Bondar

“Ethereal quality” from a Young McLaren Vale Star

Exciting times are these for Australian wine. Times when quality small producers are popping up everywhere across the viticultural landscape. Times when many of these producers are striving to make delicious, lighter-bodied, fresher, purer, more digestible wines that have a strong sense of place. And now, most significantly, it is a time when some of these producers are realising that it is in the vineyard activity—more specifically the way their vineyards are planted and the way they are managed—that will ultimately determine the quality and uniqueness of the wines they are able to produce. Bondar is certainly at the heart of this zeitgeist.

Established in 2012, Bondar is the vision of husband-and-wife team Andre Bondar and Selina Kelly. Andre, with a history as a winemaker in the Adelaide Hills and Selina with a background in marketing and law, have planted roots (literally) in the north of McLaren Vale, Their new home is the Rayner Vineyard on Chalk Hill Road, where plantings of old bush vine Grenache and Shiraz vines up to 65-years-old are already in play, while newer, closer planted Counoise (one of the 13 Châteauneuf varieties) has been recently planted, and Mataro, Carignan and Cinsault are on the horizon.

“There must be a bit of magic behind Bondar. All of the wines have an ethereal quality” Jane Faulkner, Halliday Wine Companion

Straddling the Blewitt Springs and Seaview subregions, the Rayner Vineyard was planted in the 1950s. Today, under the meticulous management of Andre Bondar and Ben Lacey, the Rayner site is only now beginning to reveal its true potential. As the investment in the vineyard continues apace—with a focus on building soil health and microbial diversity—Bondar notes that this terroir and its old vines have begun to disclose a unique and consistent brand of freshness and elegance that screams of this deep sandy site. In tandem with the ascent of its vineyard, Bondar’s star continues its rise.

Andre sees his role in translating the Rayner site into the wines as minimalist, and he picks earlier than many to catch the fresh fruit flavours intrinsic to Bondar’s graphic and fresh calling card. Native yeasts and gentle, extended extractions are par for the course, as is the use of mainly older hogsheads, puncheons and now demi-muids. Whole bunches are used extensively to introduce some more savoury characters to complement the purity of fruit that Rayner delivers. Regardless of the source of fruit, Andre and Selina want to make, in their own words, ‘… wines that are bright, structured, mid-weight, yet concentrated in flavour, and with a savoury element’. And of course, they want to make the finest quality possible. Terrific quality and remarkable pricing make for a heady mix and have gained Bondar the strong following they thoroughly deserve.

The Range

Bondar Junto Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2023
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Bondar Junto Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2023

Junto is Spanish for ‘together’, and in this case means a union of old friends: Grenache (65%), Shiraz (16%), Mataro (8%) and Carignan (3%). The Grenache is culled from three separate blocks: the lion’s share is from Bondar's own Rayner vineyard with the balance coming from the Trott Wilpena and Slattery Vineyards in Blewitt Springs. The Shiraz is also home-grown Rayner fruit (70-year-old vines on sand), while the Mataro was sourced from a grower in the foothills of Willunga on the famed Kurrajong soils. The tiny addition of Carignan was drawn from young plantings in the Rayner vineyard. All the fruit was wild-fermented with approximately 20% whole-bunches, then raised in old oak for eight months. The blend was put together with the idea that Grenache heroes, with Shiraz supporting with flesh and the Mataro with spice, structure and tannin. The Carignan adds further finesse to the palate and contributes to the complexity. As always, Junto is a lively, vibrant wine with the restraint, energy and sheer drinkability that was once hardly known in the McLaren Vale.

"Frisky red fruited style with a smattering of dried herb and lemon zest. It’s light to medium-bodied, strawberry and orange rind, light grip of tannin, kind of edgy in character, though I like the fresh spiced and sappy strawberry thing it offers. There’s something like ozone or coal dust in the mix too, and the finish is lively, spicy and red fruited, with a Campari-like bitterness. Fun wine, could take a light chill even."
91 points, Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
“Made with approximately 20% whole bunch including a portion of carbonic maceration and matured in French hogsheads and puncheons (10% new). A medium-bodied, fragrant and elegant wine that opens up with red and black fruits, floral notes, pink peppercorns and blood orange. On the palate, this has real grip, intensity and persistence, and this will totally reward those who still have some in their cellar a decade from now.”
95 points, Philip Rich, The Wine Companion
Bondar Junto Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2023
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Bondar Rayner Vineyard Shiraz 2022
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Bondar Rayner Vineyard Shiraz 2022

This exceptional Shiraz is drawn from the two oldest blocks in the Rayner Vineyard, planted in 1950. Three-quarters of the fruit comes from Block 24 in the northeast corner of the vineyard, on deep sandy soils with ironstone rocks, dry-grown and organically managed. This portion gives wonderful fragrance and elegant structure. The remainder is cropped from Block 1, in the northwestern corner of the vineyard, laying in a cool gully. Dry-grown and organically managed, the shallow clay on the limestone base builds fine structure around the prettier, fleshier sandy portion.Fermented wild with 20% whole bunches, the wine spent two weeks on skins before 18 months’ aging in mostly used French hogsheads (with 5% new oak as part of the final blend) and was bottled without fining or filtration.

“Blueberry, blackberry, mint and sage, seaweed, some liquorice and biscuit spice. It’s full-bodied, but only just, saline and savoury, black olive, sweet blue and black fruit, raspberry ripple, ripe fine-grained but insistent tannin, oyster shell and cool peppermint, it’s thoroughly regional but has depth and presence. Lots to like here, and it feels classic McLaren Vale in character, though turned out with a light and deft touch in the winery. Ripe tannin rolls out the red raspberry carpet on a finish of fine length.”
95 points, Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
“Among the finest shiraz in the Vale, with the meager volume, subsequent concentration and tannic delivery of 2022 serving the plush, aromatic, full-bodied style well. Boysenberries, anise, pepper and ferrous tannins, forceful without compromising the tenacious, juicy flow of the fruit. Textbook Vale shiraz.”
95 points, Ned Goodwin MW, jamessuckling.com
“Dense and inky core, deep purple at the rim. Mulberry, clove, iodine, and mocha aromas. Dense and weighty with plush blue and purple fruits driving the core. The fruit sits fresh and lively though, alongside clove and vanilla spices, with a deep iodine ferrous undercurrent. Fine grained tannins keep it rolling along and it finishes very long. It has a classic Vale plushness but without overworking the fruit. Honestly, a bargain at the price.”
95 points, Stuart Knox, The Real Review
Bondar Rayner Vineyard Shiraz 2022
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Bondar Rayner Vineyard Grenache 2023
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Bondar Rayner Vineyard Grenache 2023

Bondar’s high-toned and beautifully pure Grenache is sourced from the 1970 block in the Rayner Vineyard. The vines sit on very sandy soils (part of the Pirramimma sandstone geology) and are dry-grown and organically managed. Facing east on the site's western side, these low-yielding vines produce small bunches and berries and miss out on the hot late-afternoon sun during summer.Seeking a pretty but savoury style, the Bondar team picks their Grenache fruit a little earlier than many of their peers, helping to capture the fruit’s red fruit and herbal characteristics. To further aid in building structure and longevity, 20% bunches are used in the natural ferments. The wine is aged for six months in ceramic eggs and French barrels. From the coolest of a troika of La Niña vintages, there’s more lacy red fruits this year even if the result is the same. This is McLaren Vale Grenache in its purest guise.

“Very good Grenache here, it’s lively and gently herbal, raspberry, ripe cherry and almond, quite some spice and dried flower perfume too, a fair bit of mint. Juicy ripe cherry and red fruit, the tannin is a little raspy and stony, and really adds something to the wine. There’s also some raspberry friand sweetness, and it offers mouth-perfume, and excellent length. It’s crisp, but flavoursome. It’s not Blewitt or Clarendon, but gee, it makes an emphatic statement about how good McLaren Vale Grenache can be. So lovely. Juciy juicy, Nice nice. I’m kind of 94.5 on this, but hey, let’s go.”
95 points, Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
“From vines planted in 1970 on sand in a section of the vineyard that misses the hot late afternoon sun and yields smaller bunches of small berries. About 20% whole bunches; six months in ceramic eggs and old French oak. It's very early on this, and these are always made to age, but the charm of the vintage has its say. Dried and fresh rose, raspberry leaf, rosemary and dried orange peel across tart raspberry, pomegranate and redcurrant, the ripeness neatly captured for flavour and verve, with a proper line of grape and stem tannin, artfully extracted, pristinely ripe, acidity a guiding vector.”
96 points, Marcus Ellis, The Wine Companion
Bondar Rayner Vineyard Grenache 2023
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Bondar Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2023
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Bondar Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2023

Bondar has made its incisive Chardonnay from the same vineyard in the Adelaide Hills since 2013. The source is the 30-year-old Rathmine vineyard in Echunga, which sits at 450 metres on stony, shallow clay loam over a limestone base. The fruit comes from the steep, east-facing slope planted with the Bernard 76 clone. All of Bondar’s fruit is handpicked in the cool of the early morning, whole bunch-pressed and fermented naturally in older French oak, with one new Stockinger foudre accounting for approximately 25% of the blend. Bondar does not cool the fermentation to encourage mouthfeel and nutty, complex flavours. The picture is completed by full malolactic conversion and no stirring of the lees to preserve fruit purity. From the cool, late 2023 harvest, it’s perhaps the most coiled and bracing Chardonnay Bondar has released to date. Yet there’s so much fine texture and savoury flavour to balance the wine’s highwire energy. 

“Lime and lime rind, floral, nutty and spicy, almond and white peach. It’s a lively wine, excellent intensity, a bold and juicy cut of acidity, so much zing, yet folded into gently creamy nutty and biscuity folds of savoury goodness. There’s a slight struck match character, and the finish is all sweet lime and spice, with terrific length and saline spicy character. Classic fine-boned Hills Chardonnay here, and so lovely.”
95 points, Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
Bondar Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2023
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Bondar Clarendon Shiraz 2022
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Bondar Clarendon Shiraz 2022

Andre Bondar can’t hide his excitement that he is now working with Shiraz from the famed Hickinbotham vineyard in Clarendon. Biodynamically farmed, this dry-grown elevated site was first planted on rocky, ironstone-rich red soils in 1971. It’s a revered site in SA circles, supplying Penfolds Grange, Eileen Hardy and Clarendon Hills, among others, over the years. Clarendon sits considerably further inland than Bondar’s Rayner Vineyard and, at 250m altitude, produces a very different expression of Shiraz. “It’s finer, with ferrous quality and red fruits; there is a tightness and coiled power,” explains Andre.In a very Bondar way, the winemaking does not detract from the purity of the site. Around 30% bunches were used in the ferment, and 20% of the wine matured in a one-year-old Stockinger demi-muid. “Year one was an investigation into how this fruit looks relatively unhindered, and the results are beautiful,” says Bondar. “It gives us confidence to bring in some technique in the coming years.” It’s an intoxicating addition to Bondar’s already star-studded portfolio.

“All the blueberries, dried raspberry friand, spice, quite some perfume here too, along with black olive and thyme. It’s medium to full-bodied, somewhat earthy and ferrous, acidity feels bright but well settled, toasted hazelnut, iodine, with impeccable length. Wow, this is a wine of presence and intensity, though not at the expense of charm and drinkability. So good.”
96 points, Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
“Deep ruby core with a brightness of purple shining at the rim. Blackberry, smoked beef, and ironstone aromas. Blue fruits at its core, dark slate and beef stock complexities roll across the palate with a tight coil of power that will take time to unfurl. Even in its current state of tension, it lingers incredibly long and remains balanced to the end. Time in a decanter before serving will be well worth it.”
96 points, Stuart Knox, The Real Review
Bondar Clarendon Shiraz 2022
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Bondar Higher Springs Grenache 2022
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Bondar Higher Springs Grenache 2022

Sue Trott’s Wilpena vineyard lies in the heart of Blewitt Springs. The vines were planted in 1952 and are dry-grown on deep sand. It faces steeply east—an uncommon aspect in McLaren Vale—and so misses out on much of the warm late-afternoon sun. Of this site, Andre Bondar gushes: “Sometimes when you walk into a vineyard that is this beautiful, you can’t help but think that it must make amazing wine.”  Know that feeling, Dre. According to Bondar, the Trott vineyard tends to a darker fruit profile than his Rayner site, alongside impressive power and structure. To this end, the parcel was split into two ferments, one with 80% bunches and the other with 10%, to aid in building fine structure and bring out the best of the site’s darker-fruited profile. Hand-bottled after 10 months in seasoned Stockinger demi-muid, it’s a shining, savoury expression that will continue to wow for years and years.

“Good depth of youthful colour, dark red and attractive. Meaty traditional grenache aromas meet the nose, rich and exotic, deep berry fruit, florals, spice and nutty old oak back it up. It's fleshy and ripe to taste, with lovely length and slightly mouth-puckering tannins in support. Delicious.”
95 points, Ralph Kyte-Powell, The Real Review
“Cherry, raspberry, almond, dried roses and thyme, with quite some spice and a little cedar. It’s medium-bodied, cherry and dried herb, a little blood orange in the mix, tannin is firm with a light graininess and grip, with a sappy freshness, and a dry pumice stone tannin finish of excellent length, some orange peel in the aftertaste. It has a good volume of fruit, yet its pretty savoury in style too, with an amaro twist. More to come, I expect.”
94+ points, Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
Bondar Higher Springs Grenache 2022
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“There must be a bit of magic behind Bondar. All of the wines have an ethereal quality” Jane Faulkner, Halliday Wine Companion



“Marquee McLaren Vale vineyard now in the hands of some really good people, really good winemakers. It’s a very exciting proposition. The resulting wines, so far, short as the tenure has been, have been great.” Mike Bennie, The Wine Front

Country

Australia

Primary Region

McLaren Vale, South Australia

People

Winemaker: Andre Bondar

Availability

VIC, QLD, SA, TAS, WA

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