Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gembrook Hill & the 2010 Vintage

Gembrook Hill is a cold location at the southernmost tip of the Yarra Valley. When arriving there last week, almost to emphasise this point, the temperature dropped suddenly as a huge gust of wind came in, and a wild ten minute storm complete with hail ensued.

While the rain continued to fall we surveyed the vineyard. At just over 300 meters, it’s one of the highest vineyards in the Yarra Valley. It sits on a nice slope over red soils that face North and East, sheltering it from the warm afternoon sun. On the vineyard Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sav Blanc are grown, with average vine age over 20 years.

The winemakers are Andrew Marks and Timo Mayer. Andrew is the son of winery owners Ian and June, and he was kind enough to take us through all their 2010 barrel samples including those of his own label, The Wanderer, the fruit for which is sourced outside the Gembrook vineyard.

Blanc de Blancs

We tasted the 2010 Chardonnay that will make the Gembrook Blanc de Blancs. It's an elegant chardonnay of lovely texture and excellent length (and as such I am harbouring hopes that Andrew and Timo might siphon a little off into a Chardonnay), and therefore I’d assume it will end up make a lovely sparkling.

Pinot Noir

The Pinot samples I had were all excellent and were in fact a great study in not only the importance of terroir but also of Pinot clones. The Gembrook sample was at the lighter end of the spectrum, but did not lack for any flavour or intensity, with beautiful savoury flavours and great structure and length. The sample for the Upper Wanderer Pinot (which is Upper Yarra but not quite as Upper as Gembrook) was a touch darker and heavier (in relative terms), while the Wanderer Pinot which is from further down in the Yarra was discernibly darker and heavier (once again in relative terms).

This effect of terroir on wine is something I always love to see but nevertheless something I have experienced before. What I hadn’t personally experienced was the difference between Pinot clones from the same site that have been handled in exactly the same way. For the Wanderer Pinot there are actually 3 different Pinot clones (combinations of letters and numbers that I can’t remember!) from the one site that will go into producing the 2010 Wanderer Pinot. All 3 clones would produce distinctly different wines if they were made separately. The clones ranged from the distinctly savoury, through to the obviously much sweeter and fruit forward. In combination I think they will produce a lovely wine.

Overall I was very impressed with the 2010 Pinot Noir barrel samples for both Gembrook and the Wanderer. In time i think they will produce savoury, complex and age worthy wines. Very encouragingly, Andrew told us about how a 1992 Gembrook Pinot was still holding up and drinking well.


Perhaps the highlight amongst the 2010 barrel samples was the Wanderer Shiraz. That it was the highlight was as much a reflection of the fact my focus was on Chardonnay and Pinot while in the Yarra. As it was I was I thought this 2010 Wanderer Shiraz may well end up being a superb wine. It had a beautiful balance between sweet and savoury flavours, and tremendous length. Really looking forward to seeing how this wine turns out.

Everyone I talked to in the Yarra was very excited about 2010, and these Gembrook and Wanderer barrel samples support the case for it being an excellent vintage.


Gembrook Hill Estate is on a unique site, where all the work is done by hand, to produce wines that are of undoubted quality and are very much an expression of their terroir. With vines of increasing maturity, assured wine making, and a great growing season, the 2010 Gembrook wines could well be something special. The 2010 Wanderer wines, though sourced from different sites, look equally impressive.

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