Murdoch Hill has been in the Downer family since 1939 but vines were first planted here only in 1998. The farm is on the eastern side of the Adelaide Hills in the Onkaparinga Valley, with 21 hectares of vineyard on shallow red loam soils packed with schist and limestone and up to 516 metres above sea level. Since taking over the winemaking reins in 2012, Michael Downer has taken the farm’s wines to similar heights.
The 2017 Artisan Series Surrey Pinot Meunier is from a high altitude vineyard at 525 metres in the Piccadilly Valley, planted in 1996. This altitude means cool nights, a long hang time for the grapes and therefore beautiful natural acidity.
There's a high proportion of whole bunches in the natural fermentation (roughly 40 per cent) in small open vats. The wine was matured in barrique and puncheons, some older French oak and 20 per cent new Austrian Stockinger oak for 6 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Pinot Meunier isn't a variety you see often made into a red wine like this. Better known as the minor player in Champagne behind Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this fruit-forward red grape when made as a red wine delivers lovely and bright fruit flavours, good acidity and a vibrant feel.
Michael names his Artisan Series wines after different carriages in tribute to his grandfather T.E. Downer (1913-1984), a passionate collector of horse drawn vehicles. Each wine is named after a carriage type that reflect's the style. The Surrey is a popular choice of carriage for moving up to six passengers, its rigid frame and open sides making for a solid ride with a feeling of freedom.