After four busy years of upgrades and a healthy dose of innovation, Buller Wines was rewarded in the latest Halliday Wine Companion with a five-star rating. Paul Squires, general manager of the 96-year-old winery, says: “We started in the vineyard, rehabilitating centenarian vines as well as planting 10,000 new ones, and have done a lot of work to improve irrigation and future-proof our muscat blocks by interplanting.” In 2015 the team toiled through Victoria’s hottest spring on record to plant more durif and shiraz, and Paul believes it is a combination of passion, investment and expertise that enabled them to move up from four to five stars.
A new winery building, warehouse and bottling plant has taken quality control to a new height, without taking space or attention away from the brand’s precious soleras of top-value aged wines. Paul says: “Our portfolio has grown considerably over the past four years to include more than 30 wines but fortifieds remain an integral part of it… it’s simply impossible to replicate history and when the time comes to bottle them we must respect the many decades of work that goes into those wines.”
While the 97-point Calliope Rare Rutherglen Muscat NV described by James Halliday as ‘extremely complex and intense’ would be top of many people’s lists, Paul says the team favourite is the Calliope Grand Rutherglen Muscat NV for its “fruity punch and long caramel finish”.
Full speed ahead
Amber mahogany-hued delights aside, Buller Wines is far from standing still when it comes to wine styles. Paul says: “Our winemaker Dave Whyte has been given full license to expand our horizons with alternate varieties such as tempranillo, cinsault and sangiovese, to name a few.
"We’ve been bowled over by the reception for our new Balladeer and Regional ranges,” he adds. The Regional range heroes fruit sourced from growers in the neighbouring King Valley, including cellar door favourites such as the Botrytis Gold Semillon as well as crisp riesling and prosecco. The Rutherglen-sourced Balladeer range, meanwhile, is building excitement for reds not normally associated with the region.
“The petit verdot, cabernet sauvignon and grenache in our Balladeer range are ageing exceptionally well, but the 2015 and 2016 vintages have proved so popular I fear we won’t be allowed to keep many in the cellar,” says Paul.
Another grape driving discussion at Buller Wines is grenache. Paul says the Balladeer Grenache is a wise choice for newcomers to Rutherglen table wines this summer because “it’s not too heavy, with a soft finish after a palette of plums, chocolate and spice.” The producer also just released its first old-vine, single-vineyard grenache rosé.
With knowledge comes power
Like many Rutherglen producers, Buller Wines is championing durif, releasing distinct styles under its premium Calliope and new Balladeer labels. “We find the bold flavours, structure and complexity of durif make it appealing to lovers of shiraz,” explains Paul. While the Calliope is a typically bold and high-alcohol (15.2%) Rutherglen durif, with toasty mocha flavours from maturation in American oak, the Balladeer is lower in alcohol with ripe black fruits and liquorice notes.
Powerful and hedonistic are not terms solely reserved for Buller Wines’ durif, however, as evidenced by the Calliope Sparkling Shiraz that has been carefully cellared since 2001. A visit to the winery's new on-site restaurant, Ripe, drives this home through decadent matches such as the 2015 Balladeer Durif with eye fillet and Buller Fine Old Muscat with flourless chocolate torte.
Find out more about Buller Wines’ latest releases or book in for lunch at bullerwines.com.au.