Chris Bendle made his first wine under his DCB label while working at Hoddles Creek Estate, in the Yarra Valley, under the watchful eye and with the active encouragement of winemaker Franco D’Anna. That was in the 2013 vintage, and only a few years into his now decade-long tenure at Hoddles as D’Anna’s right hand. Those first wines were a chardonnay and pinot noir, with nebbiolo making an appearance a little later, and that’s likely how it will stay. As he says, “I can’t see my focus changing from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (with the occasional dabble into Nebbiolo). Why tamper with perfection?”
Bendle grew up on the fringes of the Yarra Valley in Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs, and his growing interest in wine saw him take on cellar hand roles in various local wineries, including with Mac Forbes. Similar roles took him to Tasmania, New Zealand and the USA in the Pacific Northwest. But it was D’Anna that gave Bendle his big break into a legit winemaking role, taking him on in 2010. By that time, he’d gathered plenty of hands-on experience and honed his palate, but Bendle never found the time to study formally. As he says, “I’ll get around to that at some stage.”
While Bendle focuses on his multi-site DCB chardonnay and pinot noir, he also makes bottlings that celebrate single vineyards, as well as makes a foray into Mornington (single vineyard also) and bottles a 100 per cent whole bunch pinot noir. The wines walk a classic path, with low levels of new oak used and the complexity coming from site selection and use of site-sympathetic winemaking techniques. And while the sourcing fruit from across the Yarra gives Bendle plenty of options for DCB, it is owning his own vineyard that is the dream.
“The ultimate goal is of course to grow my own grapes on my own land. Working with growers across the Yarra is rewarding, as I get to see different soils, climates etc., but having the responsibility and final say on the wine from grape to bottle is definitely the direction I want to head,” he says.