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Sunday 13 December 2015

Coldstream Hills; making Australian wines in the style of Burgundy

James Halliday has managed to cram three lives into his 78 years: first as a lawyer and ultimately a senior partner in one of Australia's largest law firms for over 20 years; as a winemaker (for over 30 years) and as a journalist and senior wine judge (also for over 30 years).

Most widely known as Australia's most influential wine critic, Halliday was also one of the founders of Brokenwood in the Hunter Valley, and then, in 1985, he and his wife Suzanne founded Coldstream Hills in the Yarra Valley aiming to make “wines in the style of Burgundy” that they so much enjoyed drinking.

Both were on hand last month to welcome guests for the 30th anniversary of Coldstream Hills, which is now owned by Treasury Wine Estates. 
But the Hallidays still live on the property and he still acts as a consultant as the company continues to blossom under long-time winemakers Andrew Fleming and Greg Jarratt.
Coldstream Hills has access to over 100 hectares of estate vineyards in several different regions, as well as to around 40 hectares more of fruit tended by long-term growers.
Chardonnay and pinot noir are the major focus, in several different ranges, with smaller amounts of sauvignon blanc, shiraz, merlot and sparkling wine.
Fleming describes the winemaking process: “All batches are handled separately to allow close monitoring of the progress of each parcel: a minimal intervention approach is employed, allowing as much of the vineyard to be expressed in the wines; appropriate use of winemaking techniques to add complexity depending on the varying needs of the variety; and the careful use of high-quality oak.
Elegance, purity and finesse are the goals here and that hasn't changed much over the years.”

The range includes varietal, single vineyard and reserve wines at different price levels with the ultra-premium Amphitheatre (home block) Pinot Noir ($150) produced in exceptional years (2006 and 2013 to date).
The varietal wines offer exceptional value at $35 with the single vineyard wines highlighting the different terroirs to be found with the one appellation. Today, the winery produces around 25,000 cases a year and all have been under screw cap since 2003. 

Among the stars in the current impressive range is the Coldstream Hills 2014 Yarra Valley Pinot Noir ($36) a fabulously silky and food friendly number that is drinking beautifully in its youth. Although 2014 was a difficult year and volumes were down, there was no reserve wine made and all the top-end fruit went into this wine. Older oak, with a small percentage of new wood, adds structure and interest without intruding on the vibrant red fruit characters. It is a wine that has been handled with “a light touch”, it is textural, balanced and full of palate interest. 

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