Our first feature was on Bannockburn Vineyards, a pioneering Geelong winery of huge importance from the Moorabool Valley region. Almost as equally important is another pioneering winery – that of Scotchmans Hill Vineyards down on the beautiful and picturesque Bellarine Peninsula. This winery was the first to release wines from this area and helped set the foundations for what is today, an amazing region still establishing itself in some ways but already producing a vast array of stunning wines from the many wineries now located in the area.
Their first vintage was in 1986 and required only one 1500 litre stainless steel tank and five barrels. Things stayed in this situation until 1990, when 80 tonnes were processed during what is deemed the first truly ‘official’ commercial vintage. These days, however, up to 600 tonnes are processed by Scotchmans Hill, alongside the many contract winemaking jobs they produce for a number of local clients.
The winery is a modern facility featuring an 8000 cubic metre temperature controlled barrel hall that houses up to 1000 barrels. The winemaking equipment ranges from modern and progressive through to traditional. The aim is to produce highly individualistic wines by use of both modern and traditional winemaking techniques.
As in the beginning, and up until the present, winemaker Robin Brockett has been at the helm. Commencing his career at St Helena winery near Christchurch in his native New Zealand, Robin attended Charles Sturt University in Australia on scholarship to study viticulture, then wine science, and worked at the University winery. When he joined Scotchmans Hill in 1988, he thought he might only stay a couple of years. Fast forward 29 years, and we see that Robin has been instrumental in developing the vineyards and winemaking style of Scotchman’s Hill wines.
Young assistant Winemaker Marcus Holt joined in 2003, having worked at the world renowned winery Dr. Loosen in the Mosel Valley, Germany, and the Esporao winery in Alentejo, central Portugal, gaining valuable experience along the way. He has also travelled extensively through Burgundy, Alsace, Portuguese and Northern Italian wine regions, adding much experience and a worldly view to the winemaking team.
If you’ve ever visited the winery, you would surely have noted the black, volcanic soils in the vineyards, so important in imparting the unique qualities of the Scotchmans Hill wines, adding greater depth and structure to the resulting wines.
At Scotchman’s Hill, the vineyard management encompasses a combination of modern equipment and methods, married with traditional techniques. All vines are vertical shoot positioned to maximise vine balance and fruit exposure, and their newer vineyard plantings are purposely south facing to delay ripening. Also too, the cooling effects of the nearby Port Phillip Bay are just as important in helping to moderate the cool maritime climate and the strong, cool Antarctic winds. With moderate to low rainfall, crop levels are generally low due to climatic influence, resulting in small, but high quality berries.
The estate vineyards produce Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio and Shiraz, all of a very high quality and maturity and are well worth discovering if you haven’t done so already!
Here’s a snap shot of some of their wines;
In one sense you could claim this as the classic expression of the region as it’s been around for quite some time now, always good and always held in high regard. Displaying typical fresh ripe cherry and strawberry aromatics and complex dark berry flavour profiles that are synonymous with Bellarine Pinot. These guys put the region on the map, with winemaker Robin Brockett there right from the beginning, no one else possesses the knowledge or the experience of Bellarine grapes such as he. This latest release shows all that is best about Pinot Noir from the Bellarine – intense bright fruit, fragrant aromatics and good structure and balance alongside varietal complexity and suppleness.
The ‘Cornelius’ range of wines from Scotchman’s Hill is winemaker Robin Brockett’s own small batch series where he’s able to really express his style and that of the vineyards at his disposal in an uncompromising fashion. I really like what he’s come up with across the range and this Sauvignon Blanc is beautifully textural and savoury, with a rich, yet restrained creamy mid palate, showing stylish sophistication and complexity. The finish is balanced and crisp and the wine will age for another few years yet…once again, another great example of what can be done with this variety in our local region.