“There is a hill that looks over our farm. It’s the highest point and, to a degree, the centre of the property. The south side is steep and home to tall mountain ash and candle bark, tree ferns and moss-overed fallen limbs (we think they look like giant, ancient wishbones). The earth is damp and sweet and full of life. To the north, the gentle slope is covered with tea tree and manna gum, and looks to the surrounding mountains. The warm air moves quickly here, and the light is bright and full of promise.”
This wine came about when William Downie 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.
Thousand Candles caused quite a stir after its release. It is certainly a departure from traditional Australian wine making but one that has and pushed the boundaries and I feel in time this will be considered a classic.
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.
Yarra Valley – A region that is just too big to generalise about. The difference between Upper and Lower Yarra can be the ability to ripen some grapes or not. Great wines are made in the Yarra but it is best to know the producers.
Pinot Noir – This is the most elusive grape. It is relatively early ripening and extremely sensitive to terroir. Its perfect place on earth is the Cote d’Or in Burgundy. So haunting are great red Burgundy’s charms that growers everywhere try to emulate them. Pinot Noir is not just a one trick pony, it can make great reds, rosé, sparkling and even sweet wines, whites on occasion and I’ve tasted a decent fortified Pinot Noir too.
Shiraz/Syrah – A bit of a chameleon, Shiraz can change how it looks depending on terroir and/or wine maker influence. The Syrah based wines of Northern Rhone are dry and austere while the Shiraz of Barossa is rich and fleshy. A variety that lends itself to long aging but can be drunk at any time of its evolution.
Sauvignon Blanc – Hero to many, weed to many more. Sauvignon Blanc sure does divide people. The pure expression of Sauvignon fruit is a stunning and exuberant array of tropical fruits with ripe herbs and plant material. It excels in the chalk, clay and sand of the Loire as well as the wonderful vineyards in Bordeaux for dry white and Sauternes production where Semillon curbs its outgoing nature.