◆ Matt, how long have you been in the Macedon area?The first vintage I made in Macedon was in2005 at Shadow fax. My wife and I bought a little farm here about 15 years ago, and we planted our own small Chardonnay vineyard. We moved up to our farm full time 10 years ago, and I started working at Curly Flat in October 2017 when Phillip left. When I arrived the ’16 and ’17 Pinots were in barrels, and we finished maturation and bottling, so 2018onwards has been under my control. For me, to be able to jump into a job where there is an established vineyard, planted in a great place has been a real treat. I’ve loved the last3 years and look forward to the rest of my life here.Winery owner Jenifer Kolkka◆ What makes Macedon and Curly Flat ideal for Pinot Noir?The farm ranges between 500 and 550 meters in altitude. It is 7 degrees now and the high will be 9 degrees ‒ it is the middle of winter. But in summer we rarely get temperatures in the 30s, in January you might get a short heatwave, but nothing is happening in the vineyard, as veraison hasn’t started. And every night the temperature drops and the vines switch off, so we get this longer, slower even ripening which Pinot Noir loves. We can hang things out, get good alcohol and still have high natural acidity, with pure, striking fruit characters. A hallmark of Curly Flat over the years is a beautiful, aromatic presence and lovely even ripening on the palate with wonderful natural acidity and tannin structure, so they age very well.◆ What are you changing in the vineyard?We are not doing anything dramatically different, we are just keeping an eye on a wonderful vineyard that is a perfect site for growing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. We do things traditionally, trying to step lightly on the land. We did an extensive soil survey in January 2018, digging holes to a nalyse the different soils throughout the vineyard which was valuable. It gave us the confidence from 2018 to bottle a couple of parcels of separate wines from distinct parts of the vineyard, that we labelled Western and Central, making just100 dozen of each. The Western bottling is from the western boundary, which has an easterly aspect with deep red, very fragrant soils. The wine is very fragrant as the vines don’t get any sun after 3 in the afternoon, and enjoy a longer, slower ripening which gives red characters, and supple, soft tannins. The bottling from the Central planting is from the oldest vines on the property, the first Phillip planted. They are north facing with more sun exposure, on very degraded basalt soils, have a lot more tannin which suits a higher percentage of whole bunch infermentation, creating a savoury, spicy wine with greater aging potential than the western block fruit. Both wines go into the Estate blend as well, creating a balance which displays the aromatics of the Western block and the power of the Central block. One of the things we all love about wine is we are seeing a theme from those blocks just as we are seeing from the Curly Flat estate, and the added complexity of vintage variations. It is an on-going journey for us as we keep learning and understanding more about the vineyard, to make a more genuine expression of Curly Flat. And we continue to change our farming based on soil type and vineyard aspect.Pinot Noir vineyard showing lyre trellis (Block 98)◆ What is your philosophy in the winery?My first vintage was in New Zealand in 1998, working at Nobilos. Every year since then as I went through university and worked all over the place, and in every job in the winery, I’ve gone through phases where the more you do the better things are, exploring different ideas on extraction and oak type. Only in the last 5 to10 years a light switched on in my head that ‘the vineyard is the arbiter of quality’. Today, a large part of winemaking is knowing when to do nothing‒ you can only think that way if your fruit is very good and all the processes in the winery don’t impinge on that quality. One of things I bought to Curly Flat is a more consistent approach in the winery. We still do experiments and try different coopers, times on skins and pump-over sand bits and pieces, but our overriding philosophy in the winery is to be very simple. Doing this for 5 to 10 years will give a very clear ‘sense of place’ of a mature vineyard in the Macedon Ranges. 80 per cent of what we do is consistent every year ‒ gentle extraction, natural ferments, 16 months in fine-grain French oak, and everything else comes from the vineyard. We assume we are not going to have big crops and big swings in crops. Curly Flat has always been a masculine, structured Pinot, and we enjoy the high-quality tannins and tannic structure grown in this vineyard, so we will continue to do more pump overs and less plunging, more whole berries ‒ extracting gently. There has been a bit of fear of tannin in Australia, backing away from tannic Pinots over the last decade, people looking for florally, bright, aromatic, spicy, soft, slurpy styles of Pinot which are wonderful to drink on release. But the greatest Pinots have one thing in common which is a ‘wonderful structure’ that can only begot from tannins. So we will continue to grow tannins, and be very careful extracting them.Matt Harrop (3rd from left) and staff◆ How do you approach individual parcels in the winery?We are lucky to have a deep heritage to look back on. Phillip kept very detailed records of where fruit was picked, how the wines were made, which barrel streatments he used, so we can look through the cellar and our library of wines and explore in detail the ways wines we really like were made to produce the flavours they present. In 2018 we had 23 different parcels and pickings of Pinot, selected down to the rows they come from, which we fermented separately. In 2019 we modified that because of the soil survey. For example, in one block we identified a patch of400-million-year-old Ordovician soil which is the oldest on the estate, and picked the 7 rows that grow on it separately. It is no surprise the wine tastes very different‒ it still gives us a buzz as we learn and better understand these complexing factors. In the winery it is a cliché that once you blend a wine you can’t unblend it, so it is all about keeping parcels in smaller quantities, big enough to generate the thermal mass required for fermenting ‒ our smallest fermenters are about 1.5 tons and our largest 5 tons. In 2018 we had 18 ferments, in 2019 we had 20, and in 2020we had 12, because the yield was so low. It is part of our quest to make better wine and a purer expression of Curly Flat. In the winery things are pretty basic. Everything is hand harvested, every berry goes over the sorting table to pull out the odd imperfection, we press it gently, we don’t have a crusher so nothing is crushed. We are aiming for as much whole fruit as we can, depending on the part of the vineyard we will sort out some fruit to goon top of the fermenter in whole bunchesOur extraction is very gentle, once ferment kicks off we pump over once or twice a day for the first two-thirds of fermentation, then plunge a couple of times for the backend of fermentation. The wines are pressed after 3 or 4 weeks and left to settle, then go into barrels for a natural malolactic fermentation and are just left alone. So the winemaking is very simple, but it can be because we put so much effort and time into the vineyard.◆ How do you approach Chardonnay?Macedon Chardonnays have a flavour spectrum that starts with citrus/grapefruit characters close to harvest, then into white stone fruit, and as it gets too ripe yellow stone fruit, and orange tropical fruits if you pick very late. We like the white stone fruit spectrum, a touch of grapefruit, nectarine and white peach. There are not a lot of places in Australia where we can grow Chardonnay fruit with these flavours because we ripen very slowly. Our Chardonnay is hand harvested in 7 to 8 separate picks, usually close to each other, whole bunch pressed, settled overnight, the cloudy juice is racked into barrels with up to 25 percent new oak. We use large format oak hogshead sand puncheons rather than barriques, indigenous ferment, and in years like2020 encourage the malo to go through in spring, so there will be very little acidity.◆ How did COVID-19 and the bushfires impact Curly Flat?Currently the city of Melbourne is under stage 3 lockdown ‒ stay at home ,restaurants are closed except for takeaway food. Here in Macedon and Curly Flat we are still in stage 2 which is social distancing, but the vibe is getting worse each day. They may soon lock down the whole state ‒ and we can’t travel inter state to New South Wales. It is devastating for our friends in hospitality who won’t recover from this. The first wave in mid-March we had social distancing and have now got used to it, hand sanitizer and other measures that were new to us. COVID-19 didn’t affect harvest, we just had to be careful of distancing, and got the grapes in. When you think of what has happened in other wine regions in Australia with the bushfires in December and January, they didn’t affect us thankfully, as we are quite open here, and aren’t surrounded by bush, so we had no smoke effect. However vintage 2020 produced a tiny crop, the result of overcast, wet and windy conditions in November and December that unsettled flowering, producing both low bunch numbers and low bunch weight. It affected the whole of southern Australia from the eastern seaboard, the Hunter, the Canberra region, across southern Victoria and into South Australia. We have a tiny crop and are very happy with the quality, but we really are just waiting for 2020 to go away.◆ What does the future hold for curly Flat?We can’t see any lessening in demand for Pinot. We know it is very specific to where it grows in France and around the world. It can only grow it in cool places‒ in Australia that is southern Victoria or Tasmania. We have 14 hectares of vines, and starting in 2019 through 2021 will plant an extra 5 hectares, all in Pinot Noir. Our 2019 planting is 100 percent MV6, the 2020 planting will include new French clones to give us more aromatics. Over time they should enable us to expand production by 2000 dozen a year.Pilot Noir vineyards showing the lyre trellis and windmill for powerMV6: The original source of Australian Pinot NoirThe growing interest in Pinot Noir in Australia has put a spotlight on the MV6 ( Mother Vine 6) clone. James Busby is reputed to have been bought cuttings from the Clos de Vougeot to Australia in 1831, in the collection of vines he planted in Botany Bay. In the1830s, cuttings from that stock found their way to Kelman and Irrawang vineyards in the Hunter Valley, and subsequently Maurice O’Shea planted it at Mount Pleasant in 1921,where he often blended it with Shiraz. The Mount Pleasant planting is the source of allMV6 in Australia today. Colin Preece, head winemaker at Seppelt Great Western, introduced MV6 in Victoria in the late 1960s, including to his friend John Middleton who planted it at Mount Mary in the Yarra Valley in 1971, as did Bailey Carrod us at Yarra Yering and Nat White at Main Ridge on the Morning ton Peninsula. At Curly Flat, it was planted in the first block in 1992. Today it is the most widely planted Pinot Noir clone in Australia.《From Village Cellars》A leading Australian maker of Pinot Noirs, Curly Flat is a boutique winery that has produced high-quality wines since its first vintage in1998.Winemaker Matt Harrop, who took over from founder/winemaker Phillip Moraghan in 2017, works with owner Jenifer Kolkka who financially supported its early development working as a director of a major bank. Matt applies an extensive knowledge from 15 years of winemaking in the Macedon Ranges region, to further refining the Curly Flat identity and quality. We look forward to tasting the future evolution of Curly Flat wines.