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Bannockburn

A Victorian Icon at the Top of Its Game

Since its establishment by Stuart Reginald Hooper in 1974, Bannockburn Vineyards has been at the vanguard of the Australian fine wine story, producing vineyard designated wines of the highest quality from the start. Lying 25 kilometres northwest of Geelong along the Midland Highway, this heavyweight estate is located in the Moorabool Valley sub-region, just outside the township of Bannockburn. The estate comprises 26 vineyard blocks—including the iconic Serré vineyard (now the site of Australia's oldest close-planted Pinot Noir vines). Here, Bannockburn’s predominantly mature vines are rooted in one of Victoria’s most unique low-fertility terroirs; volcanic surface debris and ancient seabeds running to richer and darker soils, layered over predominantly limestone bedrock.

Following almost a decade under the steam train of energy and passion that was Michael Glover, Matt Holmes is the winemaker charged with writing the next chapter of this singular estate. Perhaps most significantly, feeling the region was too arid to get the best of the dry-grown, densely-planted vineyards, Bannockburn and Holmes have ‘turned on the tap’ (to encourage the kind of canopies Holmes deems crucial for his vines’ balance). Holmes has also introduced an earlier bottling regime and a more flexible use of whole bunches than his predecessor. 

All of Bannockburn’s close-planted vineyards are now certified organic. Matt Holmes believes that as soon as he and his team had started the process of improving vine health a few years ago, the upshot in fruit quality was immediately noticeable in the wines. Under Holmes’ direction there’s also been a stylistic tilt in the winery, and with his Chardonnay, he’s steering a racier, more mouth-watering course—with less emphasis on lees and oak and more on vibrant acidity and freshness. Yet it is perhaps the style and quality of Bannockburn’s Pinot Noir in which the changes can be most keenly observed. An earlier-bottling regime and more reticent use of whole bunches are resulting in a purity of expression perhaps never seen under this label. 

They say you’ve got to watch out for the quiet ones, and Matt Holmes is overseeing a discreet but careful evolution in both vineyard and winery. The Results? Bannockburn’s wine’s have never tasted finer.

In the vineyards, Holmes works with Lucas Grigsby, Bannockburn’s viticulturist for over 30 years. Grigsby takes great pride in tending to the vineyards with a strong belief in organic farming practices to maintain the health of the soils and Bannockburn’s vines. Between them, the pair’s viticultural principles are based on a healthy respect for the land and responsible farming, e.g., the use of organic composting and straw mulching to eliminate the need for herbicide sprays and the cultivation of inter-row cover crops to add soil nutrients. These principles flow through into the winery where Holmes employs minimal additions, wild yeast ferments and low intervention winemaking resulting in wines that are made with integrity and that are distinctively Bannockburn.

In addition to a core-range glittering with stars, Bannockburn crafts a number of celebrated single-vineyard wines. Bannockburn’s S.R.H. comes off the oldest Chardonnay vines in the Olive Tree Hill Vineyard and is named in recognition of Bannockburn’s founder, Stuart Reginald Hooper. These 12 rows of 39-year-old vines – roots well embedded in the ancient marine sediments – seem to suck the minerality fresh out of their subsoil and so deliver a spine-tingling backbone of fresh, saline minerality to support the intense flavour and texture of this special wine. 

The iconic Serré vineyard is a 1.2-hectares of vines planted in 1984 and 1986, exclusively to the MV6 clone the clone that was propagated from the cuttings James Busby sourced from Clos Vougeot in the 19th century. The site has volcanic top-soils, with darker clay over weathered basalt and limestone clay. It’s an organically managed and low-cropping site that produces Bannockburn’s most individual Pinot. Serré is close-planted to 9000 vines per hectare and trellised low with narrow rows, replicating the tough vineyard conditions and low-yield-per-vine approach of Grand Cru Burgundy. 

More recently, Michael Glover oversaw the inception, planting and nurturing of the two very special high-density single vineyards — De la Terre and De la Roche. De la Terre is a sub-one-hectare, organically managed vineyard planted to 10,000 Pinot Noir vines per hectare (on a north-south row orientation rather than the east-west of its immediate neighbour, Serré). 

Currently Available

Bannockburn De La Roche Shiraz 2013 (Museum Release)

Bannockburn De La Roche Shiraz 2013 (Museum Release)

Planted in 2007, this 0.8-hectare vineyard is littered with volcanic rocks (hence the name) and lies on the plateau above the De La Terre slope—essentially making it a westerly extension of the Serré vineyard. It was originally planted with various clonal cuttings from Best’s and Tahbilk on a mix of rootstock and own roots. Holmes only uses the Best’s clone in this bottling today and the rest of the site has been grafted over to Chardonnay, giving Bannockburn a close-planted Chardonnay block, named Grigsby after Bannockburn’s long-standing vineyard manager. The fruit was wild fermented as whole bunches, followed by 12 months in French puncheons (33% new) and a further 12 months in five-year-old barriques. 

Bannockburn De La Roche Shiraz 2013 (Museum Release)
Bannockburn Shiraz 2021

Bannockburn Shiraz 2021

Bannockburn’s Shiraz is drawn predominately from vines in the south-facing Winery Block (planted in 1990), with some declassified De La Roche (planted in 2007). The sites possess soils of mainly volcanic scoria over basalt, clay and loam with a limestone-clay base. The growing season in 2021 provided ample rain and sunshine, leading to good yields of excellent quality fruit for the Bannockburn team. The fruit was fermented with indigenous yeast, with 10% whole bunches and plenty of carbonic maceration. The wine spent two weeks on skins before being pressed, settled and racked to French oak hogsheads (10% new) for 12 months’ maturation. Alongside a reduction in the use of new barrels, Matt Holmes has gradually been introducing more carbonic influence in his Shiraz. Holmes feels the mature Winery Block has inherent savoury qualities (due to the clay/limestone, old vines and poor soils) and this treatment lifts the impression of brightness and fruit purity.Bannockburn produces one of the most distinctive expressions of Shiraz in Australia, and this can be attributed almost entirely to the site. Savoury depth, root spice and deep graphite-mineral tones are a given, as is enveloping, silky weight and sinewy structure. The 2021 is a classic. 

Bannockburn Shiraz 2021
Bannockburn 1314 Chardonnay 2022

Bannockburn 1314 Chardonnay 2022

A cracking follow up to the ’21, this Chardonnay is sourced from across Bannockburn’s organically farmed estate vineyards, and includes a parcel from the pedigreed 1976 vines. The fruit was whole-bunch pressed and settled overnight. Fermented wild, the wine rested on lees with no stirring for eight months, before blending and bottling. The 2022 saw 20% new oak which is faultlessly integrated.

It opens with beautiful ripe fruits, white florals and mineral accents framed by a nip of reduction. A touch more athletic than last year, it’s a finely drawn and focused release with impressive flavour intensity, nose-to-tail energy and some lovely phenolic grip. The lengthy finish is rounded out by a refreshing orange-skin bitterness and moreish citrus tang. Just a fantastic, unpretentious Chardonnay. Great now, it will only improve in the bottle.

Bannockburn 1314 Chardonnay 2022
Bannockburn Douglas 2017

Bannockburn Douglas 2017

Named after Sir James “The Black” Douglas (Scottish knight, feudal lord and one of the chief commanders during the Wars of Scottish Independence), this idiosyncratic blend tells a multi-variety story of Bannockburn’s vineyards each year. In cooler years the Douglas gets some Shiraz added instead of Pinot (which finds its place in the warm years), to raise the fruit profile. From a cracking Victorian vintage, the 2017 Douglas is comprised of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Shiraz and 7% Merlot. The varietal batches were wild-fermented separately, then pressed to seasoned and 20% new hogsheads for 15 months élevage. The three parcels were racked and blended before bottling in May 2018.

This affordable and immediately approachable blend hits all the right notes. Blackcurrant fruit sits alongside aromas of tomato leaf, mountain herbs and Asian spices. (Just) medium-bodied, it’s delicious and sweetly fruited, with the kind of drink-now balance and suppleness crying out for something from the grill. A Cabernet for Pinot Noir lovers!

“There’s a fair amount of wildness here in that it’s slung with sap and herb notes but it’s also taut, controlled and lengthy; for all the frolic it feels confidently handled. That said, let me be doubly clear: this is a sappy style. It has tangy acidity, stem-like notes, tangerine and red cherry, earth and an aspect of rhubarb. It’s all these things but it’s also cohesive. Cedarwood oak slips around and helps combine it all. It can be enjoyed now but its best will start from a couple of years hence.”
94 points, Campbell Mattinson, The Winefront
"An 82/11/7% blend of cabernet sauvignon/shiraz/merlot; hand picked, wild-yeast fermented, matured in French hogsheads (20% new). Reflects the cool vintage, fresh and lively, and has the balance for prolonged cellaring. How it will be assessed isn't easy to predict, it's very savoury but not green or unripe."
94 points, James Halliday, Wine Companion
Bannockburn Douglas 2017
Bannockburn Shiraz 2013 (Museum Release)

Bannockburn Shiraz 2013 (Museum Release)

Museum release. Each year, the Hooper family set aside some museum stock for extended cellaring, to be released when they deem each wine to be in a great place. Over the years, we have embraced their generosity and been rewarded with striking, mature, perfectly cellared wines. We are pleased to offer a slice of Bannockburn history once again. Winemaker Michael Glover sourced the fruit for this wine from two of Bannockburn's Shiraz blocks: the Winery Block, planted in 1990 and extended in 1996; and the Range Block, planted in 1974. Both blocks lie on the signature limestone-rich soils of the Bannockburn site. The fruit fermented as whole bunches and matured for 12 months in French puncheons, one-third of which were new. The wine then spent a further 12 months in five-year-old barriques. 2013 was a warm vintage that produced wines of structure and power, making it a year in which Glover’s preference for whole bunches played out well in the bottle. A decade later, it’s beginning to hit its straps: deep and broad, framed by firm structure and beautifully integrated dusty tannins with all the savoury nuance and punchy flavour you’d expect from Bannockburn Shiraz. Harmonious and complex, this will evolve in a decanter or big glass and will look even better with a braise or anything from the grill. It’s in the zone.

Bannockburn Shiraz 2013 (Museum Release)
Bannockburn Douglas 2014 (Museum Release)

Bannockburn Douglas 2014 (Museum Release)

Museum Release. Each year, the Hooper family set aside some Museum stock for extended cellaring, to be released when they deem each wine to be in a great place. Over the years, we have embraced their generosity and been rewarded with striking, mature and perfectly cellared wines. We are pleased to once again offer a slice of Bannockburn history. Bannockburn’s Douglas red blend is always guaranteed to start a spirited conversation around a table of wine folk. Like the Estate Shiraz, it’s a wine that showcases the depth and strength of Bannockburn’s savoury signature. Named after Sir James “The Black” Douglas—a Scottish knight and feudal lord and one of the chief commanders during the Wars of Scottish Independence—this idiosyncratic blend tells a multi-variety story of Bannockburn’s vineyards each year. In 2014, the blend comprised Shiraz (65%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%) and Merlot (5%), planted in 1981, 1990 and 1996 and grown on the Winery Block. A small portion of Pinot Noir (10%), planted in 2004, was also included. Each batch was vinified separately with partial whole-bunch fermentation and carbonic maceration. The wine matured for 18 months in a mixture of French barriques and hogsheads.This is in a lovely spot. Savoury and spicy with wisps of brambly fruits, just struck match, tea leaves, baking spice and wet earth, deftly supported by chalky tannins, fresh energy and a silky, demi-glace-tinged finish. If wild and wonderful is your thing, this will do nicely.

“Bannockburn’s Douglas red blend is always an interesting wine. This release from 2014 is a blend of shiraz (65%), cabernet sauvignon (20%), pinot noir (10%) and merlot (5%). This 2014 will polarise even more than previous releases. It’s truffly and spicy, tomato bush-y and cherried. There are blackcurrant notes, game influences, herb and floral nuances. The whole box and dice, basically. Truffle notes in wine either make you swoon, or make you recoil. Some days I do the former, most days I do the latter. This wine remains juicy throughout, lively even, and seems coltish as a three-year-old, though the tannin has a slight drying aspect. It’s a conversation starter: never a bad thing.”
Campbell Mattinson, winefront.com.au
Bannockburn Douglas 2014 (Museum Release)
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Halliday Wine Companion Top 100 Wineries 2023

#28: Bannockburn Vineyards

"Bannockburn has been celebrated for its Burgundian varieties and the degree of complexity and depth achieved in both chardonnay and pinot noir. With five pinots produced, the producer has style and diversity of the grape well covered. However, this is not to dismiss the quality of its lively, spice-fuelled shiraz, something of an unsung hero.” Jeni Port, Wine Companion

“Onwards and upwards for Bannockburn Vineyards” Huon Hooke, The Real Review



“These are seriously good wines and stylistically nothing like the Bannockburns of old.” Jane Faulkner, The Age

“The late Stuart Hooper had a deep love for the wines of Burgundy, and was able to drink the best. When he established Bannockburn, it was inevitable that pinot noir and chardonnay would form the major part of the plantings, with lesser amounts of riesling, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and merlot. Bannockburn is still owned by members of the Hooper family, who continue to respect Stuart’s strong belief in making winesthat reflect the flavours of the certified-organic vineyard.”

★★★★★ Halliday Wine Companion

Country

Australia

Primary Region

Geelong, Victoria

People

Winemaker: Matt Holmes

Availability

National

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