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It is perhaps the next step in the evolution of the Yarra to showcase some of the very special sites and continue to highlight sense of place -Winemaker Steve Webber
As has long been European practice, Australian vignerons are now increasingly aware of the importance of single vineyard wines. Two of Australia's most respected wine families, De Bortoli and Shelmerdine, have joined forces to foster this ideal within the Yarra Valley. Lusatia Park Vineyard established in 1985 was the unique vineyard site chosen for the PHI project.
Derived from the 21st letter of the ancient Greek alphabet, PHI symbolises perfect balance and harmony. These are virtues both the Shelmerdine and De Bortoli families value highly in wine. Similarly, these qualities have, over time, been identified as hallmarks of the Lusatia Park Vineyard. Together their philosophy is simple - to gently nurture wines while maintaining the character of the vineyard.
Lusatia Park Vineyard is situated at Woori Yallock, high in the south-east hills of the Yarra Valley. This elevated, maritime influenced site enjoys significantly cooler conditions to those of the valley floor, lending itself to more elegant wine styles. Planted in 1985 to Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the densely spaced vines are now 20 years old. A combination of intensive hand-cultivation, low yields, cool climatic conditions and volcanic rocky soil produces fruit with distinctive characters and flavours.
Lusatia Park takes its name from the historical European region of Lusatia. Home to the Sorbian peoples, Lusatia (trans.'water-hole') is a land of hills and meadows, fertile soils and lakes. The vineyard sits on old, friable red volcanic soils (Kraznozems) that cap a tabled ridge of basalt rock. Very free draining, the soil provides an opportunity for roots to penetrate deep into the profile.
PHI brings together two diverse but complementary wine partners. The Shelmerdine family has vast viticultural experience in central and southern Victoria and for the past thirty five years has committed to identifying and developing distinctive vineyard sites. Equally, the De Bortoli family, with its long history of winemaking, has a strong understanding of what a 'sense of place' can bring to wine. Together they are proud to present three wines that are a true reflection of a unique vineyard.
In 2002 the Shelmerdine and De Bortoli families entered into a grape supply agreement which gave Steve Webber the opportunity to make wine from the Lusatia Park Vineyard. To provide insight into the site's character, a few dozen of the 2002 Lusatia Park Vineyard Chardonnay were bottled separately and shared by the two families over Christmas. The outstanding 2002 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir confirmed their commitment to attention to detail in the vineyard and a hands-off style of winemaking.
They also discovered a mutual love of Sancerre, Chablis and Burgundy, often finding that they were independently drinking the same wines from the same European producers. This friendship was soon to culminate in the PHI joint venture.
Shortly after the 2005 vintage, Steve Webber and Stephen Shelmerdine decided the purity, vibrancy and complexity of both the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Lusatia Park was so impressive, they deserved to be bottled and branded in their own right. The 2006 vintage saw the completion of the range with the addition of the 2006 PHI Lusatia Park Vineyard Sauvignon.
The combination of mature vines, meticulous hand-cultivation, and an exceptional site allows the PHI wines to evolve with minimal intervention. Just as the vines are gently cultivated, the wines are similarly treated with meticulous care. Handling fruit and wine by gravity, knowing when not to interfere, the use of indigenous yeast and the subdued use of oak, all help to give detail to the wines. Elegance and finesse are the defining characters and these are matched by an attention to texture and structure. The results are three wines that favour subtlety over sunshine, terrior over intervention and delicacy over extraction. Above all, they are beautiful to drink.
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