As I mentioned before, I wanted to find out if Macedon can be a region producing exceptional wines, or if Bindi and Curly Flat are outliers and for what reason. Macedon is quite different from what I expected. It is less than an hour north of Melbourne, but feels very remote. You can (and I did) actually get lost in the hills, and the Hanging Rock mistery feels quite real.
Hanging Rock was actually the first winery I visited. It is best known for its Sparkling wine, but I wanted to taste the still wines. The 2009 Jim Jim Chardonnay was what I expected from the area: a citrus tasting wine, quite closed and austere. I liked the style (92 points). The 2012 Macedon Ranges Pinot Noir was less convincing. It was a focussed and very spicy wine (90 points). The 2011 Members Reserve Shiraz had a strong fruit core, but a slightly rough structure (89 points). I also tried their 2009 Heathcote Shiraz. The colour of this wine was a strong purple, with attractive dark cherry and redcurrant flavours on the palate. Spices added complexity to this well rounded wine (92 points). Overall, I thought this was not a bad portfolio of wines.
Like Hanging Rock, Curly Flat is located 500 meters above sea level. The 2011 Lacuna Chardonnay is made in a Chablis style, unwooded, where citrus and minerality dominate (90 points). The 2010 Curly Flat Chardonnay shows more complexity and depth of fruit, but is quite heavily oaked (92 points). Williams Crossing is the attractively priced second label Pinot Noir. The 2011 Williams Crossing has a beautiful strawberry/cherry fragrance. The wine is relatively light, with silky tannins and well structured (92 points). The 2010 Curly Flat Pinot Noir, grown on rich red volcanic soil, has the expected fruit intensity and delivers a good mouthfeel with silky tannins and a long finish. It does not have an x-factor like the 2006, but is recommended (94 points).
Cope Williams is even higher at 650 meters above sea level. Again, it is best known for Sparkling wine, but I wanted to try the still wines. On tasting were fairly old Chardonnays. The 2006 Chardonnay tasted of citrus, with a fine fruit focus. The wine was still crispy after seven years (92 points). The other Chardonnay was the 2000 Chardonnay. Wow, who would dare to open a thirteen year old Chardonnay? This wine had more toffee flavours, and the structure was still holding. The cold climate here obviously adds acidity and aging potential. This was an unusual wine, of which I bought a few bottles (94 points).The 2001 Pinot Noir, in contrast, was a shocker. It tasted of licorice and was over the hill (less than 80 points). The 2006 Shiraz did not ripen properly and was no good, either (80 points).
So what about the Macedon as a region? Why is it that only a small number of wineries shine? I think I found the answer. Many wineries are run more as a hobby, being so close to Melbourne. Some are a side show to function centres and similar. In addition, the extreme climate means that some vintages can be very difficult and require constant attention and a focus on detail. As a result, only the most focused operations will succeed consistently, but then they can produce extraordinary flavoured and long lived wines.