This year marks the second year of an Australian landmark: Chalmers Bush Block.
This really is the Chalmers family making its mark, and we are so excited about this next release – the people have been asking, and it is finally here! Bush block is undoubtedly Australia. Inland Australia, with its own rhythm, its warm, red dirt and blazing sun. It is a place where grapes – millions of tonnes of them – have grown. But till now, none have grown like these… it’s taken a lifetime of journeying, enquiring, importing, planting, propagating, trialling, observing and sharing to get to this point.
The dazzling palette created by Bruce and Jenni Chalmers has been adopted and adapted by sisters Tennille and Kim Chalmers, together with Kim’s winemaker husband Bart van Olphen.
And this second generation has taken well-chosen colours with which to paint the next chapter in Australian wine. Sicily’s Inzolia and Puglia’s Negroamaro were the pigments put into the ground, selected for their attributes of heat tolerance, medium to large berries, thick skins and late-ripening grapes. The bush-vine site was established in 2017 at the heart of the family operation in the Murray Darling region in Merbein, northwest Victoria. It was developed organically with composted cow manure and continues to be managed with no herbicides or pesticides.
The vines grow a fraction above sea level on soils of deep red Murray sand with limestone underneath. They’re spaced at 2.5m x 2.5m – just far enough from each other to create their own catchment area and reap the water they need to survive, minimising competition from neighbouring vines. In fact, the only input the vines have needed is a drop of extra “rain”, in the form of an overhead sprinkler. This is inevitable given the region’s low natural rainfall. Still, irrigation is well below the amount of water recommended to grow healthy productive vines – and less than the average natural rainfall in the varieties’ native regions of Italy. But those aren’t the parameters of an experiment. This isn’t a fleeting fad. No; it’s a landmark, and this second year is better than ever.
These are excellent wines of presence and provenance – fully realised, fresh, long and brimming with the confidence of the right fruit grown the right way, in a place where it belongs.
We congratulate the Chalmers on their endeavour and imagination, and wholeheartedly commend these wines to you.
The Inzolia and Negroamaro are grown using the alberello (little tree) pruning system and vine establishment, an ancient growing method popular in coastal areas of the Mediterranean. Its strong structure is proven to survive often damaging sea winds from Greece to southern France. The upright vine cane and canopy position in this alberello formation also allows for welcome shading directly onto the fruit zone below in the heat of the day.
July 2023 will mark the second release Chalmers Bush Vine wines from a special Merbein block that tests the limits of dry growing. The 2022 Inzolia saw slightly less water usage than the 2021, resulting in a wine that is super expressive and powerful. The 2021 Negroamaro however, was the opposite to the 2020, just under 90mm of additional water required. The wine shows more perfumed lifted fruit characters with a tightly driven mouthfeel. Both vinified pretty much identically to last year’s release, hand-picked, wild ferment, unfined and unfiltered, with the Negroamaro seeing extended maceration on skins. A great follow up to the first release so keep a look out for these in the immediate future. Wines are on their way to media so fingers crossed some nice reviews to come.
2022 Chalmers Bush Vine Inzolia RRP $54
Grown on red Murray sand and limestone soils at an elevation of 51m. There was 304mm of rainfall. Harvesting took place on the 18th and 22nd of February 2022. The grapes were handpicked and whole bunch pressed in wild ferment. It spent 8 months on lees in stainless steel, keeping that freshness. It was unfined and unfiltered. This wine is vegan friendly. The wine is perfumed and intense, with lifted florals and cardamon seed. It’s got a dense, pulpy mouthfeel, really getting that limestone coming through. Immediate impressions are freshness and purity. There’s notes of ripened peaches, then leading to more exotic fruit like fig, quince and cantaloupe. You can start to identify the welcome intensity of fruit on show from the “dry-grown” management of the vineyard.
Nice savoury edges develop, and a slight toasty note follows, signs of natural ferment and extended lees contact. Intense yellow and orange blossom and preserved lemon lift the wine out of the glass along with delicate wild herbs, fennel seed and a lick of salt bush. On the palate the same intensity and density of fruit carries through. It’s a moreish mouthful but not without definition. The chewy structure, a character typically associated with red wines, shows grapefruit pith and sweet cooking spices of clove and star anise with an orange-rind biscotti texture. It’s a confident and complex wine balanced with detail and persistence. – Chalmers Family
2021 Chalmers Bush Vine Negroamaro RRP $54
Grown on red Murray sand and limestone soils at an elevation of 49m. It was harvested late February and early March 2021. The grapes were handpicked, and whole bunch pressed in wild ferment. It’s unfined and unfiltered, and vegan friendly. There’s an earthy dustiness and pure fruit leading into cherries, dried blueberries and quandong jelly. Rosemary flowers and wild thyme complement that recurring vibrancy and freshness in the fruit. The extended maceration gives the wine good presence in the mouth with a pleasant, fine-sand texture. More savoury characters of wattleseed, worn leather and Murray Pine sneak through, lengthening the palate even more.
The alcohol sits in the background. Aromatics allow the wine to finish with a delicate and fragrant palate of fresh liquorice, lifted lavender and rose petal. The wine is medium bodied, with lovely length that leaves you intrigued and wanting more. It’s a little wound-up, in a nice way, and hints that it will unfurl nicely, drawing on the delicate fragrance and spice characters in the coming years. – Chalmers Family