02 April 2014

Mac Forbes Wines Vintage 2014

Mac’s quest to make wines that express site is exciting to watch from afar, so I jumped at the opportunity to get up close and witness the process close-up. Young-gun winemakers from across the globe line up to do an internship with Mac, so I was also guaranteed some excellent company.

After long days spent in the vineyard and winery, the evenings were all about great food and amazing wines from around the globe. Given the excellent speaker system in the winery and a bunch of music fans, the week was also saturated with tunes!

Monday: cleaned tanks; plunged caps; tasted through ferments; Wine of the Day: 2012 Mac Forbes ‘Woori Yallock’ Pinot Noir; Tune of the Day: Beastie Boys ’Sabotage’

A nice easy start to the week, with no fruit coming in to the winery, gave an opportunity to taste through all the ferments with the winemakers.

Also, it turns out cleaning tanks is like riding a bike, you never forget!

Tuesday: picked ‘Wesburn’ & plunged caps; Wine of the Day: 1978 Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon; Mix of the Day: Funk Master Flex ’The Mix Tape Vol II’

10 hours of picking ‘Wesburn’ certainly gave me ample time to admire this amazing vineyard. Organic since planting in 1981, Mac believes it will produce some of his best wines.

Wednesday: picked ‘Wesburn’ and ‘Hoddles Creek’; Wine of the Day: 2011 Joh. Jos. Prum Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett; Tune of the Day: Betty Davis ’If I’m in Luck I Might Just Get Picked Up’

‘Hoddles Creek’ is Mac Forbes’ only vineyard on the Yarra’s volcanic red soils. It was my first opportunity to pick any Pinot Noir and the low yields were obvious. One advantage of the low yields were that it gave Mac the opportunity to use his own picking crew (us) to pick small sections of the block at a time.

Thursday: vineyard work at ‘Gruyere’; Wines of the Day: vertical of Mac Forbes ‘Yarra Valley’ Chardonnay;. Tune of the Day: Tool ’Sober’

2008 Mac Forbes ‘Gruyere’ Syrah was the first wine of Mac’s I ever tasted, so it was great to spend the morning there getting to know the vineyard. The quality of fruit was obvious- Mac’s vineyard management and early picking policy had insured quality Pinot Noir being taken off the week before and the Shiraz and Bordeaux varieties still on the vine were tasting great. Back at the winery the crew had opened a full vintage vertical of Mac Forbes ‘Yarra Valley’ Chardonnays. The ability of this entry level wine to age was confirmed to me.

Friday: Pressed ‘Lower’ and ‘Upper’ Woori Yallock Pinot Noir; tasted through ferments; Wine of the Day: 2014 ‘Woori Yallock’ Pinot off ferment; Tune of the Day: Deftones ’Change’

In a fitting finale to my week, Friday started with pressing of the prized ‘Woori’ Pinot. ‘Woori Yallock’ is the jewel in the crown for Mac Forbes Wines and this year it was picked in three sections: ‘top’, ‘middle’ and ‘lower’. It was decided after tasting the ferments that two of the three were ready to press. The ‘middle’ ferment was left on skins, enclosed in ‘God’- the imposing Austrian large-format oak tank.

The story of vintage 2014 in the Yarra is one of small yields, due to cool wet conditions at fruit set in early November, coupled with hot dry conditions after mid December. Quality is high though, so expect some cracking wines.

Leaving the next day for a quick ‘Sherry swim through’ of Melbourne, a few things stood out about my visit to Mac Forbes; the attention to detail and the willingness to do everything the ‘right’ way, even if that meant manually!

- Sam Blackwell

05 September 2013

mac forbes 2012 pinot noir launch

After a punishing trade day week, I was somewhat relieved to be jumping on a plane away from the madness, and heading to the Yarra Valley to taste through the new Mac Forbes 2012 Pinot Noirs. This could of course be done at my desk, but with the promise of seeing the valley from the air, vineyard tours, masterclasses and sensational local produce, that’s pretty hard to pass up!
All was taken care of; airport pickup and ably taxi-ed by Mac’s mate Al to the valley, fantastic steak and too much wine at the healsville Hotel, which prepared us for the main event on Tuesday:
Up early to a foggy inversion layer over the valley, quickly clearing in the upper reaches of the valley, but delaying our small six-seater flight for a chance to imbibe more caffeine. Mac had organised a series of flights for all the guests (distributors, trade and press) over the valley to explain the differences of "lower" and "upper" Yarra valley and the various climatic influences, soil types and topographical conditions at play. rising above the remaining clouds we were treated to a windless, perfect sky that persisted all day, an absolute treat to be there on that day.

Safely back in our wheels, we spent the rest of the morning touring the Gruyere site, finishing up some pruning and getting the low-down on viticulturists Dylan and Ben’s vineyard philosophies whilst stuffing down bacon and egg rolls made by Matt Wilkinson from Pope Joan!

The main event: in the cool barrel room at Mac Forbes winery we tasted through all the 2012 Pinot Noirs, discussing the sites in detail; plus back vintage selections from Coldstream and Woori Yallock. The difficult years of 2009 and 2011 tested all of Mac’s considerable talents, but he was rightly proud of the 2012 Pinots and the direction of his wine style which has culminated in some pitch-perfect pinots from the vintage.
Matt whipped up some great steak sandwiches to re-energise our afternoon, which focused on the upper yarra sites of Woori yallock, Hoddles Creek and Wesburn, and we saw early bud-burst already on most vines due to a fairly warm late winter.
Tony Jordan welcomed us to his Hoddles Creek family vineyard for a taste through the current and back vintages of Mac’s chardonnays, which refreshed the palate and spoke volumes of the tightly-wound linear styles he has created that seem to show great longevity and promise.
Lastly, Mac highlighted some of the not yet his, but much desired sections of vineyards in the upper yarra that he would love to work with. Our final resting stop was the Wesburn site, newly regrafted to Pinot and eeking out a few rows of juvenile rootstock planings of Mac’s Blaufrankisch project.
Perfectly executed day, such attention and care to restore vineyards with the results clearly showing in the new release wines. Sunset was enjoyed with cold beer and the rest of the night involved ludicrously good local produce ably presented by Matt Wilkinson again, paired with too many good wines to mention and celebrated with some seriously talented wine peers.
Thankyou to mac and his entire team for an incredible insight into the future of the Yarra Valley.

29 July 2013

2014 Halliday Wine Companion

The newly released James Halliday Wine Companion 2014 has produced a plethora of highly-rated wineries that we represent.

Hallidays highest rating scores were given to the following Liquid Library wineries:


Five Pink Stars *****

Larry Cherubino Wines

SC Pannell



Five Pink Stars and Best of the Best


By Farr/ Farr Rising

Jasper Hill

Voyager Estate

Stefano Lubiana

Mount Mary


5 red star James Halliday winery rating  Outstanding winery regularly producing wines of exemplary quality and typicity. Will have at least two wines rated at 94 points or above, and had a five-star rating for the previous two years. 4.9%. Where the winery name is itself is printed in red, it is a winery generally acknowledged to have a long track record of excellence – truly the best of the best. 3.8%

23 May 2013

By Farr 2011 Vintage Report

"What a vintage!

Not since the cold and tiny vintage of ’02 have we seen temperatures so low over the ripening period. Then add rain, it started in September and didn’t let up until mid April meaning there wasn’t a week where you could take your finger off the pulse and relax. The producers that have had some favorable conditions and were able to with stand the disease pressure as we did will be extremely happy and excited about the prospect of this vintage. 

Bud burst was of the norm, as the past two vintages had been early. After 6 years of an extensive mulching program to trap moisture, this was the year that may of brought it all undone because of the abundance of water flowing through the vineyard, but in fact the straw helped to drain the water away from the root zone once the soil profile was full.

 The very long, wet and cool growing conditions resulted in the best acid and pH levels in 20 years. The yields where high at about 2.5 tons per acre but didn’t matter considering the flavour and quality of the fruit. We were seeing flavours in the juice that we had not seen before, this is what kept us pushing through the mud and water over vintage.

Harvest started on the 20th of March but didn’t really get going until the 28th, two weeks later than normal, but once it started we didn’t stop for three weeks. There was even ripening  across the vineyards, causing all varieties to be ready at once putting pressure on the team to find tank space.

Fermentation of both red and white’s was fantastic, whites going through smoothly at cool temperatures and the reds needing little intervention for extraction. We have never had every chardonnay barrel finished and dry 3 weeks after harvest, a very balanced year of flavor and acid. The reds have also been a dream as they are already showing amazing character and a large percentage finish malo in tank which is unheard of at By Farr. Colour’s are not as intense with the limited amount of sunshine this year, but have built in the barrel. Great vintages make themselves.

It is a vintage that will be remembered by us for the individual sections of single vineyards, we learnt a lot more about our sites because of the extreme weather conditions and particular soil types reaction to large amounts of moisture.

Years like this are so much more exciting to make wine on the edge! Very different to the past 5 to 6 years of dry conditions.

2004 was good, 2006 is special, 2008 was exceptional, 2010 evolving, and 2011 will be the year that the Europeans can’t say there is too much sunshine in the glass!!"

Nick and Gary

By Farr

29 October 2012

NST Wildmen Tour

When a librarian gets the chance to go on a wildman tour with the Natural Selection Theory boys, he better pack a hunting knife, a swag and a second liver!

James, Tom and Anton hosted the entire national NST distribution network for a superlative weekend of goat sacrifice, land rover ramblings, and a sleep-deprived whirlwind tour of their vineyards and surrounds. 2012 vintage has produced a vastly more satisfying result for all SA producers, and the NST wines we previewed reveal true balance, albeit at reduced yields.

Day One: the team assembled around land rovers jerry-rigged with coffee grinders and serious espresso machines (these guys are serious about their caffeine!!)

After our coffee and croissant hit, we hit Wilunga beach to taste Jauma Blewitt Springs Chenin Blanc 2012, matched with seaspray notes and a seaside picnic of haloumi and garlicky mussels under glorious sunny skies. James then led us through several of his key sites in McLaren Vale: the fifty-year old Chenin and Grenache block in Blewitt Springs and the elevated Wood Vineyard in Clarendon, replete with bush-vine Grenache and a taste of a yet-to be released "art project ". (more to be revealed later) Jauma 2012 releases out now, very little left!

Anton Von Klopper took the landrover reigns, and led us higher into the Adelaide Hills, where we viewed several of his key vineyard resources; Dean's vineyard in the shadow of Mt Lofty, Jim's vineyard in Piccadilly Valley (plus a quick preview of the new 2012 Lucy Margaux Bais on Bois Chardonnay-yum!) and the illustrious Pinot vineyards of the valley vineyard Monomeith and the steep terraces of Little Creek.

All of us decamped to James' Jamshed factory barrel room in Basket Range and worked our way through some serious Shiraz and Grenache from the Wood Vineyard 2012 parcels and filled the belly with his wife's excellent strawberry tart washed down with 2012 Jauma Zwurzig (sorry we didn't get any allocation of this!!) Finally, we reached Anton's block, where the goat was being prepared, the beers were cold and we made our way to the top of the hill for sundowners, surrounded by new friends, amazing views over the Lucy Margaux vineyard and a sample of Anton's 2012 Noir de Florette (winner of this months No 1 wine at the Adelaide Review Hot 100!!!!!!!!)

After many more samples, hilarity and goat turning, dinner was served, courtesy of local mate Tim, who put together a delicious spread of produce all grown on his own property. All were well-fed, with great company and a background of Anton's vinyl soundscapes until the wee, cold Adelaide Hills hours!

Adelaide Review Hot 100 Results here:


28 October 2012

NST Wildmen Tour Day 2

Rooster reality! yes, we're on a farm, it's 5am and mr rooster has broken a too short sleep! Battered bodies slowly emerge, mass clean-up, more excellent coffee, porridge all-round and back to the Pinot shed (we were super keen to sample the Lucy Margaux 2012 Pinots) Anton waded through bird-poo encrusted barrels (he doesn't have the heart to kick out a resident swallow family) and we tasted through several un-named 2012 barrel samples.

Anton has no idea what is in the barrel until he tastes and knows from palate which site it comes from! Natural all the way!! My notes reveal some incredible, perfumed and structured wines from this vintage. We expect to land these March 2013, so get in early as quality is excellent, but yields are down.

After a quick detour to Graeme Shultz's certified organic apple orchard, for a quick NST cider palate freshener, we made our way through the back of the hills. Tom Shobbrook highlighted some of his key sites, including the 60 year old Riesling vineyard in Eden Valley, now farmed biodynamically. We tasted the 2011, still so fresh, with some of the crunchy Shultz apples.

Then into Barossa, down through Angaston and a cracking Prawn sandwich lunch under the sunny skies in Tom's front yard. Tom revealed his winning (No 1 Natural wine in the Adelaide Review Hot 100 tasting) 2011 Giallo decanted into his winner's trophy. quick race to airport (time is only a concept in NST land!!!) via Tom's Seppeltsfield vineyard and a rapid taste through egg-fermented Didi wines, and some radical flor-aged nebbiolo.

What can I say, the boys' turned it all on: superb company, organised chaos, beautiful local and hand-picked, hand slaughtered produce all washed down with some of the most thought-provoking, challenging, utterly delicious natural wines. Thanks boys, and families, for a truly memorable escapade, and a chance to meet the wider NST family. A WILD WEEKEND INDEED!