Bass Phillip A Paradigm Shift
Thursday, July 2, 2020 in News
Bass Phillip A Paradigm Shift
Ned Goodwin MW writes for Langton’s about Phillip Jones, Bass Phillip, and the sale of one of Australia’s most important yet idiosyncrasies to a group including Burgundian Jean-Marie Fourrier. Shop the Bass Phillip portfolio.
Phillip Jones, an irascible character with a twinkle in the eye, ‘handcrafts tiny quantities of superlative Pinot Noir which, at its best, has no equal in Australia. Painstaking site selection, ultra-close vine spacing and the cool climate of South Gippsland are the keys to the magic of Bass Phillip and its eerily Burgundian Pinots’, gushes James Halliday.
Jones planted the vineyard in 1979 and, in Burgundian fashion, nurtured it well beyond its nascent growth to release the first Bass Phillip wines in 1991. The vineyards have been organic since 1993; biodynamic as of 2002. There is no irrigation and the winemaking ethos is one of minimal messing about. Jones had pondered selling the estate since 2010, but now it is official. ‘I am too bloody tired’, he quips.
Bass Phillip was sold on March 31, on the cusp of the 2020 vintage and the release of a superb swag of 2018’s. The sale marks a seminal shift in the Australian fine wine landscape while celebrating Phillip Jones’ prodigious achievements and profound legacy.
It makes sense then that a group with a Burgundian ace came calling. As part of a consortium helmed by Singaporean vintner and former owner of the Wine Advocate, Soo Hoo Khoo Peng, together with Hong Kong investor Kent Ho, Jean-Marie Fourrier (Domaine Fourrier) is the winemaking side of the triumvirate’s recent purchase of Bass Phillip.
An acolyte of the late, great Henri Jayer, Fourrier embraces the minimalist philosophy shared by Jones. His delicate approach manifests as detailed wines that are never pushed but positioned to reflect an intuitive confluence with nature and the characteristics of each vintage: abstemious selection of optimally ripe fruit in the vineyard and again, in the winery; minimal if any sulphur additions and judicious use of oak, even for the top crus. The results? Scintillating!
It is rare that a Burgundian winemaker with the pedigree of Fourrier has sought to craft wine on these shores. This is a testament to the assiduous attention to detail, empirical vigilance and unwavering integrity that Jones has applied to his jewel-like wines over the 40 years he has nurtured them, often to superlative heights.
Max Allen, then writing for the Weekend Australia and now, for the Financial Review, opines that on an ‘Australian Dream Team’ of wine, ‘The only pinot noir in the list is Bass Phillip...’.
The Langton’s buying team has acquired an enviable allocation of 2018s, a top-drawer vintage marked by wines with firm structural mettle and cool restraint, more reminiscent of Burgundy than New World expressions. They will reward extended time in the cellar.
Our ‘first-to-market’ offer includes the three Pinot Noirs at the apex of the hierarchy: the Bass Phillip Reserve Pinot Noir (coming soon), Premium Pinot Noir and the Estate Pinot Noir, together with the Crown Prince Pinot Noir. The first two wines are classified by Langton’s as Exceptional and Outstanding respectively. Often overlooked but seldom underestimated, a duo of Chardonnays round out the offer: the Premium and Estate.
The Bass Phillip Reserve Pinot Noir, (coming soon) exotically perfumed with Asian spice and scents of the souk, is packed with red to darker fruit accents straddling a finely hewn skein of tannin. The Premium, brooding and more subdued in its youth, boasts a midriff of such compelling intensity that it stains the palate. The length, equally impressive! The Estate, more loosely knit and brimming with succulent red fruit notes and scents of clove, is the stylistic barometer. The floral, exquisitely poised and eminently drinkable Crown Prince Pinot Noir is all sass and crunch.
The energetic Bass Phillip Estate Chardonnay is a mid-weighted expression akin to a kaleidoscope of stone fruit and citrus flavours unravelling along a beam of maritime freshness. Alongside, the Reserve (coming soon), stony, nutty and introverted in its youth, is of infinitesimal length and precision, serving to emphasise the mineral-infused carapace of the vintage.
While the 2018s were crafted by Jones, we await new Chief Winemaker Fourrier’s interpretation of the Bass Phillip site: the maritime clime and howling winds of the Bass Strait, ample humidity, bucolic hillsides and loamy, mineral-rich volcanic soils. While Pinot Noir and Chardonnay remain the avatars, the environment is substantially different from the Burgundian archetype to which Fourrier is accustomed.
Exciting times lay ahead for Bass Phillip, an estate that will continue to define the apogee of complex site-inflected Australian Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Their rightful place on the international stage, more firmly entrenched. The cost? Inevitably to soar.
To commemorate Fourrier’s appointment, Langton’s has siphoned through the cellar to also offer an outstanding collection of prestigious crus from his home turf of Gevrey-Chambertin, alongside other estate holdings. Please contact your broker or shop online.