Hard to remember back when Macedon was a place with interesting potential, or when Shadowfax was “one to watch”. Release after release, Shadowfax has piled on the evidence that Macedon is at least the match of any of Australia’s foremost cool-climate regions. And as it’s done so, it’s ramped up people’s excitement in the nooks and crannies of this rugged, rolling land. As the hits keep coming, the singularity of specific sites has become known and appreciated. Macedon is not simply a region to explore. It’s a must-have on the list, with a growing list of unmissable wines.
These are without doubt among them. Take your eye off Shadowfax for a second, and you’ll miss a new high watermark. Of course, winemaker Al Timms has been farming vines across this high-altitude landscape since the mid-2000s. He knows it like the back of his hand, and he knows precisely how to make the most of it.
The special sites we’re celebrating today are Midhill, Straws Lane and Little Hampton. Midhill is a 25-year-old vineyard at 550m in Romsey, a site that’s won Shadowfax countless Best Chardonnay trophies at the Macedon Ranges Wine Exhibition over the years. Then you have Straws Lane, a close-planted vineyard perched on the north side of Mt Macedon, almost kissing the clouds at 800m above sea level. The 30-year-old vines grow on a granite outcrop, producing magnificent Pinot Noir. And last is the jewel in the Shadowfax crown, Little Hampton. At more than 700m, it’s one of coolest vineyards in Macedon. It’s now the fifth release and this Pinot – with no new oak or whole bunches -is so assured in its strength and personality: fragrant, concise and spicily nuanced with quietly impressive drive and length.
These single sites are spell-binding, with all the magic of Macedon on show.
THE 2019 SEASON
Good winter rains set up the soil moisture into the growing season. A dry spring followed allowing full fruit set with good crop levels. Small consistent rains through the summer kept the vines growing and flavour and phenolic ripeness continued to accumulate. Careful crop thinning lowered yields and increased concentration. The fruit was handpicked in small batches in pristine condition.
2019 Shadowfax Midhill Chardonnay RRP $54
The fruit was harvested by hand on 28th March and firmly whole bunch pressed to allow some skin contact and release the full flavour profile and impart some phenolic texture. Natural fermentation occurred in new (20%) and older French barrels. The wine was left to unwind and age slowly on its ferment lees to add generosity. After 11 months the wine was racked and filtered prior to bottling in February 2020.
Grapefruit, lime and a minerality shine through. White floral notes, macadamia oil and ginger spice add intrigue. Wild fermentation lees add a bread dough nuance, while a charred bacon note adds further complexity. Again on the palate you have grapefruit and limes spill immediately onto the the tongue. Zesty sherbet acidity provides focus and length, with flicks of mineral notes. A concentrated palate is long and intense yet continually develops, while grapefruit pith phenolics add further complexity and structure. A great example of cold-climate Macedon ranges Chardonnay. – Al Timms, Shadowfax
2019 Shadowfax Straws Lane Pinot Noir RRP $54
This close-planted vineyard is perched on the north side of Mt Macedon, almost kissing the clouds at 800m above sea level. The 30-year-old vines grow on a granite outcrop, near Hesket, producing grapes with great acidity and fragrance. It’s a truly unique site among those in the Macedon Ranges.
Hand harvested fruit was carefully sorted and destemmed with 100% whole berries going into small open fermenters. Natural fermentation occurred with daily hand pumpovers and limited plunging to extract fine tannins and flavour. After two weeks on skins, the wine was pressed and then racked into new (20%) and used French hogsheads, where it rested and grew. The wine was then blended and filtered prior to bottling in January 2020. – Al Timms, Shadowfax
What a delight. The whole shootin’ match. The dark cherry flavour. The sliding graphite tannin. The cool ‘mineral’ acidity. The length. It’s floral, seasoned with spice and dried herb, offers bass and treble, clean lines, and makes you want to drink it with a feverish haste, which is a rare admission for this little piggy. It’s a beauty. 96 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front June 2020
2019 Shadowfax Little Hampton Pinot Noir RRP $63
The fruit was handpicked on 4th April, then carefully sorted and destemmed with 100% whole berries going into small open fermenters. Natural fermentation occurred with daily hand plunging to extract fine tannins and flavour. After two weeks on skins the wine was pressed then racked into second use French hogsheads and puncheons where it rested and grew before being blended and filtered before bottling.
The aromatics are seductive and engaging. Floral violets and rose petal waft from the glass, bolstered by blueberry and cherry fruits. Further complexities reveal themselves, such as cardamom, cassis and sarsaparilla. Mineral aspects including gunpowder and graphite provide intrigue. Cherry sap and blueberry fruit fall immediately onto the palate. Complex notes of game meats, graphite and some white pepper spice chime in. A focused and mineral core has drive, vibrancy and poise. Fine and lacey tannins frame the complex cardamom spice and subtle fruits. – Al Timms, Shadowfax
Forest berries, particularly fresh picked blackberries, briar and rose perfume, mint and spice. It’s lively, a sappy and perky feel, the graphite tannin, undergrowth, almond, and a crisp cranberry finish of precision and length all contribute to its sense of latent potential. It’s a serious, and very very good wine. 95 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front June 2020
Deepish, bright red/purple colour. Dark cherry to plum aromas, some spicy but subtle whole-bunch suggestions, the wine rich and fleshy, deep-fruited and supple, bright and lively, with refreshing acidity in harmony with the other components. There is concentration, power and length here. Very good. 94 points. Huon Hooke, The Real Review June 2020
ALSO AVAILABLE IN TINY QUANTITIES…
2018 Shadowfax Midhill Chardonnay RRP $54
Fruit. Composure. Length. It’s all here. It sits pretty, peach-driven and poised. Grilled/toasted aspects, a lick of oak spice, a line of citrus, perhaps melon. Quartz. Class written all over it. Will be better in another year or three. 94+ points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front November 2019
2018 Shadowfax Little Hampton Pinot Noir RRP $63
Gold Medal, Sydney Royal Wine Show 2019 & Gold Medal, Royal Melbourne Wine Awards 2019
Hand-picked fruit carefully sorted and destemmed so 100% whole berries in small open fermenters, wild fermentation with daily plunging, 14 days on skins, pressed to used French hogsheads. A beautifully detailed and harmonious palate with spice, rose petal and cedar run through to a stunningly long finish and aftertaste. 96 points. James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion 2021
Deepish red colour with a trace of purple. The bouquet shows lots of smoky char and stemmy characters skilfully intertwined, foresty and whole-bunchy with a sweetly-perfumed lift which is very fetching. It’s medium- to full-bodied and loaded with dried flower notes and some sinewiness from acidity. The flavour is delicious and very pinoty. 96 points. Huon Hooke, huonhooke.com January 2020