Meet the 2019 vintage of our Premier Pinot Noir and Premier Chardonnay, and the winemaker, Kaspar Hermann, who is responsible for them.
The 2019 release of the Premier range of wines from Rochford holds a very special meaning for winemaker Kaspar Hermann. They mark his first vintage at Rochford in the Yarra Valley, and he recalls it as being a bit of a baptism of fire. He arrived a few short weeks before the start of vintage, which was a compressed one at that, so it was certainly an intense, memorable introduction to the range of wines. These two wines – the Premier Pinot Noir and Premier Chardonnay – sit at the top of the Rochford range and are known for consistently being some of the best and most age-worthy wines we produce.
Kaspar is passionate about the wines he produces and serious about getting the best out of their sites. He’s a true believer of the old adage that great wines are made in the vineyard, saying, ‘The work’s really been done for me before the fruit arrives at the winery. I’ve just got to make sure I don’t stuff it up.’
There’s certainly a lot more to winemaking than not stuffing up, but Kaspar is a firm believer in minimal intervention winemaking, which is one of the things that attracted him to the Yarra Valley in the first place. ‘Pinot is my favourite variety followed closely by chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon,’ he says. ‘I’m lucky to have access to all of my favourite varieties in a region focused on great wine.’
One of the best things about working at Rochford, he says, is the incredible vineyard sites he has access to. ‘My goal is to get a little more vineyard and winery balance in my work as it really helps me understand the potential of certain sites, but also the challenges to the health and wellbeing of the vines in other areas. If we can understand this, it will help make the challenging years more manageable and successful.’
Kaspar’s holistic approach to winemaking was built on the solid foundation of a viticulture degree that he studied straight out of school. His enthusiasm for comprehensive vineyard programs, which grew from this education, helps him make wines, ‘Just out of grapes.’
Speaking of grapes, the site from which the Premier Pinot Noir 2019 site is taken is a unique parcel of fruit. It’s a one-acre, ten-row parcel of MV6 clone pinot noir, which has a unique boysenberry fruit character. This section was planted in the mid-eighties and has quite small bunches, so the structure in this wine is definitely more pronounced. It’s a wine that will reward those with patience. ‘It’s got plenty left in the tank for ageing,’ says Kaspar, ‘but it’s still good to go if you want to drink it now.’ And for food? It’d be perfect with the tried-and-true duck combination but, as Kaspar points out, ‘Not many people really cook duck at home, so the simplicity of Japanese cuisine would be my recommendation for food pairing.’
The Premier Chardonnay 2019 hails from the coveted Gembrook site in the Upper Yarra. The fruit here always has a great backbone of natural acidity, so it lends itself well to that famous, more minerally style of chardonnay. ‘The fruit is ‘fresh, textured and flavour intense,’ says Kaspar, with a portion of the wine going through malolactic fermentation. This isn’t to make the wine something it’s not, but rather used as a tool to tone and balance the acidity. The resulting wine will age for anywhere from five to ten years, but it’s certainly a wine to enjoy now. And while pairing this chardonnay offers a lot more flexibility due to the lean style, Kaspar recommends something quite simple, like roast chicken. ‘You can offer the most fancy and elaborate pairings in the world,’ he says, ‘but I think the simplicity of roast chicken is honestly something that people can really relate to.’
Kaspar hopes, along with the entire Rochford team, that you enjoy drinking these two newly released wines as much as he’s enjoyed making them. For him, they are confirmation of a bright future for the estate, particularly after the challenges of 2020. ‘Working through the pandemic has shown that when the hospitality industry comes to a grinding halt, the wine remains constant,’ he says. ‘It’s my goal to make great wine here, and for people to notice how good Rochford’s wines are beyond the dazzle of the amazing events we host.’