I have maintained for a long time now that Curly Flat, situated in the Macedon Ranges, Victoria, ranks as one of the very finest estates for Australian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Not only do these wines offer tremendous purity and definition, they are age-worthy too – a facet that is not true of that many exponents of these varietals in Australia. Having attended a handful of trade tastings this last month which were featuring many established estates as well as some of those newly championed estates, I am convinced that Curly Flat outstrip nearly all in terms of quality and that value offered is no bettered.
Am I getting carried away? I don’t think so and, although few critics have tasted the Curly Flat range, I am certainly not alone in my praise of this estate. Production volumes are understandably small so perhaps they are akin to a well-kept secret. Jancis Robinson is one critic who has tasted the range and has even 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 produces ‘some of the finest Australian Pinot Noir’.
What impresses me most with Curly Flat is that the winemaker has never tried to ape a Burgundian style. The vineyards are cool-climate given the altitude of 400 to 700 metres above seal level. The cool temperatures delay maturity and consequently the harvest in the Macedon Ranges is one of the last to take place in all of Australia. Such conditions are ideal for Pinot Noir, which benefits from a longer season, and for creating restraint in Chardonnay. If this leads to comparisons with Burgundy, that is by coincidence, not by intent. I have tasted a whole host of pale Pinot Noir and over-worked Chardonnay from Australia, where, judging by the techniques employed, it is obvious that the winemaker has a Burgundian style in their sights. The wines of some such estates are certainly on their way to assuming cult status. However, I would always champion less contrived styles. The Curly Flat are knock-out wines and beyond subtle refinements that take place on an ongoing basis, nothing needs to change here. And I am glad to report that this is the approach taken by new winemaker Matt Harrop, who has taken over from Philip Moraghan. Matt commented recently ‘it’s about the vineyard, not me’ when questioned about his new role.
Matt Harrop’s tenure as winemaker has coincided with an impressive vintage in the shape of the 2015, which was characterised by a long, cool summer with no heat spikes. A dry, warm autumn brought the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to full ripeness. For the Macedon Ranges, the 2015 vintage ranks among the finest three or four vintages of the last decade.
Please see below for my full notes on these latest releases.
2015 Chardonnay, Curly Flat
£350 per 12 bottle case in bond
The 2015 reveals the juicy, ripe limey citrus fruits on the nose allied to notes of white peach and grilled nut. So clearly expressed on the palate, with a zingy grapefruit character taking centre stage. A gentle creaminess builds, with a leesy note complexity. Long, pure and stylish, the palate tightens to the finish, not unexpected at this early post-bottling stage, revealing fine length. There is that noticeable mouth-watering, saline, mineral quality that is evident in so many vintages of this Chardonnay. Very impressive and likely to need a couple of years to show its true colours. (SL) Drink: 2020-2027.
2015 Pinot Noir, Curly Flat
£380 per 12 bottle case in bond
Showing more restraint than the 2014, the 2015 Pinot Noir has a cooler profile, scented with note of violet adding lift to the charactering of cherry and summer red fruits. Very textural, seamless, with a layered fruit, slightly candied in style, before the juicier red fruits come to the fore, with background notes of spice and vanilla pod. The lifted quality apparent on the nose is carried forward on the palate; this vintage carries itself with a fine lightness of touch. It would be easy to overlook the wine’s inherent structure as this is seductively styled, but certainly this could age for well over a decade. An impressive first vintage for Matt Harrop. (SL) Drink: 2021-2030+.
Please note these wines will be shipped in late November, and available for delivery in mid-December.
Please let us know of your interest at your earliest convenience – these are remarkably well-followed, so we advise and early response.
Additionally, I am really pleased to announce that the Curly Flat wines will be present at our Australia/ New Zealand tasting on the Wednesday 5th December in Vintners' Hall, London. For more details about the evening, please click here. You can purchase tickets (£45 per person inc VAT) on our website or by responding to this email.