Top 5 Australian Pinot Noirs
Trust me to have a thing for the ficklest (read: most expensive) wine grape varietal. I love pinot noir for its complexity, subtlety, funky-earthy-barnyard aromas and soft fruit, for the way it marries with foods as diverse as duck, beetroot, tapenade, mushrooms and curries. It’s a challenging grape to grow, more prone to disease than many, and lower yielding than most. Its ancestral home is Burgundy, and where you find good pinot noir you’ll usually find good chardonnay. It requires cold climate and fanatical winemakers who love the challenge, and its Australian story is often one of pioneers such as Stephen George in the Adelaide Hills. While cheap pinot will never be worth drinking, many producers offer a range at different price points, the least expensive being good quaffers now, the dearer wines worth putting aside for a few years. In the words of Bloodwood’s Stephen Doyle: “Pinot noir of course, is still a pain! And with all proper pinot noirs, it costs twice what you want to pay for it and half what it actually costs us to produce.” Here are five well worth splashing out on.
Domain A 2009 Coal River Valley (Tas)
Hans-Peter Althaus retired from corporate life in Switzerland in 1989 and bought Stoney Vineyard outside Hobart, turning his hobby into a premier vineyard. His rich, bold pinots are released older than most, the 2009 has hints of liquorice and coffee and will live on for some time.
Paringa Estate 2013 Mornington Peninsula (Vic)
Lindsay McCall, who planted his vineyard in the mid-80s, focuses on three different ranges of pinot noir, chardonnay and shiraz, all punching well above their weight. His Estate pinot spends 11 months on lees in 40% new French oak and is earthy and mellow with a hint of dried cherries.
Bloodwood 2013 Orange (NSW)
Stephen and Rhonda Doyle have dedicated over 30 years to hand-crafting wines from Orange’s first commercial vineyard, which they planted in 1983. Almost everything is still done by their own hands, and it shows in pinot that is slightly funky, lean and elegant.
Ashton Hills Reserve 2014 Adelaide Hills (SA)
Stephen George planted grapes on an old market garden in the Piccadilly Valley in 1982, aiming ‘to make the country’s best pinot noir’. Today the vineyard produces three excellent pinots. The soft, spicy Estate has subtle fruit, while the smoky Reserve, with smooth firm tannins, will be even better in a few years.
Picardy 2014 Pemberton (WA)
Bill Pannell’s first wine was his 1996 pinot, from imported Burgundian clones. Today, working with son Dan, their cellar contains barrels from five forests and seven producers with six different toasting levels. Their slightly floral 2014 pinot has great structural acid, crying out for food. Tete de Cuvée is the one to cellar.
If you enjoy a good read … and don’t take wine too seriously … have a look at Stephen Doyle’s newsletters and tasting notes!