Along time back, before the focus was firmly placed on cooler climate Australian vineyard sites, a good friend introduced Simon to the wines of an enterprising estate in the Macedon Ranges in Victoria specialising in the production of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The name of the estate was Curly Flat and the vintage was 2004...
I was seriously impressed by the style of the wines even though they were the product of relatively young vines (planted in 1992). A recent chance to taste the 2012s revealed that this estate has moved forward and taken refinement to a whole new level, now achieving quality that I seldom find in both varietals in mainland Australia. The altitude of the small region, just an hour’s drive away from Melbourne near Lancefield, is the key factor in creating the lively acidity and terrific poise that define these wines, ranging as it does from 400 to 700 metres over sea level. The cool temperatures delay maturity making the Macedon harvest one of the last to be brought in across Australia. It is not surprising that there is great sense of place to these wines.
Much has happened at Curly Flat over the last decade. The vineyard has grown to encompass 14 hectares (about 33 acres) of which approximately two thirds is devoted to Pinot Noir, the balance to Chardonnay and a small percentage of Pinot Gris. 2007 marked the first year in which the vineyard was cultivated according to biodynamic principles, a form of organic agriculture that requires meticulous attention to detail particularly in a more marginal climate such as Macedon. You quickly get the idea that winemaker Phillip Moraghan, who has worked with de Montille in Burgundy amongst others, is constantly looking to learn and to develop his approach. The introduction of two ‘entry level’ wines under the William’s Crossing label has elevated the quality of Curly Flat, the principal wine. Phillip and his team taste barrel by barrel to select the very best on offer for the Curly Flat and anything not up to their exacting standards makes its way into the William’s Crossing label. A second label on a 14-hectare estate where the general level of fruit quality is remarkably high, says a lot about Phillip’s commitment.
I am really pleased to offer a vintage as fine as the 2012, a vintage that Phillip regards for Pinot as his best yet. The even-natured 2012 vintage is regarded as a real success story for Victoria. Given that the Curly Flat vines are now gaining in maturity, these two wines exceeded even my lofty expectations. Precision and poise are words uncommon to many of my tasting notes for Australian Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, yet here they are the defining characters that I note. Jancis Robinson, one of the few critics to have tasted the range, has become something of an advocate for Curly Flat; she once commented of an early vintage of the Chardonnay, that it was ‘an absolute dead ringer for mature white Burgundy’ and that ‘the French should be force fed with this (Curly Flat Chardonnay)’. Not confining her praise to the Chardonnay, Jancis also added that Curly Flat produced ‘some of the finest Australian Pinot Noir’.
Jancis latched onto the quality of this estate many years back, just as I did, but it has taken me nine years to get into a position to offer these in the UK! Some things in life are well worth the wait – I regard these as brilliant examples, which not early serve to highlight the diversity of the Australian vineyard map but also the merits of cooler climate zones. These are class defining wines.
2012 Curly Flat Chardonnay
£295 per 12 bottle case in bond
Pale in hue, the 2012 Chardonnay possesses stunning grace; with a complex palate of zesty citrus fruits, grapefruit, hazelnut, lime juice, discreet spice from oak and marked stony mineral vein that is carried long into the finish by an unerringly bright acidity. There is a generosity to the fruit, this is no light weight, linear, racy example of tautness, this vintage brings together a generous fruit, a seamless texture and an enlivening limey acidity. In short, this is a beautifully chiselled, cool-climate Chardonnay with impeccable balance. There is no doubt that this vintage will age well over the next 5-6 years, though its already shining today. (SL). Drinking now until 2020.
2012 Curly Flat Pinot Noir
£340 per 12 bottle case in bond
Youthful almost crimson in appearance, the nose is remarkably scented, suggesting ripe blue and red fruits, with a fragrant, floral overtone. The silky texture to the palate signals a classy, refined Pinot with ample, cranberry, dark cherry fruit, hints of spice and a lightness of touch. A wine of gradually building intensity, it is the poise that marks this out. Not even the merest hint of that medicinal, liqueur-like sweetness that is prevalent in warmer climate Pinot – this is a simply stellar showing from Curly Flat. Long, pure and beautifully defined. Youthful and bright in its current form, this vintage will prove fascinating over the next 8-9 years. (SL). Drinking 2016 to 2022.