We first met winemaker Michael J Corbett at a Young Guns of Wine Trade Event a couple of years ago, where he was proudly pouring his 2 strikingly different interpretations of Grenache, both from the same vineyard. We were bowled over; it’s fair to say we knew we had found something special. Fast forward 9 months and many conversations, and Michael finally agreed to work with us. This dogged determination, single-mindedness and reluctance to cede control is very evident in the stunning wines this talented young winemaker is turning out.
With 23 vintages now under his belt, including several in France, the USA, NZ and Australia and with valuable input from Alexandra McCarthy and Edouard Maurisset-Latour, his 2 Burgundy-based business partners (who are now importing and distributing Vanguardist in France and beyond), Michael has a great grounding in working with different climates, different varieties and different cultural practices, all of which has informed his winemaking style.
Focussing primarily on his 2 great loves, Riesling and Grenache, Michael is working with a couple of very special sites: the hallowed 70-year old dry-grown and contour-planted Churinga vineyard in Watervale, and the beautiful Silver Sands vineyard in Blewitt Springs, planted by Robert Rende and his father 49 years ago. This incredible vineyard has always been dry grown. Its topsoil is all made up of wind-blown Maslin sands, atop residual alluvial sands, generally over ironstone and clay. The sand is up to 8m deep in parts of the vineyard, allowing roots to penetrate very deep. Premium Chardonnay and Semillon from the Bowe-Lees vineyard in Woodside are in the mix also. Michael works side by side with all of his growers, implementing organic and biodynamic preparations.
The winemaking is fastidious and very detail-oriented, with all ferments going through in individual 1 ton batches, creating a suite of component wines to be used for putting together both the La Petite and V ranges. Extended maceration, foudre, older oak and amphora are all key components of these wines. La Petite aims to create classic and pure-fruited wines that faithfully represent region and vineyard, but with an extra layer of interest. The V range is more about the experimental spirit at the heart of this operation – wines of finesse, elegance, length and complexity. Wonderfully textured, completely original takes on familiar styles. These wines are created with a clear end in mind and they rightfully occupy space on wine-lists at the upper echelon of Australian restaurants and wine bars.
We feel that wine writer Nick Ryan got it spot on in his assessment – “Corbett is a serious talent, one of those perpetually restless types who don’t make their wines, they inhabit them”. These are wines that will age wonderfully and we believe are destined for greatness.