Cosy Coterie: New GC, RP & Tout Près by Farr

It was an overnight success 40 years in the making when it made its debut a couple of years back. 2015 GC Chardonnay by Farr was the best Australian-grown Chardonnay we drank from that celebrated vintage.
We weren’t the only ones swept off our feet.
“This stands tall in the pantheon of top-end Australian Chardonnays, planting its own stake in the ground through sheer length,” proclaimed James Halliday. Its majesty wasn’t lost on Campbell Mattinson: “This is a Chardonnay of presence if ever there was one… the boom of flavour as you swallow is quite something else.” As you’d expect of a master’s work cut from precise, painstakingly prepared raw material, the follow-up bore the same imposing hallmarks. “It pleases from the outset and all the way along the line, but it really sparks up as it passes through the finish,” wrote Mattinson of the ‘16. “It’s like old money in that sense; it’s not gaudy but it still tastes rich.” Huon Hooke slapped 97 points on it, declaring it “a generous mouthful of classical Chardonnay. Wonderfully detailed bouquet and flavour: a superb wine.”
GC, named in honour of patriarch Gary Charles Farr who started mining gold in Bannockburn in the late ’70s, was conceived as something truly special – and duly delivered. The new close-planted Chardonnay from the family’s Côte Vineyard was joined a year later by its spouse, RP Pinot. A tribute to Nick Farr’s mother Robyn Pamela, the ‘15 burst on the scene in similarly spectacular fashion. “We march straight into elite territory,” wrote Mattinson. “By the second glass I was mesmerised. Talk about good.” And it was a case of Hooke, line and sinker for Huon, too: “Concentrated, opulent and fleshy: a totally satisfying drink.”
The thing about these words is that they do not evoke flashiness or grandeur. On the contrary, they reflect wines that have a relatively humble aim: To bring together everything that the Farrs have learned about wine and their land.
And it turns out that “everything” is a heck of a lot – about all you could wish for in an Australian Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, in fact. Tout Près, which once sat alone atop the towering Farr family tree, now has the two Côte vineyard wines for company. And the original close-planted Pinot has lost none of its splendour. “This wine has a depth to its silently throbbing power from the moment it enters the mouth to the lingering aftertaste,” wrote Halliday of the previous Tout Près release, which he lavished with 99 points. “It would be impossible to buy a Burgundy of this quality for less than $250. Bravo.”
2017 and ’16 were remarkably different on paper – the former the latest finish on record, the latter more uniformly warm and compact – but we’ve already seen how they yielded remarkably similar results in the Farr vineyards. Both culminated in fine, bright, detailed, mineral-driven wines. It’s a pleasure to lead you to the summit once more with these three magnificent close-planted specimens.

THE WINES

“The outstanding feature of this wine is the weight, suspended by some magic just above the palate – you sense it rather than taste it.” James Halliday,

“It’s a scintillating wine and that’s all that need be said.” – Campbell Mattinson

Côte Vineyard – GC & RP
The north côte is a red to brown loam with buckshot stones across the surface. It’s the most exposed of the three côtes but is harvested last of all because of the large amount of clay, holding valuable moisture for a longer time than the other slopes. 
The northeast côte is a continuation of buckshot until the soil becomes black and lined with limestone moving towards the bottom of the rows and a depression that divides limestone from sandstone. At the highest point of the vineyard you will find small amounts of sandstone in the grey sandy loam.
The east côte is divided through the centre of the slope by a rise. It has black volcanic soil with fragmented limestone in one direction and grey loam with buckshot stones in the other direction. Soil is king, as the east côte has the least amount of clay and therefore the least water-holding capacity, resulting in it being harvested first even though it is the coolest côte of the three. – Nick Farr

The north côte is a red to brown loam with buckshot stones across the surface. It’s the most exposed of the three côtes but is harvested last of all because of the large amount of clay, holding valuable moisture for a longer time than the other slopes. 
The northeast côte is a continuation of buckshot until the soil becomes black and lined with limestone moving towards the bottom of the rows and a depression that divides limestone from sandstone. At the highest point of the vineyard you will find small amounts of sandstone in the grey sandy loam.
The east côte is divided through the centre of the slope by a rise. It has black volcanic soil with fragmented limestone in one direction and grey loam with buckshot stones in the other direction. Soil is king, as the east côte has the least amount of clay and therefore the least water-holding capacity, resulting in it being harvested first even though it is the coolest côte of the three. – Nick Farr

2017 GC Chardonnay by Farr RRP $120
The fruit is hand-picked then whole-bunch pressed in the winery. All the solids are collected and chilled before being put to barrel (35% new French oak). A natural fermentation will occur at cool temperatures over the next one to two months, and then a small amount of stirring helps start malolactic fermentation. The wine is then racked, fined and lightly filtered before bottling 11 months after picking. – Nick Farr

2016 RP Pinot Noir by Farr RRP $120
The fruit is handpicked and sorted in the vineyard, then fermented in an open-top fermenter. Between 40 to 50% of the fruit will be destemmed and then cold soaked for four days. We use only natural yeast for the fermentation process, which takes roughly 19 days. Grape-stomping (known as pigeage) will occur two to three times a day depending on the amount of extraction required, and the wine is then placed in 50 to 60% new Allier barrels by gravity. It’s racked by gas after secondary fermentation, then again at 18 months to be bottled. – Nick Farr

2016 Tout Près Pinot Noir by Farr RRP $120
Only a touch over 2.5 acres, it has three individual soil types across a three-sided cirque (an amphitheatre-like valley head) that rises above the other vineyards. Each slope consists of a soil type. The largest slope is black volcanic soil of limestone, the second is quartz gravel mixed with red ironstone soil and the third, an iron strand in grey sandy loam. The clones that will acclimatise and mutate over time are currently 113, 114, 115, 667, 777 and MV6 to become the Tout Près clone. At 7,300 vines per hectare, Tout Près is the most densely planted vineyard on the estate (hence the name, meaning “very cosy”). The soils and intense competition force the vines to work hard, resulting in fruit that is lush but masculine and provides the coveted structure found only in the most ageworthy wines.
Tout Près is fermented with 100% whole bunches in a five-tonne oak fermenter. This wine has the flavour profile and intensity to absorb 100% new Allier French barrels. – Nick Farr

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2016 Farrside by Farr RRP $90
The Farrside vineyard consists of black volcanic soil over limestone on a northeast-facing slope. The vine rows run east to west to shade the fruit from over exposure. It’s a mixture of 114, 115, 777, 667 and MV6 clones. Although the Farrside and Sangreal vineyards are only 300m apart, the differing conditions mean that this vineyard is picked 10 to 12 days later. The darker soils and cooler growing conditions give a more masculine and edgy wine.  
The fruit is hand-picked and sorted in the vineyard, then fermented in an open-top fermenter. Roughly 50% of the fruit will be destemmed and then cold soaked for four days. Nick uses only the natural yeast for the fermentation process, which takes roughly 12 days. Grape-stomping (known as pigeage) will occur two to three times a day depending on the amount of extraction required, and the wine is then placed in 50 to 60% new Allier barrels by gravity. It is racked by gas after secondary fermentation, then again at 18 months to be bottled.

It’s a scintillating wine and that’s all that need be said. It’s cut with acid, plump with fruit, spicy, svelte and silken. It’s simultaneously tangy, plush and long. Some wines get a lot of mileage out of an inherent tension, and this is one such wine. It has the air under its rule; all the wine’s components operate as though missteps are not tolerated. As a drinker, the effect is transfixing. It puts you at ease. It puts you on edge. You’re in the presence of something extra and other and you can’t but help sink in for more. 96 points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front October 2018

Here 40-50% of the grapes are destemmed, the remainder left as whole bunches, and this increases complexity with its foresty, gamey (in the good sense), spicy overlay to the black cherry and plum fruit. The outstanding feature of this wine is the weight, suspended by some magic just above the palate – you sense it rather than taste it. 96 points. James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion 2019