The Gippsland wine covers a large area extending from the NSW / Victorian border, along the coast to Wonthaggi just below Melbourne, then west to the edge of the Great Dividing Range.
The region sweeps along spectacular coastlines and through picturesque rolling hills. The region, while not as well known as many other regions, has produced fine table wines as far back as the 19th century. The most notable vineyards were those of the Costellos and Louis Wuillemin in the Maffra-Bairnsdale area. Wine production ceased prior to World War I and didn't reappear until the 1970s. Development has been dominated by small, family owned vineyards and wineries. Gippsland comprises three distinct geographic areas, with varying topography, soils and climate influencing the wine styles.
Gippsland is a large zone with spectacular coastlines and rolling hills.
Modern-day viticulture commenced in the 1970s.
The region is currently home to more than 50 wineries.
The zone has three distinct geographic areas, South, East and West Gippsland.
South Gippsland: a true cool climate area, wetter and windier than other parts of Gippsland.
East Gippsland: a more Mediterranean style climate.
Gippsland West: cooler than East Gippsland, with a warm, dry autumn.
Soils vary from deep sandy clay loams to gravelly sandy loams.
Principal varieties Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The climate is influenced by the weather systems moving across the south of the continent from the west to the east. The East Gippsland area has the added complexity of systems moving down the coast from the north. Winter droughts are not uncommon in the east, as these two systems can block each other.
Soils vary significantly, ranging from dark black loams to lighter sandy soils in the grey to grey-brown spectrum with mottled, yellow to red clayey subsoils.
Chardonnay: Chardonnay is successfully made across Gippsland. In East Gippsland, low yields produce wines of exceptional flavour, structure and overall impact. More conventionally structured and balanced Chardonnay is made in West Gippsland, with finer and more elegant versions in South Gippsland.
Pinot Noir: Styles vary somewhat throughout the zone, tending richer and somehow slightly more rustic in East and West Gippsland. South Gippsland Pinot Noir is regarded by some to be among Australia's greatest; fine and elegant, but with a deceptive length and intensity.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot: These are usually but not invariably blended, doing best in parts of West Gippsland, but also in the East. By and large medium-bodied, the wines do best in warmer vintages.
Map Coordinates: 37°30'S - 38°29'S
Altitude: 20-50 metres (66-164 feet)
Heat degree days, October - April: 1300 - 1470 (cut off at 19°C (66.2°F) but otherwise not adjusted)
Growing season rainfall, October - April: 420 – 530 millimetres (16.5-20.8 inches)
Mean January temperature: 18.1 - 19oC
Relative humidity, October - April, 3 pm: Average 45%
Harvest: Early March - end April
Phillip Jones, Proprietor & Winemaker, Bass Phillip, Gippsland, Victoria
Bass Phillip’s first estate vineyard was planted south of Leongatha, Victoria, in 1979 by Phillip Jones, then a research engineer. Since the early 1980s Phillip's attention has been on Pinot Noir varietal wines.
"Since the early days, the approach has been somewhat organic, but that philosophy became more refined over time to the point that no toxic chemicals have been used in vineyard and winery since 1993, and biodynamic preparations and practices have been adopted since 2006," Phillip says.
"The basic philosophy at Bass Phillip has been to allow the forces of nature to dominate the process, and to encourage the natural (terroir) flavours to be expressed clearly.
"Essentially, the vineyards (now there are five small plots) determine the wine style, and this is achieved with very close planting (9,000 to 17,000 vines per hectare), no irrigation, and low fruit cropping levels per vine (much less than one kilogram).
"The wines reflect the strengths of the terroir, which has deep mineral-rich soils, moderately high rainfall, and cool summer and autumn temperatures: the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and aromatic white varieties perform well here. For the Pinot grape, high minerality, good natural acidity and a strong terroir presence place these wines amongst Australia’s best."
Phillip’s goal with these wines is to refine their composition and flavour expression with the help of biodynamics, which is already providing wines with more purity of fruit, expression of site character and an energetic vibrance. Several distinct Pinot Noirs are made at Bass Phillip, from each of the five vineyards.