In 2005 I went to Margaret River to do a harvest and gain some vocational winemaking experience. I’d teed up the opportunity with up-and-coming winemaker Ben Gould, a young bloke with a strong background in wine science whose family winery, Deep Woods, was on the rise.
Ben seemed an affable guy and the Deep Woods set-up required an extra pair of hands. I felt that some hands-on winemaking would add some depth to my career in wine and long, hard days of work followed. I played flatmate to the Gould family for three or so months, and it struck me that Ben was a winemaker to keep a close eye on. The marriage of science-based understanding and practice, with an open mind to the emerging sect of natural wine, became a bedrock for Blind Corner – Ben’s family brand.
The Goulds purchased a small vineyard in Wilyabrup in 2005 and began phasing out chemicals and irrigation on the site. They moved onto the property in 2009 and breathed life into the fledgling organic/natural wine-focused Blind Corner brand.
The original Wilyabrup site was the source of small-volume wines, which are now augmented with grapes from their larger property in Quindalup. The second site was likewise converted to organic and biodynamic farming, and both are certified.
The range meanders across staples of the region but has veered into more interesting territory with brightly flavoured orange wines, vibrant pétillant naturel sparklings and some brilliant wine made with sangiovese, chenin blanc and aligoté. There are elegant, refined expressions of cabernet and shiraz which are easy bedfellows with more exotic field blends, a chardonnay aligoté white blend and nouveau-styled reds. Ripasso method is applied to several of the wines, and skin-contact fermentation of white grapes is an applied technique to build texture. It all feels very clever.
The 2019 Blind Corner Nouveau (A$30) is produced from carbonic-macerated shiraz and bursts from the glass with vivacious scents and flavours. Expect mixed forest berries, peppery spice and some herbal lift. The texture is decidedly juicy then crisp to finish.
It’s great fun and makes for a nice counterpoint to the more serious feeling 2017 Blind Corner Field Blend (A$45), which is shiraz, again, but this time bolstered with a small addition of viognier. The resulting wine is smooth, supple and fragrant. It’s slick with fleshy cherry and plummy flavours and a lift of light stone-fruit character assumed from the white grape inclusion. It defies many of the dry red shiraz renditions common in Margaret River.
A pair of cabernets crossed my desk and were of interest, with the 2018 Blind Corner Cabernet Sauvignon (A$30) the more approachable. It’s set to medium weight, feels pulpy and round with choc-berry aromas and flavours and faint suggestions of black olive and bay leaf.
The 2016 Blind Corner Bernard Cabernet Sauvignon (A$75) is the flagship wine of Blind Corner and is produced with a portion of air-dried grapes before fermentation. It then receives a very long (100 day) maceration on skins. It’s a powerful, broad-shouldered cabernet but feels terrifically elegant with succulent tannins shaping the brooding fruit character and drawing everything long, then tight with fine tannins finishing the wine.
More left of centre is the 2019 Blind Corner Orange (A$22) a charismatic skin-fermented white wine that feels clean and yet strongly tannic. It’s a mouth-watering mix of citrus and green apple freshness with an almost green tea-like character building through the finish. It’s neat and tidy but shows enough funk to keep the hip drinkers excited.
While Ben is renowned for his excellent understanding and production of naturally fermented-in-bottle pét-nat wines, the 2017 Blind Corner Crémant (A$45) is a more traditional take on sparkling, though it delivers strong chenin scents and flavours. It’s a vivacious, thirst-quenching style that speaks emphatically of Blind Corner’s marriage of tradition and innovation.
Dirty Three is the Gippsland-based wine project of charismatic winemaker and vigneron Marcus Satchell and banker-turned vigneron Lisa Sartori.
It’s hard for me to disassociate the wine brand from the rock’n’roll band of the same name. Of course, this is a pinot noir project, but the band’s moody songs ricochet through my mind whenever I see the wines.
Satchell is well known as an expert palate on the Australian wine judging circuit, and equally as a fun-loving contributor to wine events and tastings. He was born and raised in Gippsland though has worked more broadly around Australia, but the enduring focus has been on his local wine region. This project gives voice to single vineyards in South Gippsland specifically, and focuses strongly on using pinot noir as the lens for discussions on local terroir and typicity.
Satchell has produced beautiful wines from 2017 and 2018 vintages. The 2017 releases are distinct for their tension and savouriness, while 2018 has revealed more generous and free-flowing expressions. Each wine speaks fluidly of its site with Satchell applying very gentle winemaking practice to the cuvées.
The 2018 Dirty Three Dirt 2 Pinot Noir (A$55) is from Lauriston Vineyard which is set on a horse stud farm. The vineyard is close planted and sees influence from the ocean. The resulting wine is imbued with Italianate characters of dried herbs and faint amaro, though this more savoury detail is coupled to sweet, rich dark cherry. The palate is quite plush, but acidity is equally fresh and up to the task of keeping the wine tight and crisp as it finishes. It’s a charismatic wine with a pleasingly wild edge.
There’s a similar wild streak in the 2018 Dirty Three Dirt 3 Pinot Noir (A$55), though it’s more subdued. The ‘Dirt’ here is Holgates Road Vineyard and the wine sees a portion of whole-bunch fermentation. This pinot noir is set to more maraschino and darker cherry characters but also shows gamy, old fireplace and earthy/mineral notes in both the bouquet and the palate. While succulent, it also has easy appeal and a long flow of all these fruit and elemental flavours.
The 2018 Dirty Three All The Dirts Pinot Noir (A$36) brings together fruit from five different vineyards. This is a joyous wine of gently sweet fruit, some good tangy acidity and offers bright cherry and plummy flavours spiked with peppery spice. It’s a bold wine, bright and vivid in pinot noir characters, but still retains a fresh feel and an underlying sense of pedigree.
This is a project re-defining Gippsland’s wine scene and breathing life into the single sites of a region which has long held a premium wine mantle. Dirty Three is another compelling producer drawing gaze to the diversity of the area.