Winemaker & owner, Dave Mackintosh, is a Kiwi with Scottish heritage. Arfion simply means ‘our wine’ in Scottish Gaelic.
Dave’s 12 years of winemaking experience spans from cutting his teeth on Pinot Noir & Chardonnay during Oyster Bay’s huge growth period (’01-’05) to tutelage under PJ Charteris at Brokenwood & five years at Giant Steps. Plus spells at Villa Maria, Montana, vintages working with Pinot Noir specifically in Oregon & Morey St Denis. Now making wine for himself in as limited releases as single barrel projects, an impressive swag of Pinot Noir & Gris projects, & a fun-filled range of playful, juicy wines under the Smokestack Lightning label, Dave’s intellect & will to let wine make itself as much as possible, is just the kind of thing that grabs my attention.
The Arfion wines stand apart from not just larger production labels but also from an array of various garagiste projects from ambitious & oftentimes experimental winemakers. These are solidly made, exciting wines with incredible tension, texture & drive. Production is indeed small. The very limited range presented here shows a spread of ideas - from playful, juicy skin contact whites (amber & pink) under the Smokestack Lightening label, to Arfion’s clean modern classic approach to Chardonnay, crunchy, savoury Pinot Grigio, complex & dry Pinot Noir Rose and an electrified / ethereal Pinot Noir of extreme individuality & confidence, these wines are far from experimental and Mackintosh shows us here that he is indeed a mature winemaker.
The structure of these wines comes from good viticulture, intelligent timing for picking, and the resolve to allow wine to raise itself uninterrupted. Picking Chardonnay & Pinot Noir marginally earlier than the Yarra norm shows nervy acidity & moderate alcohols. Plush fruit phenolics & tannin are preserved through minimal movement and the judicious use of wood.