While exploring the Mornington Peninsula and Ports Phillip Bay area in Victoria, Australia in January of 2020, we discovered By Farr, which is without doubt, one of the very finest cool clime producers of Pinot Noir in the southern hemisphere! Lucky for us there is an importer for the USA, but still very little of this brilliant Pinot Noir is available.
The Farr estate is located in the Moorabool Valley between Geelong and Ballarat, 100km southwest of Melbourne. Grape growing in this region dates back more than 200 years, with Swiss settlers planting Victoria’s first vineyards here in the early 1800s. The rich volcanic soil and continental climate at our estate produces premium fruit with a flavor, bouquet and color that is unique to our surrounding area.
Gary and Robyn Farr purchased the original property in 1994 and the second section in 1998—this latter had been untouched for almost 40 years and consisted of dense boxthorn and noxious weeds. The final piece of the puzzle, which links the two blocks of land, was purchased by Nick and Cassie Farr in 2011, making a total of 130 acres—of which 36 acres are under vine and the remainder is maintained as grazing and cropping for cattle and horses. With a mixture of different clones and rootstocks, the grape varieties grown here are viognier, chardonnay, pinot noir, gamay and shiraz.
Nick and Gary Farr stand side by side, but aren’t afraid to go head-to-head when their opinions differ. Each generation has developed a distinctive winemaking style based on his individual experience and taste, and their respective lines—By Farr by Gary, and Farr Rising by Nick—have received critical acclaim both in Australia and overseas.
The Farrside vineyard sits on a northeast-facing slope and consists of limestone topped with black volcanic soil. The vines were planted in 2001 and run east-west to protect the fruit from overexposure to the sun. The clones are a mixture of 114, 115, 777, 667 and MV6. Another every good Farrside Pinot Noir “Sangreal” is also produced from a vineyard just 300 meters away, but from mostly clay soils, and it ripens typically almost two weeks earlier.
The fruit is hand-picked and sorted in the vineyard, then fermented in an open-top fermenter. Between 40 to 50 per cent of the fruit will be stemmed and then cold soaked for four days. Only natural yeast is allowed for the fermentation process, which takes roughly 12 days. Grape-stomping (known as pigeage) will occur two to three times a day depending on the amount of extraction required, and the wine is then placed in 50 to 60 per cent new Allier barrels by gravity. It is racked by gas after secondary fermentation, then again at 18 months to be bottled.
“The medium-ruby 2018 Farrside Pinot Noir is just another exhibit in the case that color intensity and flavor intensity—particularly in Pinot Noir—have little to do with one another. The wine features complex aromas of black tea, roses, grilled plums and fresh raspberries, and those notes are repeated on the medium-bodied palate. There’s a bit more expansiveness to this wine compared to the Sangreal, and the tannins are even silkier here, but quality-wise the two wines are basically equivalent. 2021 – 2028” – 94 points, Wine Advocate, Joe Czerwinski (February 2021)
“It takes time in the glass for assertive cedar wood oak to settle into the fruit but at all steps along the way this wine oozes both quality and class. You’re in the most skilled of hands here. Woodsmoke, assorted cherries, twiggy spice notes, flavour-infused acidity and fine-grained tannin. It’s a truly beautiful wine.” – 97 points, James Halliday’s Wine Companion’s Guide
To summarize, each vintage of Farrside Pinot Noir seems to consistently exhibit masculine and structured wine with evolving savory components of meat, spice and minerality. With a balanced array of red and black cherry fruits, Farrside Pinot Noir is medium bodied, fresh and buoyant with bucket loads of character and nuance. Firm, but finely integrated and supple tannins extend into the long-textured finish.