She cruises the Victorian coastline; a rolling mass of salty cobalt curls. She's the powerful force that through the green fuse drives vines to flower, grapes to ripen and fruit to harvest.
Bass Strait is a glorious wonder; an unpredictable crucible to the winemaker’s creativity. Her DNA flows deep through the land where her mark is grapevines sheathed in briny. Her tempest is the roller-coaster ride for growers who steel themselves for fruit to ripen before the dark cloak of winter descends.
Her cool maritime climate moderates the growing season; she’s the architect of moist soils and a terroir that produces nervy citrus-flavoured Chardonnay and tangy cherry-flavoured Pinot Noir. Along her coast, a patchwork of slopes are sprayed and splattered by showers that give ancient soils energy to produce great wine.
Forty-kilometers from the high cliffs of Portland, where the fingers of the Great Southern Ocean stretch toward Bass Strait, the Crawford River vineyard is rooted in complex, mineral-rich soil.
Here in the wine region of Henty, the sub soils are a limestone base created by an ancient seabed. For thirty-five years, winemaker John Thomson, his wife and now daughters have made a rich, textural Riesling that has the ocean to thank for its generosity of flavour.
Despite being some distance from the sea, the Thomson’s vineyard is moderated by a maritime climate with cool sea breezes that flow across dairy farmland to produce conditions equally ideal for Cabernet. The Crawford River Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine that belongs on the pedestal with wines from the world’s great Cabernet Sauvignon appellations that all have one thing in common; their proximity to the ocean.
On the eastern side of the Otway’s, Bass Strait's imprint can be found in the Bannockburn Vineyards where fragrance and powerful flavours are the signature and the geology speaks of an ancient ocean seabed. Located 30 clicks north-east of Geelong, the summer heat is moderated by winds which were generated miles out to sea. They funnel down Bass Straight and cross inland to soothe baking vineyards.
For years the Chardonnay from the high-density Bannockburn SRH vineyard has been distinguished by oyster shell, flint and white flower fruit flavours that are unique to this site.
At Bannockburn the SRH vines are always the lowest yielding, always the most austere and always the most briny. A bell-clear expression of the ancient marine sediments that form the bedrock of the area, combined with the maritime climate that produces wines of great drive and breadth.
Across Port Phillip Bay, Bass Strait laps at the beaches of the Mornington Peninsula and rich volcanic soils produce vigorous growth and fruity, lightly-structured Pinot Noir. There are plenty of nice wines here; plenty of spice, zip and fragrance but only a few have the strength of signal to be called great
Located amid Red Hills’ premium orchard district, Eldridge Estate is where trackie dacks wearing winemaker, David Lloyd roams his hillside vineyard. He holds a lifetime ambition; to interpret and express the site and craft individual wines.
Having access to fruit from thirty year-old vines has given Lloyd’s Pinot Noir an edgy character like a Nick Cave ballad. The Eldridge Estate Clonal Blend is grown in deep ancient volcanic soils, Bass Strait is the architect of this cherry-flavoured mineral rich, taut and structured wine.
Six Pinot Noir clones combine in a mélange of savoury flavours that finish with a trail of tiny fruit anchors gently dragging behind. The intrigue in the wine is not just the fine tannins but an intensity that finds a yummy face on all who try it.
A great wine generally comes from a vineyard that’s great to begin with. Supreme Court Judge and winemaker, Kevin Bell QC appears to have found a great site in Hurley Vineyard near Western Port Bay.
In Balnarring, the Garamond is MV6 Pinot Noir planted to an eastern slope. The climate, soil, and grapes are the holy trinity and of the three, the maritime climate visits this lovely slope and moderates temperature for a cool ripening pathway to intensely fragrant Pinot Noir.
Every vintage since the millenium, the Garamond has embraced mouth-watering berry fruit with a fine-grained textured line, great length, and structure.
In all these wines, Bass Strait’s influence is somewhat ethereal. A perfect growing season produces flavours that linger subliminally. Great wines dance to their own beat whether its a tango in a restaurant or a rave in the great outdoors.
When people pass an evening together under the stars, they commune with nature, sharing wine where the spirit of place is stored and amplified. Great wine is a response to all the elements of nature’s majesty. The greatness of Bass Strait produces wines that can be savoured anywhere you like. Seek out wines of individual vitality that engage both for food and for thought; wine designed by Victoria's Bass Strait.