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Lambert Wines

Once more, With Feeling: Earth-go-Glass Chardonnay, Syrah and Nebbiolo from one of Australia’s Most Humble and Innately Talented Wine Families

In the liner notes to ‘A Tribute to Jack Johnson’, Miles Davis refers to guitarist John McLaughlin’s playing as “far in”. Those familiar with this record will know what Davis was alluding to; McLaughlin’s playing was so natural that it had become indistinguishable from his music. If you know Luke Lambert and his wines, then you will recognise this analogy. Refusing to follow the conventions and rituals of by-the-book winemaking, Luke Lambert crafts the kind of wine that we feel confident his vineyards would want him to make; deep, wholesome and “far in”. 

One of Australia’s most humble and innately talented winemakers, Lambert is obviously inspired by his experience making wine in Piemonte and Australia yet firmly believes that “...the shape of a wine should be governed by what soil you’re on, the aspect, the amount of sunshine and rain.” In other words, the personality of a wine will be dictated by its “place”. Lambert’s source vineyards (in poor, rocky and elevated pockets of the Yarra Valley) therefore manage to bring out their unique signature in the final cut.

All Lambert wines are handpicked and of single-vineyard origin. They are sublimely perfumed, with moderate alcohols, fresh acidities, powdery tannins, and limited oak influence. Luke’s artisanal methodology includes wild ferments without the aid of temperature control, hand plunging, long macerations (with plenty of whole-bunch for the Syrah’s), gravity rather than pumping, old, large format oak and no fining or filtration.

As Luke tells The New York Times’ wine correspondent, Eric Asimov, “For me, Nebbiolo makes the best wines in the world… When I first tried the wines of Bartolo Mascarello, Giacomo Conterno and Giuseppe Rinaldi, I was completely blown away and wanted to make Nebbiolo and nothing else.”

Lambert’s belief that “...the best wines have always been made by feel and are always sourced from unique and interesting vineyards that have natural balance and grow grapes full of character...” shines through in the remarkable complexity and ‘somewhereness’ of these wines. 

In terms of the range, Lambert keeps it as simple as his winemaking philosophy. The delicious, earth-to-glass entry-level Crudo wines are sourced from the granite outcrop of Denton View Hill at Yarra Glen. Compromising a Chardonnay, Shiraz and a Shiraz-based Rose, The Wine Front’s Gary Walsh has written that this “range, quite possibly, offers the most sophisticated and high-quality drinking available at its price point in this country.” Enough said.

Lambert’s flagship ‘Black Label’ Chardonnay and Syrah are both drawn from the windy, east-facing slope of the Tibooburra Estate, a site where the poor volcanic soils offer up the low yields and intensely flavoured berries that are sine qua non to Lambert’s minimal-intervention style. “The volcanic soils of the Tibooburra vineyard are most evident here”, notes Luke, adding that “because of the elevation and the aspect, the wines hold their acid structure and elegance and sail through the hotter years.” For the Syrah, the quality of the vineyard’s clonal material supplies Lambert with a deeper, darker and more structured Syrah than we typically see from the Yarra. This is what drew Lambert to the site and helped make this Syrah a touchstone example of cool-climate Australian Shiraz. 

As exciting as these wines are, Lambert’s true love has always been Nebbiolo. His early Nebbiolo releases were sourced from the highland Jansz vineyard at St Andrews. Since 2013, the wine has been sourced from a single parcel of vines in the Denton vineyard, a parcel that Lambert himself grafted to the best clonal material in 2008. Here, the soils of granitic sand over granite boulders and the long, slow-growing seasons provide a near-perfect Australian terroir for Nebbiolo. Lambert Wines’ Nebbiolo has scaled extraordinary heights from this site, and today is undoubtedly Australia’s touchstone example. Yet the story does not end here.

Come 2022, Lambert has relinquished all his contract winemaking duties to focus solely on the Yarra Valley label and the establishment of the family’s new Nebbiolo vineyard. In 2017 Luke and Rosalind purchased a tract of land at Glenburn, just north of the Yarra Valley, near the town of Yea. What drew Lambert to this site was a steep, northeast-facing slope shaped like an amphitheatre, which has now been planted exclusively to Nebbiolo. 

The vineyard, pictured above, is full of rocks and iron, with a bit of alluvial soil over the top, and has been christened Sparkletown, after daughter Olive’s love of all things shiny and new. Ultimately, the Lamberts will have only 2.5-hectares under vine, planted to six different clones of Nebbiolo on three different rootstocks at three different densities. An olive grove is also being established, from which the family hopes to make a high-quality oil in the finest Tuscan style.

Lambert is working organically, and in these early years, the work is focused on developing robust root systems and soil health. Lambert Wines expects the first Nebbiolo crop from their home vineyard in 2023. But let’s not get our hopes up just yet, folks. Luke thinks it’s far too early to talk of a potential release date but, when pushed, suggests the first release could be around 2030. Mark that date in your diary. 

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“In an unassuming shed near this small town in the center of the Yarra Valley, just northeast of Melbourne, Luke Lambert makes gorgeous, minerally chardonnays and perfumed, savory syrahs under the Luke Lambert label. The wines are fresh and energetic… They are the sorts of wines I love to drink — pure and unpretentious but with character and depth.” Eric Asimov, The New York Times



Primary Region

Yarra Valley, Victoria


Winemaker: Luke Lambert



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