It’s a single-vineyard release but controversially it isn’t all about the vineyard.
You can’t downplay the Macedon Ranges’ role in this. A lot of people are still coming to terms with the specialness of this region. The coolest quality wine-growing area on Australia’s mainland milks that natural advantage for all it’s worth in a warming world where people love to drink Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
What does that mean? In a nutshell chez Shadowfax, it means plentiful flavour with the drive and energy to keep things taut and tense. It means fine aromatic detail as you pick up the glass for a sniff. It means a similar dénouement in the glass, as the invitation of floral and fruit aromas unfolds with mineral and savoury tones. It means texture and length, too. With the Pinot Noir it also means – thanks in no small part to Al Timms’s near 20-year experience in the region’s vineyards – impeccably presented grape tannins knitted through the wine.
So that’s the lofty platform we’re working from. And then, of course, the sites begin to assert themselves. Macedon is anything but uniform. The vineyards are sparsely scattered around remote hillsides, each one bearing its own unique promise thanks to elevation, exposure, soil, vine age, and so on.
If there were a grand-cru classification, Straws Lane and Little Hampton would sit together. As it is, they’re some way apart. Straws Lane is a close-planted vineyard perched on the north side of Mt Macedon near Hesket, almost kissing the clouds at 800m above sea level. The 30-year-old vines grow on a granite outcrop, producing magnificent Pinot Noir. 2020 is the second single-vineyard release, and once again it presents a puffy, powdery purity of cranberry and cherry, with a coulis-like concentration that runs exquisitely long. As with Little Hampton, dried herbs and Indian spices are threaded through the prettiness.
The second wine is from the jewel in the Shadowfax crown: Little Hampton. Situated near Trentham at an altitude of 740m, it’s one of the coolest vineyards in Macedon. It’s rare to find young, volcanic red soils at this elevation; usually you’ll find these soils washed down to the lower slopes. Combined with altitude, though, there seems to be an alchemy. Graphite, rosehip, cardamom, violets and blue fruit – all in a distinctly concise but powerful package – are always in the mix. It’s now the sixth release and this Pinot – with no new oak or whole bunches – is so assured in its strength and personality: fragrant, precise and spicily nuanced with quietly impressive drive and length.
We’re bowled over by the way Alister Timms and the team are moving Macedon forward, and we’re confident that these two wines will blow you away.
THE 2020 SEASON
2020’s cool summer and mild autumn led to a very long growing season. Trying conditions at flowering had set few berries, leading to low crop levels. This led to long and concentrated phenolic ripeness. There was no single-vineyard Chardonnay produced.
2019 Shadowfax Midhill Chardonnay $54
Good winter rains set up the soil moisture into the growing season. A dry spring followed, allowing full fruit-set with good crop levels. Small consistent rains through the summer kept the vines growing, and flavour and phenolic ripeness continued to accumulate. Careful crop-thinning lowered yields and increased concentration.
The pristine fruit was harvested by hand on 28th March and firmly whole bunch-pressed to allow some skin contact and release the full flavour profile and impart some phenolic texture. Natural fermentation occurred in new (20%) and older French barrels. The wine was left to unwind and age slowly on its ferment lees to add generosity. After 11 months the wine was racked and filtered prior to bottling in February 2020. – Al Timms, Shadowfax
Ripe lime and grapefruit, grilled peach, clove and biscuit spices. It’s juicy, but firm and precise, ample flavour, lots of pleasing flinty bits, and a particularly impressive finish that’s long, tight and layered with spice and drizzled with sweet citrus fruits. Jolly good.95 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
2020 Shadowfax Straws Lane Pinot Noir $63
The fruit is grown on the Straws Lane Vineyard, a close-planted site perched on the northern side of Mt Macedon, almost kissing the clouds at 800m above sea level. The 30-year-old vines grow on a granite outcrop, near Hesket, producing grapes with great acidity and fragrance. It’s a truly unique site among the Macedon Ranges.
We handpicked the fruit on 29th April 2020 in pristine condition. It was carefully sorted and destemmed with 100% whole berries going into small open fermenters. Natural fermentation occurred with daily hand pumpovers and limited plunging to extract fine tannins and flavour. After two weeks on skins the wine was pressed then racked into new (20%) and used French hogsheads, where it rested and grew. The wine was then blended and filtered prior to bottling in January 2020. Alcohol 12.5%; pH 3.5; TA 6.4g/L.
In the glass it’s dark red with bright purple hues and brilliant clarity. This elegant Macedon Ranges Pinot Noir has violet and musk notes, with fine spice aromas including dried sage and cardamom. Mixed wild berries set a brooding tone, while notes of graphite powder and raspy grapeseed oil add complexity. The wine has intrigue and flair in the glass, if you can let it rest, telling a story as it evolves through time.
Cherry and violet tones fill the palate. There’s complexity galore, some cherry pit, mocha warmth and cardamon all sitting on a precise palate of lacy fine tannins with a lovely acid core. The wine’s tightrope frame and finesse are a highlight. The palate is long and persistent. This is a fine example of cool-climate, single-vineyard, high-altitude Macedon Ranges Pinot Noir. – Al Timms, Shadowfax
2020 Shadowfax Little Hampton Pinot Noir $63
The fruit is grown on the Little Hampton Vineyard near Trentham. Sitting at 730m above sea level, this is one of the coolest sites in the Macedon Ranges.
We handpicked the fruit on 26th April 2020. It was carefully sorted and destemmed with 100% whole berries going into small open fermenters. Natural fermentation occurred with daily gentle pumpovers to extract fine tannins and flavour. After two weeks on skins the wine was pressed and then racked into second-, third- and fourth-use French hogsheads and puncheons where it rested and grew. The wine was then racked and filtered prior to bottling in February 2021. Alcohol 12.3%; pH 3.55; TA 6.2g/L.
In the glass the wine is deep purple with a deep crimson hue. The aromatics of this Little Hampton Pinot Noir are seductive and engaging. Violet and rose-petal floral notes waft from the glass, bolstered by blackberry and dark cherry fruits. Further complexities reveal themselves, such as cardamom and sandalwood spice. Mineral aspects such as gunpowder and graphite provide intrigue. Given time in the glass the Little Hampton’s signature aromatics intensify and gracefully seduce the drinker. Cherry sap and blackberry fruit fall immediately onto the palate with nuances of sandalwood, graphite and some white pepper spice. A focused and mineral core has drive, vibrancy and poise. Fine and lacy tannins frame the complex cardamom spice and subtle fruits. The wine has energy and lift that can only been seen in high-altitude, cool-climate Pinot Noir. This Little Hampton Pinot Noir is uncompromising in its purity and identity. – Al Timms, Shadowfax