kong a number of years ago, during which time I met Michael Downer for the first time. We have become good mates over the years and I have followed his wines as his reputation grows and the notoriety of his wines soars with each new vintage. His Ridley Pinot times Three first struck me a sacrilege and art for art’s sake, but his brilliantly-construed blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Gris simultaneously zaps the taste buds and stimulates you with energy. It’s a cracker !
A good hour’s drive South of the Barossa, but into the hills east of Adelaide, rising all the time to over 500m, Murdoch Hills is among the leading cool climate wineries in Australia. The stars of this new generation know each other well and share the same values. Ochota Barrels and Gentle Folk wineries are neighbours in the Adelaide Hills, while similar new generation rising star names like Riesling Freak (Clare Valley), William Downey, Patrick Sullivan and Jamsheed (Victoria) and Cherubino Wines (Western Australia) are all bring greater intricacy and finesse to Australia’s progressive wine industry.
Michael Downey’s Rocket Chardonnay, from Murdoch Hills’ Artisan limited release wines is one of the greatest Chardonnays I have tasted outside of Burgundy, ever. Its lime-like intensity, invisible oaking and incredible complexity make it a totally world-class wine. Rather like our own new-generation stellar winemakers in South Africa shattering the previously prevalent and mediocre international reputation of South African wine, Australia has also been pushing new frontiers and busting stale old perceptions about high-octane Shiraz and over-oaked Chardonnay being the sum total of Australia’s wine offering. Some of the most exciting wines in the Southern Hemisphere today come from Australia. You need to have an open mind and to risk your own comfort zone. It’s the same thing I tell Australian wine consumers each time I travel there to sell South African wines !