I’ve been tasting this all afternoon – not because I was unsure of its quality, but because it’s captivating.
I love how long and lean this feels at first – but how quickly the flesh builds, the fruit, the sweet-but-grapefruit-accented centre to the coating of meal, flint and spice. It all feels so harmonious, so succulent, so more-ish. It’s a neat, contained and uncomplicated chardonnay and yet there’s plenty worth spying if you’re up for the hunt. It’s a chardonnay to make you marvel, once again, at what a beautiful variety this is.
Campbell Mattinson – The Wine Front
Tasted over past couple of days. Fantastic wine. Right up my alley for savouriness, spice, indeed sous bois/garrigue, even a pop of comely VA through the wine (that would rattle a few tech wine judges cages) – feels, and I hate saying such things, very European (without being pejorative to Australian wine). Long ribbons of fine, sandy tannin too. Seriously good. 94 right – maybe slightly higher. It’s a belter.
Circe is a relatively new project (the first vintage was 2010) by former Mount Langi Ghiran and current Domaine Chandon winemaker Dan Buckle and his partner Aaron Drummond. They currently produce solely Pinot Noir sourced from selected vineyards in Mornington Peninsula. The Hillcrest Road vineyard used for their flagship wine is in the Red Hill ?subregion,” between Paringa Estate and Tuck?s Ridge, and was planted in 1983. The Pinots are produced at Yering Station?s winery in the neighboring Yarra Valley for the time being. 100% whole-bunch is employed on the Hillcrest Road Pinot, though you would know it from the very subtle aromatic profile it instills in the wine. Dan Buckle clearly has a real talent for spotting great vineyards and forging beautifully understated wines. Anyone wanting to sample new-school Aussie Pinots of the highest caliber and indeed understand the potential for great Pinot Noir from Mornington Peninsula should seek out the Circe Hillcrest Road Vineyard Pinot Noir.
During my visit with Dan and Aaron in December 2014 I tasted through every vintage of the Hillcrest Vineyard produced thus far, including a very promising 2014 barrel sample, which I’ll officially review next year once it’s in bottle.Drink 2015 – 2022. 93+ Points
I asked winemaker Dan Buckle about this wine. He responded with: ?The 2014 Hillcrest Rd Vineyard PN comes from the vineyard we have been farming since 2009 in Red Hill roughly halfway between
Tuck?s Ridge and Paringa as the crow flies. It?s a 1.5 acre block with MV6 planted in 1993. The 2014 yield was approx 0.8 tonnes per acre. We manage the Pinot to one bunch per shoot. It?s 100% whole bunch and foot stomped. Around 20 days total maceration. Roughly 20% new oak all Francois Freres barriques. No racking, fining or filtration.?
It?s made for a stunning wine. Explosively savoury; fundamentally tannic; smoky; more about roots than effects. It?s light but long, just-ripe enough but entirely compelling. Its best days are well ahead of it; it was made to mature. It?s the antithesis of the slam-bam style. 95+ Points
2015 Circe Shiraz, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
This is a tangy shiraz. It’s not plush but it’s not meant to be. It’s spicy and twiggy with orange and cranberry characters juicing up the palate. Red cherry, perhaps even strawberry. Pinot-esque. The parade is then topped with a swerve of tannin, assertive but at one with the wine. The words ‘garden herbage’ come to mind. Plenty going on. Needs a bit of time; will improve.
Campbell Mattinson – The Wine Front
Rated : 92+
Perfumed, lifted and floral, this shows the lift that pigeage and whole-bunch fermentation gives to a wine. Aromas of cherry, strawberry, raspberry, spice and classy oak that add to the complexity are present and there’s good weight on the palate with sappy, cheery, strawberry and mineral flavours that have a lifted elegance. the structure of the wine is terrific – it will age well -with a lovely texture and vibrant acid that leads to waves of persistent raspberry and strawberry flavours on the finish? It’s young and tightly coiled.
Do decant it for a few hours before serving.
Food match : Roast duck
5 out of 5 in the Melbourne weekly
“Dan has given a modern classic of elegant Victorian Shiraz greater consistency and richness that even fans of big Aussie Shiraz would love”.
Nick Bullied MW
To read full article click here
Overseeing the renaissance of Australia’s pre-eminent Shiraz, is just one high point of a stellar career stretching across Burgundy, Bordeaux and our top wineries
Peter Bourne Gourmet Traveller WINE
What to drink…with Tapas
GRENACHE and tempranillo, Spain’s great reds, don’t always go well with tapas – pinot noir is a far better red option. Circe is the new boutique label from Dan Buckle (who is also winemaker at Mount Langi Ghiran) and Aaron Drummond (Mount Langi’s marketing manager). Between day jobs, the two are drawn to fruit from the Hillcrest Road single vineyard, in Red Hill. This subtle pinot is fragrant and balances savoury elements with cherry, delicate spice with fine acidity and supple tannins. Impressive for such a young pinot noir, it is perfect with jamon or chorizo. From Rathdowne Cellars, Carlton.
The Saturday Age – Life & Style 3rd September 2011 – Jane Faulkner
It’s my birthday today so I feel like writing up a wine that I adored over two nights earlier this week. Ok, that’s a lie – I’d prefer to be drinking another bottle of it and taking no notes whatsoever…but into all lives a little hardship must fall.
For those unfamiliar with the Circe story, former Mount Langi winemaker Dan Buckle (now heading up operations at Chandon in the Yarra – and about to get a new sound system from which to blare Neil Young albums at the winery) returned to his old stomping grounds a few years back to pursue his dream of great Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir. He knew that, given the fickle nature of the grape, that dream could easily become a nightmare. Thus the name ‘Circe’. Fortunately for all of us, any possible curses were navigated successfully.
No surprise that the wine is intensely fragrant and very beautiful. Wild strawberry and raspberry with a little sensuous plummy depth. Sublime acidity and a silken mouthfeel to die for. Understated fruit sweetness is kept ably in check by sappy/foresty characters and a hint of anise. Ephemeral and nimble through the palate with considerable, spicy persistence. At first I thought I might like to see a bit more tannin wrangled from the grapes but as I kept sipping at the glass I began to suspect that it would only undermine the purity and precision on offer. Furthermore, it just seems to be coming together after two years and has a fair future ahead of it if you can lay some down. Magical stuff.
Excellent – Jeremy Pringle
While fresh and zesty, with lemon and grapefruit still very much in the picture, has reached that critical point of optimum ripeness and balance, the conclusion an elegant wine that will develop slowly but surely.
93 Points – James Halliday
New Mornington pinot noir in full effect.
Mmm, smokey, toasty aromas with dark berries and brambles, savoury spice, leather strap and blood sausage. Tangy and bright in the palate, very lifted in fruit flavour and coursing with citrus/cranberry acidity. Brisk, clean and slender with a whip of peppery spice and some building concentration. Tannins are sleek, fine and offer framework. A delicious, slim and toned wine of light, frisky, quietly raw fruit and a reserve of elegance nigh on shyness, but you know in time this will be more lovely.
92+ Points – Mike Bennie
See the post on his blog.
Whoowee, more from Dan Buckle (ex-Mount Langi now Chandon) in his personal project from the Mornington Peninsula. The thoughtful winemaker has taken fruit from Red Hill for this chardonnay wine, evidently sitting in the echelon just below the well-received Hillcrest Road vineyard chardonnay in the Circe folio. More hands-off winemaking, per se, in the search for Mornington verity.
Honeysuckle, bees wax, paraffin, struck quartz and wet stone aromas. Cool and fresh bouquet. In the mouth an energetic wash of pure, clean, juicy fruit flavours but tempered by an even, light framework of lacy, crisp, green fruited acidity and the refreshing clip of alpine herbs. A subtle flow of feathery, talc and slate mineral-like briskness sits underneath the wine, driving long and fine. Pretty simple in terms of what most would consider complexity in chardonnay, but the understated nature of this wine is unnerving and positive. Massively drinkable and fine. Go here. Restraint = sexiness.
92 pts – Mike Bennie
The less expensive Circe Chardonnay from 2011 is a razor’s edge affair. All cut and thrust, drive and penetration. It will benefit from extended cellaring or a thorough decant. Coiled and intense, if you drink it now please don’t serve it too cold.
Opens up with the subtle fragrance of lemons alongside hints of herbs and stone fruit kernels. Whispers of fruit flavour on the palate, green apple and pear, yet they echo profoundly. Linear with a lengthy wet slate finish. Precision personified with scintillating energy marking it as a wine to watch. Should it fulfil its potential (and having tasted it over three days I think it will) the rating should go up. Circe are certainly going forwards. And go forth they should.
Very Good – Excellent – Jeremy Pringle
The second vintage of releases from Circe wines is immensely appealing to me. May the partnership between Dan Buckle and Aaron Drummond continue to flourish.
More flesh than the Red Hill South Vineyard version. It’s apparent on the nose and in the mouth. Which is not to say it lacks detail or incisiveness. Citrus and nectarine flecked with honeydew melon, all held together with integrated acidity and smoked almond oak. More emphasis on texture here but it’s punchy through the finish with flinty accents. A triumph in every way.
Excellent - Jeremy Pringle
Light, bright and clear crimson; at this stage, at least, more expressive than Hillcrest Road, with a greater range of fruit flavours, hints of plum sidling up to the dominant red cherry flavours. Here the extra level of fruit flavour liberates the wine, and, in particular, the seductive finish.
94 Points James Halliday
Another Wine Writer quoted winemaker Dan Buckle in June 2011 ’whilst he says he really can’t imagine ever wanting to leave the Old Block vines of Langi, he’s fascinated with the opportunity to make pinot noir and test some ideas’ – and test some ideas he did. A shift to Chandon in the Yarra Valley for Buckle hasn’t slowed down his partnership with friend Aaron Drummond, as the Circe Pinot Noir is joined by chardonnay, a vintage blanc de blanc and a rose wine. Buckle’s keen eye for detail, finely honed palate and judicious intervention sees a little less hand on tiller and a little more vineyard verity in these personal project wines. Low yielding, dry grown, hand tended vines in the mix. The vineyard is located on Hillcrest Road in Red Hill, Mornington Peninsula, with about 3 acres under vine.Striking for purity. You don’t drink with your eyes but the almost clear, crystal-like colour is immediately noticed – then aromas waft, gentle and fine. Light spice, struck quartz, hint of citrus, just sliced apple. The palate is pristine, frisky and very taught, but there is a gentle, elegant appeal. Delicate yet underpinned by steely lacework of acidity that keeps the wine ultra-bright and crisp. Threads of fruit tease off the main, slender frame. It’s light on, but massively drinkable in that way, so bask in the restraint and finesse.
Mike Bennie – Winefront
Dan Buckle, ex-winemaker of Mount Langi Ghiran and current winemaker at Domaine Chandon, has a hobby. It is called Circe and it consists of the tiniest private label of a pair of Pinots and a Chardonnay.
He and partner Aaron Drummond started their dream in 2010, a stunning vintage, and only a smithereen of this stock has made it to the UK. The 2011 vintage was a whole new kettle of fish. The weather was so bad that a number of producers in Mornington didn’t even make a wine. Dan said that he saw botrytis growing on the grapes before his very eyes. But, as it always the case, with staggeringly talented winemakers if you select only the finest fruit and treat it with the utmost respect you can work miracles and this is what he has done.
Half whole bunch, half cold soak, some saignée to concentrate the flavour a touch, minimal new oak intervention and you have one of the most wistful and thought-provoking wines of the year.
I opened this cuvée for a group of highly sophisticated sommeliers and they were aghast at the delicacy and beauty in their glasses. It just goes to show that when the tables are turned and the weather turns Biblical, you better bloody well know what you are doing and be prepared to make some very fast judgement calls to save your wines. Some do, some don’t and a very few make something altogether unforgettable.
From a vineyard planted in 1993 in the Red Hill area of Mornington Peninsula, and a kind of home base for Circe wines. It uses 100% whole bunches in the ferment.
Primal, expressive, untamed – it’s an exhilarating wine for drinking with pause and urgency. Structure is absent in many ways, pepper, spice, dried green herbs, sous bois and earthiness lead a flavour and aroma profile that hums with brooding intent. That being said, fruit, in purest sense, is fleeting with wild forest berry and briary the characters most akin. The wine jags then trims through the palate, shows a mesh of sleek ropes of tannin ending in pucker, is stern and inward. Vin de garde needing time and concentration. Reminds me of Main Ridge in some senses, but there’s uniqueness in personality at play. Worthy intrigue. 93+ Points. Mike Bennie – Winefront
Pale ruby with a hint of purple, the 2012 Hillcrest Road Pinot Noir flaunts a lovely nose of fragrant lavender, red currants and pomegranate with highlights of wild thyme, violets and fertile earth. Light-bodied and very elegant in the mouth, it has a great frame of medium level chewy tannins and balanced acid. It finishes long and earthy. Drink it now to 2018+.
Light, bright, crimson-purple; the fragrant, flowery, red berry bouquet gives little idea of the almost explosive intensity and length of the palate, and of the mouth watering finish rarely encountered with Pinot Noir. This wine will be magnificent in 5 years time. Drink 2022.
An alluring perfume of red cherries and raspberry, whole bunch stalks and pressed flowers with spice and a faint suggestion of cured meats. The palate is delicate with a gently sweet lilt that makes it highly approachable right now. Fresh fruit and a diaphanous line of acidity. Underlying hints of cranberry, plum skins and blood orange. Herbal and twiggy notes add intrigue. A light to medium-bodied Pinot of exquisite, translucent appeal. Seek it out.
This is a relatively new wine for Wine Genius. Immensely elegant with enough fruit power to create ample palate weight and fruit intensity. Maraschino cherry, rose petals and exotic spice. Textural, with gentle tannins and brilliant balance. A wine that we will be keeping a close eye on. Drink 2013 – 2017.
Gold Medal !
Pale ruby-purple in color, the 2012 Pinot Noir has quite a stemmy nose marked by notes of dried herbs over the core of freshly crushed red berries and hints of cloves. Light to medium-bodied with a great intensity of cranberry and Bing cherry flavors, it is structured with crisp acid and a low level of chewy tannins and is finishing long. Drink it now to 2017+.
The 2012 Circe Pinot Noir gives the Mornington Peninsula establishment a good nudge. Style and value.
May well be the most accomplished expression of the Hillcrest Vineyard (pictured on the right) that I’ve tasted… although I couldn’t find it in myself to crack a 2012 to taste alongside it. Verticals will come later. More palate weight here and plenty of forest-like, trodden root tones matched to the cherried, berried flavour with a light plum bass line underpinning the wine. Terrific depth of fruit and beguiling fragrance. Whole bunch savouriness seems higher in the mix and the interplay between sweet fruit and savoury herbs comes across as more pronounced – although on the second day they’ve sunk into a rather harmonious whole. Spicy with mild charcuterie characters. A gentle complexing bitterness on the back-palate. Greater emphasis on tannin when it comes to carrying the structural load although the acidity is still bright and the wine fluid. 95 points Jeremy Pringle