Like the great producers of the world, Pimpernel’s approach to winemaking starts with the conviction that extraordinary wine comes only from exceptional fruit. With this as our underpinning philosophy and inspired by the great wines and traditions of Burgundy, Rhône and Loire Valleys in France, we at Pimpernel are one of the few dry-grown (non-irrigated) vineyards in the Yarra Valley. We work the vines hard to delve deep into the subsoils and produce low yields of intensely flavoured fruit.
Pimpernel Estate consists of only 16 acres of vines and yet we perform over 50 separate small batch vinifications each year. This is done to ensure that the unique character of each ferment is captured and that a vast array of base components can be assessed and assembled to create complete wines of depth and complexity that not only reflect the vintage but our interpretation of it.
The eternal truism–great wine is made in the vineyard–is the central tenant of our viticultural philosophy; 90% of our work takes place amongst the vines.
The close connection we have developed with our distinct terroir fosters an exceptional attention to detail that allows us to grow grapes of uncompromised quality.
Pimpernel Estate is one of the few dry-grown (non-irrigated) vineyards in the Yarra Valley – a vital component in our pursuit of excellence.
Each vine is individually monitored and tended by hand. The vines are pruned back hard to promote low fruit sets, whilst maintaining a strong, vigorous canopy that protects the fruit from sun exposure.
Following harvest, an organic crop is planted in the inter-row spaces to provide nutrients and aid moisture retention. These crops are then slashed, and along with all grape and vine matter from the previous season, are ploughed back into the soils in a sustainable cycle of replenishment.
These practices of non-irrigation, rigorous hand-pruning, and inter-row crop farming foster healthy vines that delve deep into the subsoils, producing low yields of intensely flavoured fruit with plentiful natural acidity.
The yield of the estate is low, averaging 1.5 tonnes to the acre.
While great wine is made in the vineyard, it is imagined, and its potential captured, within the winery.
Preceding each harvest, we take regular fruit samples from the vines and do a ‘bucket crush’, giving us a small juice batch. The juice is then reviewed by taste: judging for physical ripeness, richness of fruit, and acidity. Damien then times his pick, and captures the grapes in their perfect state of balance.
Our picking method is focused on bringing in only the best fruit; anything that does not meet our standards remains in the vineyard. Once picked, bunches are transported from the vineyard into the winery in small 10kg baskets to protect against any premature maceration in the field.
Individual baskets are tipped onto a mechanical sorting table, for a final opportunity to remove substandard fruit and non-grape matter. Once sorted, the grapes are either de-stemmed or crushed into small, open-top fermenters.
During the fermentation of red varietals, batches are hand-plunged or foot-stomped for delicate tannin extraction during fermentation. White varietals are almost entirely fermented in oak barrels for added complexity.
Once fermentation is complete, the grapes are basket pressed (a process favoured for it gentle separation of the wine from grape skins) before being transferred via gravity (instead of pump) into barrel.
Here in our underground cellar, the wine will complete malolactic fermentation in French oak barrels. The barrel age, size, and shape, as well as the maturation time, will be dependent on the variety and desired style. Once barrelled, the wine is matured for 10-24 months before final blending and bottling.
Damien Archibald – Winemaker
The main blocks are on North and West facing slopes and have excellent drainage. The ‘Triangle’ block is a unique terroir experiment in which the topsoil was removed and later replaced with the addition of 250 tonnes of limestone rubble. After replacement of the topsoil the block was ploughed and close planted with Pinot Noir on a 10,000 plant per hectare grid (one metre separation). The Chenin Blanc block is planted at the western edge of the property on a more alluvial site with North-South rows. The prevailing weather is West to Southwest during winter with warmer northerly winds during the ripening season. Annual rainfall is 600-700mm and significant hailstorms are rare.
The soils are gradational residual and colluvial soils developed from Devonian age marine sedimentary rocks deposited in the Palaeozoic era 350-410 million years ago. The thin organic rich topsoil is underlain by a silty loam 20-30cm in depth, lying atop a 10cm layer of residual gravel. Beneath this lies a mottled yellow/red zone rich in clay and mineral nutrients deposited by the illuviation process (rainwater seepage), a common feature of old soils. The soil pH is low and the upper silt layer is grey in colour.
Elevation is 120 meters. Aspect ranges from north-easterly to northern, north-westerly and westerly.
16 acres / 6.5 hectares