Toolangi

The Yarra Valley’s Best Kept Secret?

This long-established, yet relatively undiscovered Dixon’s Creek gem has entered a new and exciting chapter and are well on their way to receiving the accolades and recognition a site and team of this calibre deserve. The fruit and wines from this respected vineyard have always been highly respected and sought after, and in the past, the winemaking was outsourced to a gamut of respected and talented Australian winemakers, including Rick Kinzbrunner of Giaconda.

Back in 2017 Helmut Konecsny, the owner of Rochford Wines, purchased Toolangi Vineyards and immediately started ringing in the changes. Under this new, hands-on ownership and with talented young winemaker Kaspar Hermann at the helm, Toolangi have the wind in their sails. In Hermann, the Toolangi vineyard has found its winemaking Prince Charming. In addition to Mount Mary, where he worked as assistant winemaker for eight years before joining Toolangi. Hermann’s CV includes stints at Seville Estate, Coldstream Hills and Punch. Working alongside Hermann is viticulturist Brian Heslop. A Kiwi by birth, Brian cut his teeth in some of Aotearoa's most venerated and visionary Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards: Pyramid Valley and Bell Hill. He also brings to the table a commitment to sustainability and biodiversity, embracing organic, biodynamic and regenerative practices in the vineyard.

Although Toolangi is a vineyard and label steeped in of history the region, in recent years new ownership and confident viticultural and winemaking changes have breathed new life into this Yarra Valley gem.

Together, the pair’s chief goal is to bring the vineyard back to the heart of the Toolangi story, with the focus on rejuvenating and upgrading the work in the vines. This was, after all, one of only two Yarra producers to engage the services of renowned soil scientist Claude Bourguignon, when Bibendum Wine Co. brought him out to Australia in 2018. Bourguignon’s recommendations have already begun to be implemented, including the transition to under vine cultivation and the reduction of inputs in the vineyard… And the work continues.

Hermann is steering the winemaking towards a less worked style, ensuring further purity, finesse, structure and elegance. It didn’t take this talented craftsman long to develop a distinctive and cohesive identity as compared to those of Toolangi 1.0, which, as mentioned, was the product of a roster of external (if very talented) winemakers. In the vines, Ammerlaan presides over some prime Yarra Valley real estate. First planted in 1995, the Toolangi now boasts 13 hectares under vine. An ideally situated vineyard, located right next to the Toolangi State Forest—its well-drained, gentle slopes and a coveted north-east orientation only begin to tell the story of this appealing, unique and characterful vineyard.

When Helmut Konecsny arrived in 2017, the original plan was to condense the range into just two tiers of wine—the Toolangi and Toolangi Paul’s Lane labels. But the vineyard had other ideas—in searching to revive the unique DNA of this site, the team quickly realised the individual personalities and quality coming from the vineyards’ exiting Block parcels was simply too great to pass up. These ‘Block’ wines are produced from the most privileged, low-yielding parcels of Dixon’s Creek vineyard. In particular, the F-Block Chardonnay is cropped from the vineyard’s highest and coolest area, abutting the Toolangi State Forest. The soils here are relatively shallow and rockier, resulting in low yields of intensely flavoured, bright and finely structured fruit. We’ve tasted many a Puligny of lessor quality. And so it goes with the E Block Pinot Noir sourced from two rows of 18-year-old MV6 vines.

What a difference just a few years can make. Taking nothing away from Toolangi’s fine history, the triple whammy of new ownership, full control of winemaking and the introduction of a talented new winemaker has breathed new life into this already fabulous grower. If you do not know the wines, we strongly suggest you take a look.

The Range

Toolangi Vineyard Pauls Lane Chardonnay 2023
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Toolangi Vineyard Pauls Lane Chardonnay 2023

Established in 1995, Toolangi Vineyard is in the Dixons Creek subregion of the Yarra Valley, adjoining the Toolangi State Forest. This sheltered, low-cropping site is planted to the Gingin, Mendoza and I10V3 Chardonnay clones that sit in fine clay-loam soils. Year after year, this unique vineyard produces wines with a distinctive personality and strong sense of place. Pauls Lane Chardonnay comes from just 20 rows within the D Block on the 11-hectare property. It is all I10V3 planted in 1995 when the vineyard was first established. The fruit was handpicked on 29th March, a full month later than in 2021 (when this wine was last released). The fruit was destemmed and pressed to French oak (20%) for fermentation and nine months’ maturation. Winemaker Kaspar Hermann shies away from malolactic conversion for Pauls Lane, finding natural acid/flavour balance in the I clone without it. The 2023 season produced excellent wines in the Yarra Valley; it’s just a pity yields were so low. Bunches were small and packed with flavour, a trait conveyed clearly in the glass. It’s aromatic, rich and weighty with zesty acid cut and ripe, pure fruit flavours balanced by lovely sweet spice and a delicate saline flick on the finish. Full-throttle Chardonnay.

Toolangi Vineyard Pauls Lane Chardonnay 2023
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Toolangi Vineyard Pinot Noir 2023
Toolangi Vineyard Pinot Noir 2023
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Toolangi Vineyard Pinot Noir 2023

Kaspar Hermann has now been at the Toolangi helm for six years. Under Hermann’s site-first approach—allowing the place and vintage to dictate the result rather than forcing a particular style—the true character and quality of Toolangi’s vineyard are starting to reveal themselves. At Toolangi, 2023 was another in a string of low-yielding vintages. Thankfully, the lack in quantity was more than recouped in quality, and the wines are marked by vibrancy, pure flavours and textural finesse. Drawn from 20+-year-old vines, the estate Pinot Noir was handpicked over two days in the third week of March. The fruit was partially destemmed and fermented as whole berries, with a small portion of whole bunches included (10%). After 14 days, the wine was pressed to oak (10% new) for nine months’ maturation.We don’t need to tell you about Kaspar Hermann’s serious winemaking chops. And we really don’t need to tell you how much bang for your buck you get from this diligently farmed single-vineyard bottling. This release says it all.

“All estate fruit with a small portion of whole bunches (5%) and 10 months in French puncheons and barriques (5% new). A very bright crimson. Leaps out of the glass with its aromas of strawberries, cranberries, blackcurrant pastilles and some spice. Juicy-fruited, quaffable and still attractively priced.”
91 points, Philip Rich, The Wine Companion
“Juicy raspberry and cherry a bit of spice, a little floral too. It’s medium-bodied, bright red fruit flavour, the stony feel of the tannin is maybe unexpected, but altogether pleasing, and while it’s maybe ever so slightly breathy, it does deliver plenty of gently sappy Pinot satisfaction, along with solid length.”
91 points, Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
Toolangi Vineyard Pinot Noir 2023
Toolangi Vineyard Pinot Noir 2023
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“A producer that demonstrates a deep commitment to terroir in producing Australia’s finest and most distinctive wines.” Nick Stock, Good Wine Guide

Halliday Red 5 Star Winery - Outstanding winery regularly producing wines of exemplary quality and typicity.

Country

Australia

Primary Region

Yarra Valley, Victoria

People

Winemaker: Kaspar Hermann

Availability

National

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