Born and raised in Gippsland, William ‘Bill’ Downie has been making wine since the late 1990s. His journey began at his home region, working at Bass Phillip, before a quick stint at De Bortoli in the Yarra Valley where he completed the 2001 vintage as a cellar hand. After vintage, Bill moved to Burgundy for four years, though returned to De Bortoli for several vintages, during which he launched his eponymous label in 2003.
The first wines under the William Downie Label were vinified at De Bortoli and were a range of regionally expressive Pinot Noirs; one wine each from Gippsland, the Mornington Peninsula and the Yarra Valley. In 2005, Bill returned home with his wife, Rachel, settling into a cosy and fully functioning farm, now dubbed Guendulain Farm. From 2005 to 2016 the William Downie wines were vinified and raised in the dirt floor winery adjacent to Bill and Rachel’s home.
In 2017, Bill and his friend and colleague, Patrick Sullivan, took over the Wild Dog winery and 11Ha spread across five distinct sites in the Baw Baw Shire of Gippsland. Vinification has moved to Wild Dog but the barrels are returned to Guendulain Farm for elevage.
The 2018 release is a time of great excitement: the old meets the new. Two Gippsland wines present contrasting styles but are equally enjoyable. As Bill puts it, one wine is a culmination of 16 years work; the other is a glimpse into a new beginning.
The 16 year journey is the Gippsland Pinot Noir, the most enjoyable and drinkable release to date. It’s a blend of purchased fruit from the Matthews Vineyard, which has been a consistent fruit source for this wine for many years, and fruit from the new collection of estate vineyards Camp Hill and Milstream. It is irresistibly bright and pure.
The Baw Baw Shire Pinot Noir is from the Bull Swamp and Manilla vineyards, two of the five estate sites. The vines are 38 and 35 years old respectively. The wine offers a sense of depth and texture which is only possible with dry grown, old vines. This is a new level of complexity for the label.
All five sites across the stable of vineyards secured by Bill and Pat will be certified Biodynamic in conversion by June. Bill’s tasting notes follow.
Pinot Noir 2018
Bright raspberry, cherry and rhubarb with raspberry leaf, red earth and spice. The wine is bright, precise and detailed. On the palate is savoury and moreish with a sinewy, linear structure and bright, crunchy acidity.
Baw Baw Shire
Pinot Noir 2018
Dense and complex with rich red and dark fruits including ripe cherry, plum and blackcurrant as well as cinnamon and earth. The palate is dense and chewy with bright acidity. It is textured & very long with great definition. This is a classic fine wine that is built for long ageing.