Pimpernel Vineyard

Pimpernel Vineyard

Travis Schultz at Pimpernel Winery

In what was more a stroke of luck during my recent sojourn across the wet and dreary Yarra Valley wine district in winter, I stumbled across a boutique winery whose wares are rarely seen in Queensland but seem destined for oenological stardom – at least if my palate is any judge! It was somewhat of an ironic twist that a winery called “Pimpernel” should be stumbled upon, rather than sought. Their understated signage on Hill Road brought to mind the famous line of the Baroness Orczy play, “They seek him here, they seek him there. Those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in heaven or is he in hell? That demned elusive Pimpernel.” Funnily enough, I hadn’t been searching for the aristocratic hero named after a small wayside flower at all. But it was, in one sense, a moment with a floral connection, because discovering Pimpernel was a stroke of luck of the order of finding a four leafed clover!

The Pimpernel Vineyards are located in a “grand cru” part of the Yarra Valley – geographically located almost adjacent to some of the big names of the region like Yarra Yering, Levantine Hill and Dominique Portet. In fact, the only reason that I turned the hire car and pointed the bonnet down Hill Road was because I was interested to see which wineries were fortunate enough to share the world class terroir of that part of the Valley near Coldstream.

The Pimpernel Vineyards are the brainchild of Fiona and Mark Horrigan who purchased the land in 2001 and started planting vines in 2003. It wasn’t until 2011 that the winery was completed. Mark’s connection to France goes back a long way, tracing his lineage back to the Chapuis family, lords of Condrieu from the Normandy region in the country’s north-west. So against that background it’s unsurprising that the Pimpernel wines have been inspired by the great wines and traditions of Burgundy, Rhone and the Loire Valley. In Mark’s words, “Based on principles of intensive land management and minimal intervention winemaking, we aim to produce elegant and individual wines that express our terroir.”

Every symphony orchestra needs a conductor, and out the back in the winery, the man behind the artisan Pimpernel wines is winemaker, Damien Archibald. He’s come a long way since he started picking grapes at Yarra Yering at the age of 17!  Under the tutelage of Yarra icon Dr Bailey Carradous, Damien learned his craft and was appointed the Pimpernel winemaker in 2008. Since then, this Yarra Valley local has crafted a range of high-quality wines that are reminiscent of some old the old-world masters.

I have to admit that during my recent visit to the cellar door, I found it difficult to discern a favourite drop. For white lovers, Pimpernel offer everything from chenin blanc to viognier, marsanne and chardonnay, while red drinkers have an even wider range to choose from with multiple pinot noir, shiraz, Mourvèdre and of course, a GSM blend.

The Yarra being what it is, the range of pinot noir is probably the prima donna of the side. The inaptly named “Pinot Noir Two” 2018 is far more savoury than its cherry laden P1 sister. It shows plenty of ripe juicy berries on the nose, but once you take a sip, an herbaceous undercurrent flows through the mid palate. It’s an alluring wine thanks to the ripeness of the red cherries becoming more masculine through the middle as hints of coffee, cassis and cardamom take centre stage.  It’s an unbelievably bewitching wine – sweet meets savoury, complexity embraces intensity. One of the best Yarra pinot that I’ve tried!

My host, Mark Horrigan, explained that hand-selected stalks were introduced to about 40% of the open vats before the wine was matured in medium charred French oak barriques of which over 30% were new. No doubt this strongly contributed to appearance of a graphite edge to the savoury forest floor characters that evolve on the conclusion.

The resemblance to the Burgundian classics is probably no accident; and it’s made in a sophisticated style which suggests that it will withstand time resting in your cellar- but once you’ve popped one cork, I challenge you to keep your hands off the rest!  Available cellar door for $55 a bottle, but sadly for us Queenslanders, there are limited stockists – so best to find it online and buy direct.

The Scarlet Pimpernel was a master of disguise and an escape artist; but I’d buy these small batch wines quickly as the Yarra wines who share the Pimpernel moniker aren’t ones you want to let slip away!

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