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Garagiste

Sublime Mornington Peninsula from “a gem of a producer”

Anyone with a passing interest in cool-climate Australia will already know that Garagiste is one of Victoria’s brightest stars. Barnaby Flanders created this label in 2006 following his amicable split with Allies co-founder David Chapman. Cam Marshall joined Barney in 2010, and together, they focus on a range of small-batch Mornington Peninsula wines with an emphasis on single-site, sub-regional expressions of his region.

Flanders’ goal is to work with high-quality, respectably farmed parcels from Tuerong and Moorooduc, in the North (sandy soils), to the more central Merricks and Merricks North (brown loam/red volcanic soils) and finally the more elevated and southern subzones of Red Hill and Main Ridge (vibrant red volcanic soils). Tuerong is the oldest site that Barney works (planted in the late ‘80s). The Chardonnay here is always picked first, providing a barometer for the progression of the rest of the vintage. The opportunity to work with the Balnarring site came up in 2012 and immediately “had a good feel to it”. It’s his ‘aspirational’ site, providing high-quality fruit that is elevated year after year.

While both the Tuerong and Balnarring sites play important roles in the Garagiste story, inevitably it is the Merricks Grove vineyard that stars as the headline act. It was here in 2000, that Barney Flanders first began to cut his teeth as a winegrower. Since day one, he has been in control of every aspect of the Merricks vines—with all the advantages that this brings—and today he governs each step from earth to bottle; still a relatively rare phenomenon in the Australian wine scene.

Merricks Grove was planted in 1994 and is the highest of Garagiste’s vineyards. Predominantly south-facing with undulations and variations, the grey sandy loams are marbled with red ironstone, giving Flanders more red dirt than can be found at Tuerong and Balnarring. The grapes also ripen later here, and so, most years Merricks is the last vineyard to be picked. All these factors (altitude, volcanic influence, length of season—and likely more) combine to create Garagiste’s finest, most linear and savoury expressions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The winemaking tenets here are quite simple: precise picking to capture acidity, whole bunch pressing (for the Chardonnay), natural ferments and a maximum of 20 to 35% new oak. Maturation is in large (300 to 500-litre) barrels to make fresher wines for keeping, and the wines are neither fined nor filtered.

Barnaby and Cam manage all aspects of the viticulture and winemaking themselves and a shining range of succulent, finely tuned and elegantly crafted cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is what results. Garagiste, the main label, is adeptly supported by delicious entry-level wines under the Le Stagiaire banner. Garagiste’s Pinot Noirs have gorgeous texture whilst remaining composed, fresh and absorbingly complex. The Chardonnays, taut and linear as they are, are also immensely satisfying wines from the top-drawer.

Currently Available

Garagiste Terre Maritime Chardonnay 2022

Garagiste Terre Maritime Chardonnay 2022

The Terre Maritime is drawn from several rows of Chardonnay in the top corner of Merricks Grove. Barney Flanders has always felt this parcel could result in a superb and unique Chardonnay—in this part of the vineyard, the 26-year-old vines are rooted in brown soils rather than the more common reddish dirt of the area. The parcel also faces slightly east, offering the vines a cooler, more sheltered aspect. There’s therefore less vigour here than in the rest of the vineyard and the bunches are a touch smaller. As a result, the fruit from this parcel tends to make a wine that has real intensity without forgoing the finesse we associate with Garagiste Chardonnay. It was raised in large, seasoned oak. This is another fabulous Chardonnay, with a captivating bouquet of orange citrus and orchard fruits, chalky minerality, white florals and perfectly pitched smoky reduction. The palate has a potent core; power, density and fleshy weight are matched by coiled acidity, phenolic grip and a long-reaching, spicy, savoury finish. In a word: exceptional.

This is another fabulous Chardonnay, with a captivating bouquet of orange citrus and orchard fruits, chalky minerality, white florals and perfectly pitched smoky reduction. The palate has a potent core; power, density and fleshy weight are matched by coiled acidity, phenolic grip and a long-reaching, spicy, savoury finish. In a word: exceptional.

“Tight, zesty, firm flinty texture, tangerine and lime, apple, aniseed and cedar. It’s dry and crunchy, with a firm core of acidity, juicy flavour, a saline edge, with a slight struck match complexity, and a long intense finish of vigour and grip, green apple and raw almond to close. Intense. Excellent.”
95 points, Gary Walsh, Wine Front
"First day open, very good. The next day, whoa, even better. So decant, please. It’s super funky with fine flinty sulphides and a crunchy, minerally sensation across the palate. Citrus and white stone fruit, lightly spiced, creamy lees yet so moreish and savoury. Compelling and stylish."
96 points, Jane Faulkner, Halliday Wine Companion 2024
Garagiste Terre Maritime Chardonnay 2022
Garagiste Merricks Pinot Noir 2023

Garagiste Merricks Pinot Noir 2023

Like the Chardonnay, the Pinot vines at Merricks are 27 years old and sit on grey loams and red ferrosols, but with a north-facing aspect. Slightly higher yields than 2022 gave more volume to play with, and the fruit's integrity meant it retained balance with a greater proportion of bunches, so the whole-cluster portion ticked up a notch from 25% to 33%. The winemaking is, as always, pretty hands-off: natural fermentation as whole bunches and whole berries, with gentle extraction and nine months in 25% new oak. As is often the case with this producer, the stem component feels seamless, helping strike Garagiste’s trademark fruit/savoury balance. Perfumed, spicy and bright-fruited with deep structure, gliding weight and snappy grip, this is as complete and composed as you could wish for. It gets better and more seamless with time in the glass, which suggests it’s a keeper despite its youthful deliciousness.

“Spicy, wheaty, some green bunch and frisky perfume, raspberry and cherry, with an earthy tobacco sort of flavour, in with bold cherry and spiced plum. It has energy, and yes, there’s some winemaking magic at play here, though it works and the balance between sweet fruit and sappy spice is so appealing. Tannin is firm. Cherry pip richness is there. But the whole thing works so well. Blood orange tang and spice on a finish of excellent length. Dusty and spicy to close. Yep. Uncompromising in a way, but very good.”
94 points, Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
Garagiste Merricks Pinot Noir 2023
Garagiste Merricks Chardonnay 2023

Garagiste Merricks Chardonnay 2023

The Merricks Chardonnay, from 27-year-old vines on soils of grey loams and red ferrosols on south- and southeast-facing slopes, was harvested and sorted by hand before being pressed as whole bunches. Fermentation was spontaneous with high levels of solids in 500-litre François Frères puncheons. A small portion went through natural malolactic conversion, and the wine rested on full gross lees for nine months before bottling. Barney seeks slow and long lees interaction, choosing extended, gentle contact over stirring. He has now entirely shifted his Chardonnay vinification to thick-stave, large-format wood, with new oak playing an increasingly limited role. “I see a slower evolution with the thicker staves,” he told us. “Things are more subtle, and it allows me to get closer to my ideal style.”It’s a knockout: punchy, pure, intensely flavoured and wildly delicious, with serious horsepower impressively contained. This is a Chardonnay of great pedigree and substance, and as good a Merricks as we have tasted (with all this entails). Another don’t-miss.

“Woah this is so intense, it’s kind of like staring at the sun. It bursts with lime, grapefruit, green melon and nectarine (that just about covers it), has some salty pastry dough, and a little cinnamon. It’s very flinty and tight, but there’s also an explosion of flavour, and the finish is very long, saline and chalky textured. Quite a wine.”
95 points, Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
Garagiste Merricks Chardonnay 2023
Garagiste Terre De Feu Pinot Noir 2023

Garagiste Terre De Feu Pinot Noir 2023

Cropped from a specific half-acre of the Merricks Grove vineyard, Terre de Feu (the Land of Fire) takes its name from the vein of pure red ferrosol soils of this plot. Many years ago, Barney noticed that the vines in this ironstone buttonhole were producing slightly smaller bunches, yielding wines of greater depth and concentration. Thus, in 2013 the decision was made to create this micro-cuvée. The power of the fruit enables a whole-bunch ferment, and Terre de Feu remains Garagiste’s only Pinot to be made this way. Regardless of vintage conditions, be it warm or cool, if the quality is there for Terre, it’s always made with 100% bunches. In cooler years like 2023, Barney approaches the fruit with a gentler hand in the cellar to manage the bunch impact. The 2023 spent 25 days on skins, followed by 10 months in 25% new oak hogsheads. It’s a superb release; open, powerful, and highly perfumed with savoury, smoky complexity. Hat’s off!

“This is an overt, and kind of extreme version of Pinot Noir, though it works. It offers a lot of mezcal and jalapeño spice, but also carries no shortage of ripe cherry, pear and almond cake, salt, floral and sage-like perfume. The wine delivers plenty of spice and graphite grip, a sweet succulence to cherry and almost shortbread like richness, pimento, raspberry, and tangy orange amaro flavours. It’s a wild ride all right, but does have length and an irrepressible character. Wheatgerm in the aftertaste. Must be good for you? It’s a *lot*, though I really like it.”
94 points, Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
Garagiste Terre De Feu Pinot Noir 2023
Garagiste Terre Maritime Chardonnay 2023

Garagiste Terre Maritime Chardonnay 2023

The Terre Maritime is drawn from several rows of Chardonnay in the top corner of Merricks Grove. Barney Flanders has always felt this parcel results in a superb and unique Chardonnay—in this part of the vineyard, the 27-year-old vines are rooted in brown soils rather than the more common reddish dirt of the area. The plot sits at 90 metres and faces slightly east, offering the vines a cooler, more sheltered aspect. There’s therefore less vigour here than in the rest of the vineyard and the bunches are a touch smaller. As a result, the fruit from this parcel tends to make a wine that has real intensity without forgoing the finesse we associate with Garagiste Chardonnay. In the low-yielding 2023 season, Barney only had one puncheon of Terre Chardonnay fruit to work with, so played things straight in the cellar. The fruit was pressed as whole bunches to a 500 litre puncheon for ferment, followed by a nine-month maturation on gross lees. What you get with Maritime is a frank expression of season and this small unique plot. It’s always salty, chalky, complex and long, and 2023 is a chip off the old block.

“Maritime all right. This is all salt spray and samphire, a little bit smoky and reductive, pear and lime, some jasmine and spiced pasty dough. It’s bright and tangy, orange and salted pistachio, ginger biscuits, zesty with a fine chalky texture, and a finish of excellent length. Maybe a little bit of Parmesan rind umami stuff, and custard apple richness. It’s an unusual style of Chardonnay, and maybe a little off-kilter, but gee it’s a compelling drink.”
95 points, Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
Garagiste Terre Maritime Chardonnay 2023
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“All the [Garagiste] wines are exceptional.” James Halliday, The Australian

“After working at vineyards in the Rhône and US, Barnaby Flanders founded Allies wine with David Chapman while they were working at Moorooduc Estate. The Garagise label fell under this banner, and when the two parted ways, Barnaby took Garagiste with him. He makes a concise range of Mornington Peninsula classics with fruit from Merricks, Balnarring and Moorooduc. The Le Stagiaire wines are multisite blends, whereas Côtier focuses on smaller expressions of place, even down to the half acre.”

Lopes and Ross, How to Drink Australian

Country

Australia

Primary Region

Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

People

Winemakers: Barnaby Flanders, Cam Marshall

Availability

VIC, NSW, ACT, QLD, SA, TAS

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