“There was a decade or two when we tried to make wines that didn't suit the region. Now we've gone back to what we are... Lower alcohol, medium bodied, aromatic wines... That's what we try to do.” Timo Mayer
Timo Mayer, the German/ Australian, that lives a top his 2.5-hectare Bloody Hill vineyard with his family in the Upper Yarra Valley on Mount Toolebewong. He is a wild winemaker whose tagline is ‘bring back the funk’, however he is also an incredibly skilled winemaker (and grape grower), and his wines are achieving cult status around the world. The wines have a darkness, elegance, softness and finesse with the signature savoury funk Timo has become famous for.
His vineyard is in the cooler hills of Woori Yallock sub region, with a steep gradient (it is called Bloody Hill because it is bloody hard to work these vineyards) and an incredible view across the Yarra Valley. To the east you can see over Healesville to Dixon’s Creek where Timo spent many years making wine with Steve Webber at De Bortoli. To the west, over the dense forest, is Gembrook Hill, where he also spent many years. Now he solely focuses on his own vineyard, planted mostly to close planted Pinot Noir, with some Shiraz.
In 2000, while still working at Gembrook Hill, Timo planted his vineyard with the help of family and friends, and in 2004 he started producing wines from it, incorporating 100% whole bunch techniques in the wine-making process. This was a brazen move and uncommon at the time, especially in the Yarra Valley (Gary Farr was incorporating some whole bunch ferments to success in Geelong at By Farr). When the technique is worked well, with ripe enough fruit and stems, the wine achieves an extra layer of earth and spice character that complements fruit flavours. When it is not managed well, wines can become bitter and green. When successful, aromas are more ferrous, and tannins become silky, fine and well-integrated. With a passion for the process, and a great understanding of it, Timo is one of the best exponents of the style in Australia. To add to this, Timo ferments naturally and ages his wine in French hogsheads, most being old. The wines are unfined and unfiltered (some sediment) and ultimately express their place and winemaker. They are also pure and clean.
We are showcasing two of Timo’s wines this week, in a mixed pack (three bottles of each). They are his Doktor Pinot Noir and his Syrah. Both of the wines are fermented with 100% whole bunch and are both from the generously fruited 2019 vintage. Timo releases his wines once a year, and they sell out quickly, so whilst these are released, I would be prepared to wait 2 to 3 years before opening these, then looking at them over the subsequent 4 or so years. When you open these wines, definitely decant them for an hour, as some of that initial earthy, reductive funk will blow off and the complex aromas of fruit, spice and incense will evolve.
2019 was a warm and dry season for much of Australia, but particularly in the Yarra. This meant and early and compressed vintage with richer, fuller, fruitier flavours. This works well for wines like Timo’s, as the bunches get ripe and the fruit soaks up the intensity of the stems. The stems also tone down the fruit and the result is a lovely balance of fruit, earth and spice.
We hope you enjoy the wines; they are loaded with personality and a unique but awesome expression of Yarra Valley Pinot Noir and Syrah.
Doktor Pinot Noir 2019
Intense, medium bodied Pinot. Dark in the glass, tight on the palette, but loaded with character, a bit like the winemaker. Fruit flavours of raspberry, black cherry, blue berry, sour cherry, sweet brown spices. Tannins are chewy and ripe, and with a couple of years, will become long, supple and silky. Serve with roast poultry or anything with plum sauce. Drink between 2023 and 2026.
Intense, dark, brooding and powerful. Whilst all these things, done in a medium bodied, refined and restrained way. Black fruits, blackberry, black cherry, black pepper, star anise, cardamom, dry herb. It is a long, flowing, lingering wine. Serve with charred/ barbecued meats or charred vegetables. Decant an hour before serving. Drink from 2023 to 2028.