It was 5.59pm on Tuesday and I took a call from Matthew Hanson who I have chatted to regularly for well over 5 years now and who runs Fine Wine Appreciation Melbourne http://www.finewineappreciation.com.au/ . He said he had a last minute withdrawal from his William Downie dinner so would I like to come along? “It starts at 7pm” he added. I had been keen to go as I’ve loved Bill’s wines since day two (there is an amusing story about day one but I shall save that for another time!) but the dinner filled up before I responded. Given I had just opened a bottle of wine to cook dinner with and it was corked, it was obviously a sign that I should go. So I did.
|Bill’s three Pinots.(LtoR) Gippsland, Mornington, Yarra.|
Bill Downie has been on a wine making odyssey that has seen him work at tiny producers and large wine factories most notably in Australia and Burgundy. Since 2003 he has also been making Pinot Noir under his own name from the Yarra Valley and subsequently added Mornington Peninsula and Gippsland to the range complemented by a one off wine (or two).
I made it to Scopri – fast becoming my second home with plenty of time to spare and a thirst! The dinner was to be four courses, each matched with a pair of wines Bill had made. Once again I have to say that Scopri’s ability to match food to wine is outstanding.
|The back labels are a bit more informative…. A bit.|
Roasted quail with puy lentils and pancetta
William Downie Mornington Pinot Noir 2011 Red berries, bright fruits, floral, vibrant, pure Mornington Pinot. The palate was tart, clean with a hint of oak and spice, clean and crunchy.
William Downie Mornington Pinot Noir 2008 Much darker in colour and flavour than the 2011. 2008 was much warmer compared to the wet and cold 2011 vintage and it showed in all the wines. Curranty, aniseed, hint savoury.
Richly fruited in the mouth with more muscle and tannin. Great length with red fruits coming up on the finish.
Potato ravioli with veal ragu
William Downie Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2011 Red fruits, spice, earth, jubey, lavender, pepper, dense. Silky, great flesh, vibrant, spice, fine and lean with a flinty note. Very long, fine and even tannins, savoury finish. Much more dense and savoury compared with the Mornington.
William Downie Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2008 Dark, plums, currants, spice, rose petal/floral, lifted.
Rich mouthfeel, ripe fruits, vibrant, sour cherry, muscular tannins and a hint bitter (in the positive refreshing mould), good length.
|Yep, I defaced my menu with all the vital notes you are currently reading.|
Braised beef cheeks
William Downie Gippsland Pinot Noir 2011 Tart, tea leaf, smoke, roses, red fruits, blood orange, pretty nose with an earthy edge. The palate showed red fruits that were vibrant and juicy with some dark fruit almost fruit cake like notes. The finish was fine, taut and structured. Great finesse. Possibly my favourite of the 2011s but it really is just splitting hairs and a little bit unfair to compare such young wines.
William Downie Gippsland Pinot Noir 2008 Dark and meaty. Some of the spiced hung meats, oaky, dense and intense. In the mouth it offered lifted lavender, creamy big oxy berries. Sweet fruits, silk, vibrancy, fine fruit tannins, good length and a hint of bitterness.
|Thousand Candles – you just have to taste it.|
Thousand Candles 2011 This is the first release of this wine. I won’t try and replicate Bill’s story about this wine because I couldn’t fake his passion and belief. But this wine came about when he was asked to make a wine that speaks of the best of what Australia can do. He has full control of the process from the vineyard to the final packaging.
The wine is from one vineyard in the Yarra Valley and is a blend of Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. The blend came about because Bill and the team felt that on their own they had three OK wines, but together they had a wine that offered “Truth in the Glass”. The wine spoke of where it came from. The wine making process was simply “Whole bunches in a vessel.” No destemming, no yeast additions, no crushing, no punched downs or pump overs. Even the Sauv Blanc was made with full stems and skins. In fact it spent almost a year on skins which would be considered almost heresy in most peoples winemaking manuals.
The wine itself was stunning. Dusty, gravel, earth, stemmy, tight, tart red berry fruits, hint sappy with spice. The palate was juicy, vibrant, silky, meaty, with great fruit tannins, smoke/flint. It evolved a lot in the glass. I felt like I could picture the vineyard in my head as I drank it. I’d love to visit the place in the near future. It sounds amazing.
There is quite a lovely story about how the name and the label came about. But that takes a bit of time and if far better to hear from Bill himself.
William Downie Petit Manseng 2009 Hailing from the King Valley, this wine came about because Bill had no Pinot in 09. So rather than compromise he thought he’d find something completely different. Petit Manseng makes brilliant high acid sweet wines in the Southern French region of Jurancon. This wine was a fair facsimilie. Tropical, floral, pure and clean. With a waxy bitterness and piercing acid to balance out the sweetness. It had great intensity and was a lovely way to finish the evening. Only topped by a second glass of the Thousand Candles!
Overall it was a great experience. It’s not often I get to taste so many classy Australian wines in one sitting. So I have to say thanks to Matt for the invite and Bill for the wines!