Below then is a list of the 22 Pinot Noir hits of the summer (misses will go into the roundup).
As the title suggests, this will be the last of these summer collections and I’ll go back to normal programming. Let me know any feedback, as ever.
Byrne Merricks Pinot Noir 2016
This is Alex Byrne’s first non Ballarat Pinot Noir and he nails it, even give the challenges of the vintage (where lots of ’16 Mornington Pinots look forward and flat). Wild fermented with 15% whole bunches, matured in 10% new oak for 11 months. Light red with an orange tinge, this captures that sappy ripe Mornington red fruit with the warm vintage adding a little bacon. There’s a great balance between more serious meaty, bunchy, deep red fruit and the raspberry fruit. Real power without looking warm. Long too. Nailed it. Best drinking: Good now, will be good for another five years easy. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.5%, $38. Would I buy it? Yes.
Home Hill Estate Pinot Noir 2015
This is a gloriously big-boned Tassie Pinot. The Home Hil wines all have a volume to them that seems non-Tassie. Or at least more like Tamar than Huon Valley. Here, the oversized flow of redcurrant fruit has a plushness and silky, vanilla oak kissed palate that is polished and flagship-esque. It’s a wine that just fills your mouth, without necessarily being overwrought. Just quality. Best drinking: It’s really going to be better in 2019, and should hold for at least six years after that. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.6%, $45. Would I buy it? Yes.
Shaw + Smith Pinot Noir 2016
Adelaide Hills Pinot too often suffers from a lack of delicacy, but the talented team at Shaw + Smith are certainly giving that a shake (no bullshit about the talent there either). It’s definitely a warm year wine, with a dash of bacon bits to remind of the ripeness. But otherwise this has a Pinosity that is welcome in every way. The acid feels right, the spicy edges are right. It’s just a really smartly made wine that I could easily drink, even if I want it to be just a little less bacony at the edges. Best drinking: Good now and should be in the zone for at least five or six years too. 18/20, 93/100. 13%, $46. Would I buy it? I’d drink most of a bottle.
Tapanappa Foggy Hill Pinot Noir 2016
Every year this wine gets a little more compelling, and the 2016 is amongt the best of the line. What sets this wine apart is a structure that is uncommon in Aussie Pinot. A wine framed in tannins and oak and extract. It’s too thick and robust to be confused with Burgundy – especially in 2016 – but the depth of plum liqueur fruit, quality and firm, though soft tannins mark this as a long term prospect. If anything this feels almost Martinborough-esque in 2016 with its robustness. There’s just a pinch of dried fruit on the finish, but the tannins make up for it. Quality and very serious wine. Best drinking: I’d wait until 2019 at least. It will still be going strong in 2026. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%, $55. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Bellvale Pinot Noir 2016
I havent’s seen anywhere near enough wine from Bellvale and this shows what I’m missing out on. It’s a shedload of Pinot Noir for $25. Great depth in this Gippsland Pinot, with a concentration that you see in dry-grown vineyards (and I love). Some whole bunch spice and a great depth of Bonox mushrooom raspberry flavour. Long too. It’s only medium bodied, but perfectly so. Best drinking: So tasty now, and should be at a peak for at least four years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13%, $25. Would I buy it? Yes.
Burton McMahon Syme on Yarra Pinot Noir 2016
Matt Burton and Dylan McMahon’s latest single vineyard Yarra Pinot and it’s a seriously elegant and fragrant wine, the redcurrant fruit very much given a light touch. It’s arguably a little underpowered, but the trade off is a wine of genuine grace, the acid perfectly integrated too. Best drinking: I can see this as better next year. Six years plus after that (light styles often age surprisingly well). 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $38. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Curly Flat The Curly Pinot Noir 2010
A great wine but in a slightly odd transitional phase. Light red with just a little hint of terracotta in the red edges. Tomato and bitter herbs, there’s a great contrast between firm, bitter tannins and that sour red fruit. This isn’t quite primary and only just becoming secondary. Supreme length, but not in the zone just yet. Score is a nod to the structure underneath. Best drinking: I’d wait at least a year. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.2%. Would I buy it? This came from my cellar and I have another bottle that I’ll hold onto.
Meadowbank Pinot Noir 2016
This has quite a show history and you can see why – it’s a very fresh and lithe modern Pinot. Light red coloured, it’s interesting to see just a hint of dried fruit in amongst the red cherry fruit (apparently two picks, one early and one later, hence the different flavours), the style otherwise very pretty, fresh and frisky. I found myself looking for the next layer beyond the lively fruit, a nod that it isn’t quite showing its wares just yet. Another effortlessly good drinking wine regardless. Best drinking: Enjoyable now, but another year or two in bottle might help. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 13%, $55. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Passing Clouds Kilmore Pinot Noir 2016
From a 27yo vineyard at Kilmore, which lies just outside the Macedon GI. There’s a real contrast here, the fruit is almost purple in its glossy plum juiciness. Yet the palate feels just a fraction pointed, the acid a counterpoint to the fruit generosity. The result is a wine that feels like its ripeness is on a knife edge – fresh, yet trying to be fuller and juicier. I quite liked it, but I can see it might be divisive too. That purple fruit could be so seductive if it all comes together. Interesting wine regardless. Best drinking: Later this year, then it will live for at least five years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13%, $29. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle, maybe more.
Scotchmans Hill Pinot Noir 2015
There’s great information on the back of the Scotchmans labels. Hello wine nerd heaven! This includes 15% whole bunches. Yield 2.5t/acre. Meaty and sausagey nose, like I see in Bellarine Shiraz normally. Has a real open fleshiness, the alcohol giving the impression it’s higher than 13.5%, the fruit powdery and squishy, though with a bunchy edge. I really like the open, squishy red plum fruit here – it’s an immediately likeable, softly generous Pinot. Almost too soft and round. Easy to like and not short either. The second glass was even better. Best drinking: 2019 for a start. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $35. Would I buy it? I’d drink a bottle no problem.
Terre á Terre Summertown Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016
The latest Pinot from the Terre á Terre stable, this time from the Adelaide Hills. It’s a serious wine, the 50% new oak putting a stamp on things and the tannins just as admirable. It’s perhaps a fraction too chunky and syrupy but the concentration here propels it forward. It’s always going to be a heady wine, but gee it will evolve in the cellar. Best drinking: Wait until next year at least. In a decade this will still be going. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 13.9%, $40. Would I buy it? A glass now.
Tinpot Hut Marlborough Pinot Noir 2014
Tinpot Hut shot to fame with a Sauv Blanc that Decanter gave a million points too. I still don’t get how that happened, but the wines are smart. This Pinot has great intensity – nothing light and lean about this juicy, plum fruited red. It’s perhaps a bit broad through the middle without quite the tannins to match, but such delicious expansive fruit brings you back every time. Marlborogh mid palate at its ripe best. Best drinking: Good to go now and for the next 3-4yrs. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $34.95. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Villa Maria Southern Clays Pinot Noir 2012
This is at the end of its peal drinking window for mine, but there’s a proper concentration to mark a quality wine. Cherry fruit, black earth, grippy tannins, the fruit is on the way out, the leafy autumn on the way in. Still, the tannins, the length – it’s a compelling wine. A bold Pinot, even, that at first glance you wouldn’t pick as necessarily Marlborough. Quality. Best drinking: Drink up. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%. Would I buy it? I’d have a glass.
Bellvale Quercus Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014
The more premium Bellvale Pinot and a step up in concentration. I prefer the vitality of the Estate Pinot for mine, as this has more whole bunch spice and tomato leaf wildness, but is also more astringent, drying and ferrous. Great tannic length and impressive weight, but it’s just a little hulking to be truly great. Best drinking: It will continue to evolve for years. Probably better next year then a good eight years later. 17.5/20, 91/100. 12.5%, $35. Would I buy it? A glass.
Burton McMahon Gippsland Pinot Noir 2016
From the Lightfoot & Sons Vineyard. Light ruby tending orange, it’s shaped by acidity and a really ferrous palate, the style almost a bold dry Pinot Rosé. It’s v. serious, arguably too much for the fruit weight, though the length is very good indeed. Not an easy wine, but I can see the point of a spicy wine like this. Best drinking: Likely better next year. How long it will live for is an open question. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%, $38. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Home Hill Kelly’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2015
What a contrast to the Home Hill Pinot. This is clarly so ambitious but it feels just a fraction overwrought. Deep ruby coloured, the broad red fruit flavours on the palate thickly laid on. Punch rather than silk, with raspberry syrup on the edges. Viewed on its own this is a tidy, powerful Pinot. But the balance just isn’t there compared to the less serious Home Hill Pinot. Best drinking: 2019 and then it will live for the best part of a decade. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.9%, $75. Would I buy it? I’d drink a few glasses.
Montalto Pennon Hill Pinot Noir 2016
Another very handy Pinot under this label – $28 well spent. Definitely riper and juicier this year with a dash VA and then plump, raspberry coullis fruit and soft tannins. Fun wine, if a little wam. Best drinking: Good from now and then at least 3 years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.6%, $28CD. Would I buy it? I’d buy for sure. Well priced and well made.
Neudorf Moutere Pinot Noir 2015
The Moutere has taken on an even more seriousness in recent vintages, and this 2015 is just driven by structure, the flavours all smoky bacon fat and cloves, the tannins extractive and arguably too firm. Where’s the fruit? That said, the tannins drive this wine on and on. What will happen from here is anyone’s guess. Points are for length as much as anything. Best drinking: Wait. Then someone open a bottle and report back in two years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.5%, $60. Would I buy it? Not yet.
Poole’s Rock Premiere Pinot Noir 2014
Poole’s Tamar Valley Pinot. Juicy and ripe raspberry fruit with a vanilla oak lacquer. If anything this has a sweetness and richness that is too much; the oak gives a sweet vanilla swathe, the ripe cherry fruit palate is generous and full but also sweet fruited. Still, lots of flavour and good intensity, even if it’s feels too ripe and sweet fruited to be truly great. Best drinking: Good now and for at least three years yet. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.5%, $45. Would I buy it? A glass.
Soumah Equilibrio Pinot Noir 2016
This is a curious wine – it’s both ripe and plummy, yet it’s still light. Interesting. A blend of the best barrels at Soumah, with three clones from the Hexham Vineyard. Just 200 dozen made. Plum ruby, it’s all spice and bark with a little plum liqueur. Given the alcohol it’s still understated but indeed plush with a flash of caramel oak sweetness, the finish elegant too. That oak is a big part of why this only partly works. Underneath it’s a lovely elegant Yarra Pinot. Points here for what is clearly a good wine coming together. Best drinking: 2019 onwads. 17.5/20, 91/100. 12.5%, $68. Would I buy it? Not yet.
Stoneleigh Latitude Marlborough Pinot Noir 2015
You want to see the simple seduction of Marlborough Pinot? Here. It’s still purple coloured, the fruit lavishly juicy with a whiff of cinnamon, milky oak through the middle before a vaguely bitter finish. This is genuinely quality Pinot for very few dollars. Simple, but generous fruit and really surprising punch. Good stuff at a fantastic price. Best drinking: Good for the next 3 years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, $22.99. would I buy it? Yes. A very likeable wine.
Stoneleigh Wild Valley Marlborough Pinot Noir 2015
A step down from the Latitude in concentration, but shares much in style, with bright red raspberry fruit, the barest suggestion of oak and then actual tannins and a warm finish. What power for a sub $20 wine! It’s a bit drying to finish, but gee this packs in a heap. Best drinking: Now. 17/20, 90/100. 14%, $19.99. Would I buy it? Sure would.