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Murdoch Hill

A Gun Adelaide Hills Producer on a Stratospheric Rise

Adelaide Hills is buzzing with change and innovation and Murdoch Hill is a producer that is at the vanguard. It’s worth pointing out that Murdoch Hills is not a new player in the Australian wine scene—the Estate vineyards were planted by the Downer family in 1998. But it has been the return of the family’s youngest member, Michael Downer, to take over the vineyard management and winemaking duties, that has created the excitement here.

Michael cut his teeth at Shaw & Smith, Vietti in Barolo and Best’s Great Western before returning home to take over the everyday running of the family estate in 2012. He quickly burst onto the scene with his adventurous small-batch Artisan series, working with fruit from exceptional parcels in the Adelaide Hills. And, while this series continues to showcase Downer’s exceptional eye for quality fruit and progressive winemaking chops, he’s never lost sight of his transition from winemaker to grower, which he believes will come to define his career at Murdoch Hill.

 Murdoch Hill’s Oakbank property was planted by Downer’s parents in 1998. The first action upon his return was to bring the winemaking in-house and address soil health, which he admits was “pretty bleak” at the time. With 20-hectares under vine (and 300-head of cattle) to manage, the process has taken time. Michael Downer is not trying to reinvent the wheel, he explains. Instead, he is making incremental adjustments to his farming to better coax the inherent natural beauty and purity of his fruit from soil to glass. In Michael’s own words, “It’s really just taking the best possible fruit that I can grow in our vineyard and capturing that and putting it in the bottle. Not taking too much out of the wine or putting anything into it.”

The Australian wine industry has certainly taken note: Downer was a Young Guns of Wine finalist in 2014 and the joint winner of the ‘Winemaker’s Choice’ in 2015 and 2016. He took the title of Young Gun of Wine outright in 2017. His wines consistently receive rave reviews from respected critics.  

And boy, can Downer grow quality fruit. Underpinning the dramatic rise in quality of the home block wines is the policy to cease the use of synthetic inputs to control weeds, pests or disease. Instead, Downer works with under-vine cultivation, organic sprays and cover crops to regenerate the soil. 

In terms of the vineyards, the original 1998 Estate plantings are situated around the winery, nestled in the undulating hills of Oakbank. The shallow red loam soils here are shot through with varying levels of schist and ironstone. In addition to the home vineyards, Downer also works with a range of nearby sites in Lobethal and Basket Range and the high-altitude Uraidla vineyard in the Piccadilly Valley. These sources offer Downer a broad range of flavour, structure and texture with which to do his thing, which includes wild yeast ferments, various degrees of whole bunch, extended skin contact and a greater amounts of old wood in the aging. 

The Murdoch Hill range has gone from strength to strength in recent years, with each release outshining the last. The Artisan Series includes not just one but two of Australia’s most exciting Chardonnays, both crafted in a high-tensile style that fuses terrific concentration and natural acidity into a single, scintillating and seamless package. And while Downer’s name may have become synonymous with Chardonnay (and rightly so) the quality of Murdoch Hill’s red wines is ever more electrifying. Downer’s Pinot Noirs are now encroaching on the quality and purity set by the whites, and, frankly, this grower is one of the best things to happen to Pinot Meunier in Australia (see Downer’s Surrey PM as Exhibit A).

The Range

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“Hello again, Murdoch Hill. One of the most consistently good wine producers coming out of South Australia, with a raft of interesting wines, side by side with more ‘classic’ renditions, and all typically well priced.” Mike Bennie, The Wine Front

“Producer to watch. To dig into. To die for, really.” Campbell Mattinson, Wine Companion



Primary Region

Adelaide Hills, South Australia


Winemaker: Michael Downer



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