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Bindi’s light and careful touch

Michael Dhillon (Photo: Via Heathocote Wine Hub)

Macedon Ranges winemaker Michael Dhillon, of Bindi Winegrowers (tastings), is one of the most thoughtful winemakers around. His vineyards and winery are run on minimal intervention lines, and everything he does, he has a reason for.

“I feel it’s best to get to an outcome with as few additions and as few interventions as possible,” he says.

Because of his gentle-on-the-land, gentle-on-the-wine philosophies, people tend to class him as a natural winemaker and sometimes, biodynamic, even though Bindi is not biodynamic (although it would probably qualify in most years).

“We’re not of any particular school where we’d have to adhere to their rules, but we do things that engender life and improve life in the vineyard. The same with our winemaking.”

Part of his land-centric approach is the fact that the prime focus at Bindi is on the vineyard, not the winery.

“We spend 65% of our effort on the vineyard, 10% attending to winery tasks, 20% in the marketplace, and 5% on the business – doing the accounts, etc. The 10% in the winery is crushing, fermenting, pressing, racking and barrel work. Most of it happens in the four weeks of vinification.”

Michael has recently released his 2015 pinot noirs and chardonnays, a vintage that he is very happy with. I agree: the pinots are outstanding and I suspect the 2015 Block 5 is the best Bindi wine I’ve ever tasted.

“There was not one day over 35 degrees. It was very even, a superb season with no stress. And good yields – for us a good yield is two tonnes per acre, instead of the 0.7 we got in 2014. The harvest was one-third of the size. And the 2015 wines equate to the season: they are harmonious, flowing and even: surprisingly smooth and lush already.”

The economics of a year like 2014 are potentially crippling for a boutique winery. Fortunately, Bindi was able to cover some of the loss by releasing the first three vintages of pinot from a new vineyard, which was planted in Michael’s mother’s honour and named Kaye after her.

“When we were releasing the Bindi 2014s we released three vintages of Kaye at the same time, the 2009, 10 and 11 vintages, and that helped cover our loss. The restaurants loved it: a case of each, some maturity on the wines, and a nice little story. We might wait till 2018 to release the 2012, 13 and 14 together.”

Bindi has another, even newer pinot vineyard which has yet to produce fruit and about which Michael is especially excited.

“It’s a high-density vineyard, planted at 1.1 metres by 0.8 metres, giving us a density of 11,300 vines per hectare.”

That’s closer planted than in Burgundy or Champagne. It’s just one acre and is named after Michael’s father, Bill, but it’s called Darshan, which is Indian-born Bill’s Punjabi name. Darshan means ‘vision’, which is appropriate as without Bill there would have been no Bindi. And it was planted within 18 months of Bill’s passing.

“The first vintage will be this year, 2017, and we’ll probably make several vintages before we release it.”

That’s Michael Dhillon: he treads lightly and carefully, always thinks things through, and does his research. Attention to detail yields results: the Bindi wines are beautiful, and they have that effortlessness about them, which seems to come to wines which are not pushed or manipulated but allowed to make themselves and be themselves.

Bravo.

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