Victorian Era – Mac Forbes & The Atlas Of The Yarra Valley

Occasionally a cynical wine taster gets to go to a tasting where you are excited before you arrive, you love the first wine and then continue to love every wine after. The only thing left to grumble about is having to spit out the wines so you can drive home.

Mac Forbes grew up in the Yarra Valley but set off to see the wine making world. Working in France, Italy, Australia, Portugal and Mount Mary in the Yarra. In 2004 when he returned home he was convinced that Australia was capable of making sub-regional and site specific wines and that, with a bit of hard work, the humble Yarra Valley could be making some amazing terroir driven wines. We don’t have the benefit of bored Cistercian monks, but we do have Mac.

Yesterday we tasted a range of Macs 2012 wines focussing on his Pinot Noir based wines to do a tour of upper and lower Yarra sub regions. What came through is the diversity of styles within a concentrated area, also that Mac is a pretty darn good winemaker who is refining his craft and improving all the time. I attended a similar tasting with Mac a few years ago and I found the wines were all a bit too mean, tight and acidic. This was an interesting introduction to his search for sub-regionality and made them a great academic exercise but not actually all that appealing to drink.

The 2012s though, well they are seductive and elegant.  Disappointingly they are all really good: As a range they still display clean acidity and a driving structure but they have beautiful fruit that sits on top to give it balance and harmony. I want to drink them all.

I’ve included my notes in the order they were served. They are available for sale and I have also put together a six pack of Mac’s wines that reflects what he does really well.

Yarra Pinot Noir 2012 Pure, ash, plums, lavender, hint meaty/pepper, spearmint and very pretty. It is silky, with tart acid, great core of fruit, hints of steams and tea with good freshness and really opens up with air. This is made from declassified Yarra Valley fruit from the various vineyards Mac sources fruit from.

Coldstream Pinot Noir 2012 Earthy and meaty. This was more straight forward and obvious compared to the other single vineyard wines. The palate is vibrant, ripe, plush with firm acid, great length and a lovely perfume. Hints of white chocolate appear too. This is in the ‘classic Yarra’ Pinot mould and flying the flag for lower Yarra.

Gruyere Pinot Noir 2012 Succulent, blue and red berry fruits, pepper, slightly spearminty, densely packed. It has a full mouthfeel, currant fruits, fine tannins, elegant with smoke and mineral around the edges. Another lower Yarra Pinot, this had an extend skin maturation and certainly seems more interesting at the moment.

Wesburn Pinot Noir 2012 Deep crimson colour, meaty, herbal, earthy, compost, mineral, citrus peel, mint, seeds. This was the fullest of Mac’s Pinots with chocolate, currants, grippy tannins, dense and tart core with crunchy red fruits. A seriously impressive wine from upper Yarra.  and one of the most distinctive in the range not a afraid to show that personality.

Yarra Junction Pinot Noir 2012 By contrast to the Wesburn this was more pink with an orange hue. It shows leaner mineral, smoke, hints of oak, chocolate, violets. It is very savoury. The palate is plush and velvety with lean acidity. I thought it was delicious. There is definitely something about this upper Yarra!

Woori Yallock Pinot Noir 2012 Ruby in colour. Earthy, silt, chocolate, meaty and dense with a hint of stems. There is sweet red fruits and perfume on the powerful, silky and long palate. This is probably the most impressive wine of the line up but the one that needs the most time. Lots of time.

Woori Yallock Pinot Noir 2008 Heading towards orange in colour and smelling a bit oxy it could have been past it. But with some time it showed some smokey, meaty notes, red fruits and a hint of dried herbs/compost. The palate was amazingly fresh. Meaty, savoury, sweet and silky with earth and dry leaves. A fair bit of tannin is still present too. Hence my thoughts that the 2012 Woori needs time.

Yarra Chardonnay 2012 Talc, elegant, pears, perfume, spice, dough. Lean and white flowers, white chocolate and a nice line. Very classy, great mouthfeel and a little bit magic. This is just the entry level!

Hoddles Creek Chardonnay 2012 Spicy, stewed fruits, peach, mineral, fleshy. The palate is vibrant, fleshy with clean acid, great flavours! Layered and complex, jam/marmalade like notes on the finish but still dry and focussed.

Hugh Cabernet Blend 2011 A blend of all five classic Bordeaux varieties this year. It was vibrant, crunchy with smoke and tomato, plums and hint of jam. The palate was gorgeous with earthy, meat, dark and blue fruits, smoke. It is well balanced, lovely acid and firm fruit tannins, great finish and a hint of bitterness (which I love). Was 2011 a horrible year? Not for everyone!

The following two wines are almost available. For a Pinot and Chardonnay specialist he runs the risk of making the best Riesling in Australia. Don’t miss out on these!

RS 16 Strathbogie Ranges Riesling 2013 Floral, bubble gum, grapey, pure, vibrant, beer like doughy/leesy notes, waxy, ginger. The palate is silky, clean, pure, fresh, refreshing and really well balanced. This is stunning wine, beware though, it is hard to stop drinking this wine.

RS 37 Strathbogie Ranges Riesling 2013 Peach, nectarine, floral, grapey, doughy, minerals. Jelly, pristine, aloe vera, silky, floral, delicious drinking. This has a touch more phenolics compared to the 16. Stunning wine.

Other Mac Forbes wines available:

RS 14 Strathbogie Ranges Riesling 2012 Are the 2012s better than the 2013s? I particularly loved the 45 in 2012 but this 14 is worth buying and trying as a warm up to the 2013s

RS 45 Strathbogie Ranges Riesling 2012

Arneis 2010 Yarra Valley Arneis. I love this wine. So tasty.

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