The Artisan Series by Murdoch Hill may be some of the most exciting wines coming out of Adelaide Hills at the moment. They are small batch, hand-crafted wines from select parcels around the Adelaide Hills, made with a minimalist approach. The wines are exceptional quality, full of flavour and offer an interesting alternative to some of the more traditional wines found around the region.
The Surrey Pinot Meunier is sourced from the Piccadilly vineyard, fermented on wild yeasts, with 40% whole bunch. Like all of the wines in this series it is named after a horse-drawn carriage, an homage to Michael's grandfather who was a passionate collector of these vehicles. These wines are only made in tiny quantities and we were luck to land a handful of them! Get in quickly before they disappear.
Adelaide Hills is buzzing with change and innovation and Murdoch Hill is a producer that is now at the forefront of this action. It’s worth pointing out that Murdoch Hills is not a new player in the Australian wine scene - the Estate vineyards were planted by the Downer family in 1998. But it has been the return of the family’s youngest member, Michael Downer, to take over the winemaking duties in 2012, that has created the excitement here. Pumped from stages at Vietti (Piedmont), Best's Great Western and Shaw+Smith, Downer has wasted little time in applying his experience and passion to his family vineyard practices and winemaking. The most obvious changes he has implemented have been bringing the winemaking in house (it was previously outsourced to a neighbouring winery) and the creation of the Artisan range of single-parcel, minimal intervention bottlings. Tapping into the freshness gifted by his high-altitude vines, while keeping winemaking artefact to a minimum, Downer’s approach has led to a range of juicy, vibrant wines that highlight the detail and freshness of each site. We are not the only ones who have been following this young winemaker’s progress with interest - Downer was a Young Guns of Wine finalist in 2014 and the joint winner of the ‘Winemaker’s Choice’ in 2015. His wines have also been getting great reviews and a number of gongs in recent times (including two wines in the top ten at the Adelaide Review Hot 100 last year). The winemaking specs include wild yeast ferments, various degrees of whole bunch, extended skin contact and more and more older wood in the aging. Bottling is without any fining or filtration. In terms of the vineyards, the original 1998 Estate plantings are situated around the winery, nestled in the undulating hills of Oakbank. The shallow red loam soils here are shot through with varying levels of schist and ironstone. Varieties include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. In addition to the home vineyards, Downer also works with a range of nearby sites in Lobethal and Basket Range and the high altitude Uraidla vineyard in the Piccadilly Valley. These sources offer Downer a broad range of flavours, structures and textures with which to do his thing.