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Lethbridge Gamays

Lethbridge Gamays
When Ray and Maree Collis started Lethbridge Estate in 1996, the first vines that went into the ground were Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Shiraz. The pair were big fans of Burgundy (and still are!), while cool-climate Shiraz had a proven track record in the Moorabool Valley. Over the years, they noticed a shift in the climate, an increasing frequency of warmer rather than cooler vintages.

So, in 2016, they planted some Gamay on the lower, warmer, more sheltered pocket of their rock-rich home vineyard. “Gamay can deal with a warmer climate than Pinot Noir,” Ray told us. “And like Pinot Noir, it’s a wine that’s full of joy. I love making it.”

Until 2022, Ray Nadeson had only ever made wine at one place: Lethbridge. That changed when he was offered a parcel of Cru Régnié from his friend, ex-cellar hand and Beaujolais native, Philippe Viet. Without hesitation, Ray jumped on a plane for harvest at Viet’s domaine and crafted his first non-Lethbridge wine from biodynamically farmed fruit from 100-year-old vines. Both Gamay wines have a distinct sense of place—one is definitively Australian, the other definitively Régnié—yet they are united by the common thread of the Lethbridge touch.

The Wines

Lethbridge Cru Regnie Beaujolais 2022

Lethbridge Cru Regnie Beaujolais 2022

Ray Nadeson had only ever made wine at Lethbridge until a unique opportunity presented itself in 2022. Friend and previous Lethbridge vintage cellar hand, Beaujolais native Philippe Viet, offered him a small parcel of 100-year-old, biodynamically farmed Régnié fruit to do with as he chose. So, Ray hopped on a plane in time for vintage and made Cru Beaujolais the Lethbridge way.

As is Ray’s norm, ferments were cool and spontaneous with extended contact with skins and gentle cap management. The fruit was picked by hand and fermented with partial carbonic maceration using a layered fermentation process of crushed and whole bunch (20%) fruit. After a short maturation at Viet’s domaine, the wine was transported (temperature-controlled, of course) back to Geelong to finish its maturation in barrel. It was bottled under screwcap in August 2023.

Ray's first foray into flying winemaking has proved successful, with the man himself telling us: “The quality is looking excellent. There are lovely, concentrated fruit flavours, making for a richly flavourful wine.” He’s right on the money; this has pretty red fruit, blossom and floral aromatics with an almost Nebbiolo-like lift. Then, there’s lovely crunch to the palate, with vibrant red berry fruit and a touch of cherry liqueur generosity on the close. Lovely.

Lethbridge Cru Regnie Beaujolais 2022
Lethbridge Gamay 2022

Lethbridge Gamay 2022

Gamay vines were planted at the Lethbridge property in the Moorabool Valley in 2016. Ray Nadeson and Maree Collis had noticed a change in the climate over their 30 years in the area—an increasing frequency of warmer vintages rather than cooler ones. Because of that, they decided to plant some Gamay―which can handle a warmer environment―among their predominantly Chardonnay, Pinot and Shiraz plantings. The vines are planted on the lower section of the vineyards towards nearby Bruce Creek. The warm, more sheltered location, along with the sandy loam over limestone soils, makes it ideal for growing Gamay in the Geelong region.

This is just the second year that Lethbridge has produced a Gamay from these relatively young estate vines. The fruit is picked by hand and ferments with partial carbonic maceration using a layered fermentation process of crushed and whole bunch fruit. After fermentation, the wine was aged in mature 500-litre puncheons.

“This is a slender version but it’s nutty, juicy and dry, and feels pretty convincing, the latter in the context of its lightness. It’s a refreshing red. It’s (red) cherried and boysenberries with well-integrated inlays of woodsy herbs. Indeed there’s almost a blood orange character here, of the non-sweet kind. It’s an enjoyable wine (and it benefits greatly from being decanted).”
92 points, Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front
Lethbridge Gamay 2022

“People talk about playing a long-game in the wine industry, but few adhere to it like Maree Collis and Ray Nadeson of Lethbridge Wines.” Mike Bennie

“Now and then someone comes into the wine world who learns so fast and produces excellent wine so quickly it takes your breath away.” Huon Hooke

“As well as understanding the importance of terroir, the partners have built a unique strawbale winery, designed to recreate the controlled environment of cellars and caves in Europe. Winemaking is no less ecological: hand-picking, indigenous-yeast fermentation, small open fermenters, pigeage (foot-stomping) and minimal handling of the wines throughout the maturation process are all part and parcel of the highly successful Lethbridge approach.” James Halliday

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