Bass Phillip Masterclass Release
Last evening we met the enigmatic Phillip Jones, the Tsar of Aussie Pinot, for the launch of his brand new 2013 wines. A willful, independent man of very strong opinions (and never shy to share them), Phillip prefers to shun the inevitable public attention thrust at him due to the incredible quality of the wines he crafts. He kept saying all evening that he actually had very little to do with the quality of the wines- he simply let nature take its course, something I have gathered over the years is the opinion of the best winemakers on this Earth. As summarised on their website; “Bass Phillip wines are distinctly different: nice to drink young, but improve well after several years in the cellar. The most recent vintages of Bass Phillip pinot noir are the best we have produced. We put this down to older vines, more experience in winemaking, and continued sustainable practices in both the vineyards and winery.”
And it’s not just me that thinks his wines are top of the tree; James Halliday said; “Phillip Jones handcrafts tiny quantities of superlative Pinot Noir which, at its best, has no equal in Australia. Painstaking site selection, ultra-close vine spacing and the very, very cool climate of South Gippsland are the keys to the magic of Bass Phillip and its eerily Burgundian Pinots. One of Australia’s greatest small producers”. Or this from Robert Parker; “…brilliant Pinot Noirs, undoubtedly the finest being produced in Australia.”
2013 was a vintage that was in one hell of a hurry in Gippsland. It started off even and regular, but an Autumn heatwave in March (5 days over 35 degrees!) hurried the whole process along rather swiftly! Phillip took it all in his stride and picked like a madman. The results were incredible; ripe but balanced, plenty of natural acidity but rich savoury fruit and spices and ripe, supple tannins. Phil said that the ’13s were some of the most complex wines he had ever made… So here are my picks from this marvelous vintage;
Bass Phillip ‘Estate’ Chardonnay 2013
The first thing you noticed about this wine was the luminous, vibrant golden colour. It just looked the way a good Chardonnay should. The second thing was the incredible aromas that simply jumped from the glass. White nectarine and peach, red apple, pear, honey, butter- it smelled delicious! This thankfully followed through to the palate, with a citrus acid zip, then crunchy Nashi pear, fresh Granny Smith apple, buttered brioche, white peach, nectarine and a creamy brie note on the ultra long finish. What really impressed however was the weight of the wine, something that almost everyone in the room mentioned. Never cloying or sweet, but so persistent and textural. Comes off Biodynamically-treated vineyards, however the wines will never say it on the bottle. When asked why he refused to have the wines certified as Biodynamic, he said “Never! The only thing certifiable in the vineyard is me!”. He knows what works best for his vines, he doesn’t need a certificate to tell him he’s doing the right thing- the wines do that well enough!
Bass Phillip ‘Crown Prince’ Pinot Noir 2013
The most approachable and easy-drinking of the wines in the lineup, however this was a world away from the candy-sweet cherry bomb Pinots out there. At first pour there were hints of black earth, raspberry and vanilla, them with some warmth it opened up into a mix of strawberries-and-cream, mushroom, vanilla, red raspberry, rich black forest floor and a little bit of snow-pea greenness. You think from the nose that this will be a juicy, fat style of Pinot, but the cool-climate natural acidity keeps the wine in check and incredibly linear. Gorgeous long finish of spiced mushroom. Phillip said this one was ideal for now, but come 4-8 years it will really hit its straps.
Bass Phillip ‘Estate’ Pinot Noir 2013
Noticeably brighter and lighter-couloured in the glass- more purple where the Crown Prince and Premium were ruby/garnet. The fruit spectrum was on the blue side also with aromas and flavours of blueberry and plum, however the style of this wine was definitely more old-school Burgundy than anything else; turned black earth, mushrooms, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove spice, with little hints of green pea-shoot, mint and a sappy element that was simply delicious. One guest even offered up the tasting note of ‘Chicken manure- the good sort of course!’ Bracing acidity and quite angular, prominent tannins show the promise of a wine that will go the distance. Phil said this would start to really show its true beauty in the 8-15 year mark. It seems patience is a necessity with this producer…
Bass Phillip ‘Premium’ Pinot Noir 2013
Made in exactly the same way as the above two Pinots, but sourced from a single vineyard that really has the X-factor. Phillip has planted the vines at around 9,000 vines/hectare (the average in Australia is 2,000) to reduce vigour and increase quality. He also ages the wine for 18 months in the most expensive new French oak (Francois Frere from Allier) to further increase complexity, depth, length and ageability. This was, simply put, one of the most complex and layered wines I have ever tried. Truffles, mushroom ragu, black soil, smoke, mineral soda, then blueberry, mint, pea, strawberry jam, perfumed jasmine and rose petal, caramel and light touches of milk chocolate. On the palate the wine is the plushest and richest of all the Pinots tasted, with layers of complex fruits, spices, herbs and fungal elements. Again the bracing acid and structured tannins to last for 20 years completes the wine. The end of my tasting notes finishes with “Jesus, what a wine…”