Undoubtedly one of our finest winemakers, David Bicknell’s recent releases of pinot noir and chardonnay have earned him this accolade propelling him into Australian winemaking royalty.
A passionate devotee of the Yarra Valley, a fervent pursuer of quality, a believer in the expression of unique vineyard sites and the architect of mesmerising, age-worthy wines with intricate layers and symphony-like harmony, David Bicknell, chief winemaker at Oakridge, is celebrated for his substantial contribution to the Australian wine landscape.
Throughout his career, he has charted his own course when it comes to wine style, driven by the might of his convictions. He entered the wine industry at a time where big and bold meant better, but his astute palate lead him down an alternate path, where elegance, refinement and complexity were at the fore of his quest.
When swimming against the tide, the journey is never easy. Bicknell’s candid, and sometimes divergent, views have at times been polarising. However, he has successfully navigated his way to the point where his wines now do the talking. Focus, in its many guises, has been the hallmark of Bicknell’s success.
The two core varieties in the Oakridge range are chardonnay and pinot noir. The portfolio also includes pinot gris, arneis, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet merlot, shiraz, pinot meunier and sparkling.
The pinnacle is the impressive 864 label, sourced from single blocks. Next is the Local Vineyard Series, which showcases particular vineyards throughout the Yarra Valley and represents excellent quality and value. Entry-level wines are in the Over the Shoulder range.
Bicknell’s chardonnays are beautifully composed, made with hand-picked, whole-bunch pressed grapes, minimally handled, and employing extended lees maturation and careful oak handling. They have restrained stone-fruit flavours, bright acidity and moderate alcohol with subtle savouriness, impressive depth and texture. The top wines have notable ageing potential. It is these progressive and contemporary wines, such as the Oakridge 864 Chardonnay, which have propelled Australian chardonnay onto the world stage.
Oakridge pinot noirs are also impressive; fragrant and expressive, made from hand-harvested fruit fermented in open vats. Skillful barrel ageing allows the oak to play a mere supporting role. The top wines are alluring when young, though can also be cellared in the short- to mid-term.
The appeal of the Oakridge wines is far reaching. They are well-supported by Australian sommeliers with inclusion in the country’s top wine lists. They also have a stunning show record, boasting almost thirty trophies and over a hundred gold medals. Bicknell himself is a keen show judge. He was Chairman of Judges at the Melbourne Wine Show from 2011 to 2013 and is the current chair of the Royal Queensland Wine Show.
Together with wife Nicky Harris, who studied and worked in viticulture, Bicknell also produces chardonnay and pinot noir under their family label Applecross.
Bicknell is also one of the founders of the Victorian Pinot Noir Workshop, established in 2001, where Victorian pinot noir producers are invited to submit their wines for analysis and blind sensory assessment, as well as attend masterclasses and tastings on the variety. The aim is to ‘improve the breed’ of local pinot noir.
Bicknell began his winemaking journey at De Bortoli in 1992 where he worked for a decade. During this period, he also gained an insight into French winemaking in the regions of Burgundy, Alsace and Beaujolais with respective producers Louis Latour, Paul Blanck & Chateau Du Bluizard. Bicknell moved to Oakridge in late 2002 where he has spent the past 15 years developing and refining the consistently impressive set of wines. He works with assistant winemaker Tim Perrin and owner directors Ilana Atlas and Tony D’Aloisio. Bicknell was crowned dux of the 2005 Len Evans Tutorial and was a Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year finalist in 2008.
With around 25 Yarra Valley vintages under his belt, David Bicknell is recognised as one of Australia’s finest winemakers and is a well-deserving recipient of the 2017 Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year accolade