Barney Flanders’ 2022 Stagiaire release is right up there with his best ever. Following last week’s Lambert release, it appears lightning has struck twice. So, what defines best ever at this address? We all know the vintage was pretty handy. Flanders himself compares it with 2017—the Everest of vintages at chez Garagiste—and tells us it’s nipping at the heels of the great 2021. Low yields and small bunches, slow maturation, big flavour development and precise picking. And then the glade of pristine acidity weaving it all together. Beautiful balance. Yet vintage conditions alone do not, necessarily, a great vintage make. This year Flanders has expanded the canvas, including a larger proportion of Red Hill fruit to match his power trio of Merricks, Balnarring and Tuerong. For several years Barney has been managing this plot of 1990s Pinot and Chardonnay in Red Hill, and in 2022 it forms a consequential part of the blend for both the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. With it, the Stagiaire palette becomes enriched by another option, another colour, another texture. In what was a low-yielding year, this vineyard’s southerly location on the Peninsula, its high elevation (200 metres above sea level, positively Alpine by Mornington standards) and comparatively cool conditions allowed for much better flowering than at Garagiste’s northern vineyards. The healthier volumes provided fresh fruit flavours and oodles of acidity, a perfect foil to equalize the low yield density of Merricks et al. Barney Flanders is proud as punch of the new wines, and well he should be. It didn’t come easy, which we imagine makes this release all the more satisfying for this searching grower. The Chardonnay is a silken ball of citrus-charged energy, while the finesse and purity of the Pinot would have a field day in a line of far more expensive bottles. As our Australian-Québécois National Sales Manager is known to say, “C’est à l’oeuvre qu’on voit l’artisan”. Or, in local parlance, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”. Or, in this case, drinking.\nThe full available range can be viewed here.