Bondar & Bannockburn Brilliance

Established in 2012, Bondar is the vision of husband-and-wife team Andre Bondar and Selina Kelly.  Andre, with a history as a winemaker in the Adelaide Hills and Selina with a background in marketing and law, have planted roots (literally) in the north of McLaren Vale, Their new home is the Rayner Vineyard on Chalk Hill Road, where plantings of old bush vine Grenache and Shiraz vines up to 65-years-old are already in play, while newer, closer planted Counoise (one of the 13 Châteauneuf varieties) has been recently planted, and Mataro, Carignan and Cinsault are on the horizon. 

Note the Bondar Violet Hour hails from the Rayner vineyard that once produced Brokenwood’s Rayner Vineyard Shiraz – how do Bondar do this for half the price… perhaps we should not ask!

“There must be a bit of magic behind Bondar. All of the wines have an ethereal quality” Jane Faulkner, Halliday Wine Companion

Any new wine from Bannockburn is something to get excited about, but a new close-planted Chardonnay on established rootstocks, which also happens to be Bannockburn first organically certified wine? The Grigsby Chardonnay project began in the spring of 2018: the grafting over of what winemaker Matt Holmes calls the “frustratingly variable” Tahbilk Shiraz clone in the 0.8-hectare De La Roche block (planted in 2007). Speaking to the style of this first release, Holmes asserts that it’s a wine of “more purity than power” and, with quantities so small (just two hogsheads), he couldn’t be too choosy with the winemaking, so there is no new oak influence. By contrast, the 2022 vintage volume doubled—a testament to vine health—giving Holmes a bit more wiggle room in the winemaking regard, but that’s a story for next year.

Staying with the original De La Roche block, today also sees the 2018 De La Roche Shiraz release. This wine is not released yearly. Holmes also releases this wine after considerable time in bottle, telling us “all the wines benefit from a little bit of time”, with the De La Roche Shiraz (the most savoury Shiraz expression in the range) gaining particular benefit. He’s happy to see the wine released in a more relaxed state, with the fruit flavours settled and the inherent savoury characters integrated. With this wine, Holmes is also deploying less new oak, finding that the block’s fruit quality and definitive site expression make the inclusion of new oak less necessary. Once again, Holmes has made all the right calls: the 2018 is the finest Shiraz made from this close-planted vineyard yet.

As to the 2021 S.R.H Chardonnay, what can we say? This wine needs little introduction suffice to say, this is one of the finest single-site Chardonnays made in Australia and 2021 is a great vintage. The only negative to note is that 2021 was a low-yielding year—so fair warning!