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 Violet Hour Shiraz 2022
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Bondar Violet Hour Shiraz 2022

Named after the evocative sky beneath which Andre Bondar and Selina Kelly picked the last Shiraz bunches for their first-ever release of this wine, Violet Hour is a blend of fruit from 10 blocks in Bondar’s Rayner vineyard. Each block has a different aspect and soils range from deep sand with ironstone rocks to clay over limestone. The Shiraz vines are some of the oldest on the property, reaching 70 years in some blocks—a key to understanding the depth and detail this wine can express. Violet Hour encapsulates the Bondar style—fragrance, juicy fruit and lightness of touch. The winemaking is adapted to the season; both whole-bunch and destemmed fruit are used and the juice spends varying times on skins, depending on the block. The wine sees seasoned oak only, usually for 10 months. The result is a seemingly effortless, transparent and deeply expressive wine that perfectly captures site, season and the Bondar style. Similar to 2021, vintage 2022 was a relatively cool season in McLaren Vale and facilitated a long, even and stress-free ripening period.  The result is a joyously fragrant and spice-driven Shiraz with svelte structure, bright acidity and length for days.

“Deep purple from core to rim. Blueberry, chocolate and cola aromas. Dark fruits, crushed violets and subtle pepper spice notes meld seamlessly with fine acid and dusty tannins to carry it long and lingering. A more modern style of McLaren Vale shiraz that offers a lighter touch, but still has that Vale sense of generosity. Great value here.”
92 points, Stuart Knox, The Real Review
Bondar Violet Hour Shiraz 2022
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Bondar Midnight Hour Shiraz 2022
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Bondar Midnight Hour Shiraz 2022

The Shiraz grapes for Midnight Hour are sourced from two blocks in Andre Bondar and Selina Kelly's own Rayner Vineyard. Planted in 1960 and 1990 on the Seaview side of the vineyard on red/brown clay over limestone, these vines are farmed using organic principles and without irrigation where possible. The soil and age of the vines result in smaller, more open canopies that allow for lots of sunlight to reach the developing bunches. This ensures that stems used in the fermentation are lignified, increasing the complexity of the finished wine. The 2022 vintage was similar to 2021. with La Niña driving a cooler-than-usual summer and autumn. Thankfully the wet conditions that can also be a feature of this weather pattern missed Bondar's McLaren Vale home. The cooler conditions delayed the start of vintage by two weeks, so the team was harvesting into the shorter days and longer nights of autumn. Given the stable ripening, Shiraz had more time on the vine, with no rush to pick. The resulting profile brings together red and black fruits with a lot of aromatic lift and a slightly lighter mouthfeel from the cool year. The bunches for Midnight Hour were harvested by hand and fermented with 100% of their stems. Andre and Selina learned the technique during their time working harvest in the northern Rhône. The wine from each batch aged in used French oak for 15 months. The result is a Shiraz with layers of complex flavour, yet an intriguing, textural, black fruit-laden palate.

“Deep, rich ruby red hue. Blueberry, dried morcilla, clove and beef bone aromas. Deep and weighty on the palate, all about savoury complexity over dark fruits. Drying beef, slate, iodine and roasting mushrooms all sit through the length of the palate, with a tight net of ripe tannins dialling up the pressure and drive. It stays with you for a long time, with a late lift of ripe blueberries cleaning the finish well. Serve it with beef rib roast and all will be good in your world.”
96 points, Stuart Knox, The Real Review
Bondar Midnight Hour Shiraz 2022
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Bondar Rosé 2023
Bondar Rosé 2023
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Bondar Rosé 2023

This year’s blend is a similar composition to the 2022: Grenache (84%), Cinsault (13%) and Counoise (3%). The lion’s share of the Grenache was grown on the sandy soils of the Rayner home vineyard with the balance coming from two growers, both with sites in Blewitt Springs on deep sandy soils, planted in 1975 and the mid-1990s respectively. The Cinsault and Counoise are grown on the Rayner vineyard. In the cellar, Andre uses a variety of techniques to build complexity and texture. The Grenache from the growers, along with the Cinsault, Counoise and young-vine Grenache from the Rayner vineyard, fermented at cool temperatures to preserve bright, primary characters. Then, for weight and savoury character, the older-vine Grenache from the Rayner vineyard fermented at warm temperatures in old oak. The result is a fresh and pure rosé, with layers of flavour, lovely grip and a super clean, refreshing finish.

Bondar Rosé 2023
Bondar Rosé 2023
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Bondar Monastrell 2022
Bondar Monastrell 2022
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Bondar Monastrell 2022

Bondar’s Monastrell is a limited release (only 100 dozen are made). It comes from fruit off the Lacey vineyard in Willunga, where rocky clay loam soils lie over the revered Kurrajong geology formation. The 15-year-old vines here are farmed with minimal inputs, and the winemaking follows a similar path, with hand-picking, no additions, and bottling unfined and unfiltered. A portion of the fruit was fermented as whole bunches, and maturation was for 13 months in seasoned French hogsheads. Andre Bondar has chosen the moniker Monastrell rather than the more popular Mataro or Mourvèdre, as he aims for a more savoury, medium-bodied wine than the tannic beasts the region is known for.It is brightly perfumed with berry fruits, exotic spices and enticing whole-bunch notes. The palate brings a more savoury and mineral layer to the warmly spiced fruit, fresh structure and vivid flavour. It leaves a lasting and forceful impression, so it’s easy to understand why this wine has garnered a cult-like following.

It is brightly perfumed with berry fruits, exotic spices and enticing whole-bunch notes. The palate brings a more savoury and mineral layer to the warmly spiced fruit, fresh structure and vivid flavour. It leaves a lasting and forceful impression, so it’s easy to understand why this wine has garnered a cult-like following.

"Deep purple-red colour; a straightforward but pleasant cherry-plum bouquet, a touch of pepper-spice, the palate sinewy and underlined by a thread of tannin bitterness, which helps cleanse the finish. This could well build more character with a bit of bottle-time."
89 points, Huon Hooke, The Real Review
Bondar Monastrell 2022
Bondar Monastrell 2022
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Bondar Junto Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2022
Bondar Junto Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2022
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Bondar Junto Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2022

Junto is Spanish for ‘together’, and in this case means a union of old friends: Grenache (62%), Shiraz (21%), Mataro (15%) and Carignan (2%). 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.

“A great makeup of majority grenache (62%) with a smattering of shiraz, mataro and cinsault, reminiscent of a classic southern Rhône blend, albeit, with a lighter touch. As good, too. Effusive blue- and red-fruit allusions teem along rails of gentle tannins, a burr of whole-bunch spice as seasoning. A sweep of maritime salinity at the finish. Such a complete and joyous wine, light of feel. It would be churlish not to drink a great deal of it.”
91 points, Ned Goodwin MW, Wine Companion
Bondar Junto Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2022
Bondar Junto Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2022
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Bondar Higher Springs Grenache 2021
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Bondar Higher Springs Grenache 2021

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 quite steeply east—an uncommon aspect in McLaren Vale—and so misses out on a lot 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.”  In 2021, the absence of heat waves, the sunny warm days and the elongated ripening period led to what could be "one of the greater vintages of the last decade". Picked for crunch and vibrancy, the fruit was wild fermented with 30% whole bunches—to aid in building fine structure and bring out the best of the site's darker-fruited profile. The wine went to old French oak puncheons for around 10 months and was bottled by hand without fining or filtration. This bolts from the gate, laden with red fruits, spice, steely minerality and anise. It’s impressively structured, with a compelling tannin profile framing plush fruits, savoury fringes and perfectly pitched acidity. Deliciously impressive, with driving length and plenty of years to go.

This bolts from the gate, laden with red fruits, spice, steely minerality and anise. It’s impressively structured, with a compelling tannin profile framing plush fruits, savoury fringes and perfectly pitched acidity. Deliciously impressive, with driving length and plenty of years to go.

“A bright, clear colour. Offers a tantalising bouquet, at once floral with red cherry blossom and earthy/savoury nuances. The palate is supple and very, very long, the finish is fresh and mouth-watering.”
96 points, James Halliday, winecompanion.com.au
“Mint, menthol, ripe raspberry, aniseed and new leather. Medium-bodied, savoury sage-laced new leather flavour, lots of sandy grip to tannin, a cool feel, thyme and dried herbs, assertive dry tannin on a sticky dried herb finish of excellent length. Pretty firm and coiled up, with a chicory and black tea taste to close. Very good. Albeit kind of tense”
94+ points, Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
"Ripe and juicy with a lovely touch of sappy freshness, this is a delightful grenache with effusive hibiscus and star anise aromas Nice blood orange and pink grapefruit freshness at the finish. Very limited production. From a vineyard in the Blewitt Springs sub-region of McLaren Vales planted in 1952. Drink or hold."
91 points, jamessuckling.com
Bondar Higher Springs Grenache 2021
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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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