Geelong /je-long/ is one of Australia’s most storied wine regions. Some 20,000 years ago, it sat at the bottom of the sea, and today it occupies the Wadawurrung First Nation.
The encircled part of the map is known today as the Moorabool Valley. This is Wathaurong Balug clan country, one of 14 Aboriginal Australian clans a part of the Wathaurong First Nation.
Europeans “established” Geelong between 1836 and 1838. Along with an influx of population, novel diseases like influenza caused for the rapid decline of the Wathaurong Nation people. By 1853 there were just 30-40 Wathaurong people as compared to the over 300 just 17 years prior.
The area was originally colonized by Swiss travelers, and their arrival created a busy trade and transport hub. They spread European agriculture, and 1845 brought the region’s first commercial wine harvest. Geelong quickly grew to become one of Australia’s viticultural hot spots. Though, in 1875 phylloxera’s presence sparked the Victorian Government’s move to pull out and burn every vineyard. The Geelong Vineyard would lay fallow for nearly 100 years.
Crumbly, active limestone is all that remains from the millenia spent at the bottom of the Southern Ocean. The all but dried up Moorabool Rivers meandering path has spread mudstone, clay, and buckshot gravels creating a dynamic vineyard basin.
The Bannockburn Estate was planted in the mid-1970s by the Hooper family under the direction of Gary Farr, who remained at the helm of the estate for nearly 40 years. Bannockburns Pinot Noir and Shiraz quickly became some of the most notable reds being produced in Victoria.
The Shiraz block gently slopes northeast capturing the warm Australian sunrise. Optimum flavor maturity ignites harvest across the property, resulting in picking at a potential abv of between 13-13.5%
After about a week the grapes are uncovered, and it is time to gently crush the whole berries. This is done through some foot stomping by yours truly. In 2019, rather than just using the rack-&-return technique to bring more oxygen into the ferment(as seen to the right) I would use this as an opportunity to more effectively crush the grapes. For 2020, I tried something different.
The Aussies call it “carbo-crush”. The whole bunches that went through Carbonic Maceration on the top of the tank where then pulled off and de-stemmed by hand using this simple yet effective metal grate. Thus far, the wine is showing all of those sought after heady floral and spice characters.
Each harvest not only brings a new expression of this vineyard, but a new set of decisions to make. The 2018 vintage was 75% de-stemmed, the 2019 was 85% de-stemmed, and the 2020 back to 75%. Each vintage the whole bunches are placed on top of the de-stemmed berries and free run juice. The tank is wrapped tightly so the CO2 produced from the beginning of fermentation not only protects the juice from oxidation, but allows for some healthy Carbonic Maceration in the whole berries on top.