I’m steadily making a dent in the sample pile at the moment, after getting massively behind after my little one was born.
She’s 8 weeks old now (and beautiful, in my completely unbiased opinion), so things have settled down a bit more. Kinda.
Anyway, let’s talk Pinot.
We’re now at a high point in the history of Australian Pinot Noir, no doubt, with wines better than ever before.
And for mine, a big part of the reason is that enough vines have been planted in the right place, with the right clones (and tended the right way), for long enough to produce great wines.
Indeed what’s often forgotten is that much of the plantings of Pinot Noir are recent, so vine age has been a key component missing from the Australian Pinot quality equation. There’s a smattering of old vines in the Hunter, Yarra and parts of Victoria (hello ancient Best’s plantings), but otherwise Pinot has only been ‘big’ in the last 25 years.
I did some digging (though stats are convoluted and spread across Wine Australia, the ABS for starters) and it appears plantings of Pinot Noir in Australia went from 1,407ha in 1996 to 4,804ha in 2016, or an increase of 3.41 times.
That’s notable because the national vineyard plantings for all winegrapes over the same period went from 63,132ha to 135,177 (or 2.14 times larger). Even with my suspect maths, you can see that Pinot Noir has enjoyed a planting boom (and by extension, a popularity boom).
Further, recent work with clones, planting density (a quality article by Max Allen on Jancis’ site on vine spacing) and canopy management (leaf plucking, trellising et al) has just served to push Pinot quality even further.
Want evidence? Here’s three Australian wines that have impressed me lately:
Montalto Red Hill Block Pinot Noir 2016
Simon Black at Montalto continues his streak of quality wines, even in the tricky, dry 2016 vintage. As the name suggests, this is from the Red Hill vineyard (drr Andrew, it’s in the title). Lovely, juicy raspberry shaped Pinot with low acidity and slurpable raspberry fruit. Perhaps a little syrupy and the tannins then kick in firmly (dry year tannins), but the power and sense of generosity contained is bang on. High quality. Best drinking: Now to five years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.8%, $65. Would I buy it? Well worth a bottle.
Soumah U. Ngumby Pinot Noir 2017
From a vineyard in the upper reaches of Yarra Glen, and shows the beauty of 2017 Pinot from a maker in a vein of form. Gentle glacé raspberry fruits, a lovely juicy palate in a generous mode. It’s packed with pinosity and the buxom, perfectly ripe and lively palate is just very inviting. So likeable. Best drinking: Now to five years too. 18/20 93/100. 13.25%, $38. Would I buy it? Yes.
Harewood Estate Denmark Pinot Noir 2018
Now this was a real surprise. Long time readers will know that I’m not a fan traditionally of Great Southern Pinot, so I didn’t expect much here. But gee it’s an immediately appealing red. Ripe red cherry a go go. It’s a riot of red glacé raspberry fruit. Really fun! Even comes with some buzzy acidity too. This is such open, red fruited Pinot. Even has real tannins. Great buy! Best drinking: Over the next 3 years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $20. Would I buy it? A bottle is $20 well spent.
This isn’t Australian, I realise that. But the quality is so high that it deserves inclusion here.
Nautilus Clay Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015
Nautilus, like many others have embraced the southern clay hillsides for Marlborough Pinot, with this red sourced from a vineyard in the Southern Valleys sub region. Although four years old you wouldn’t pick it as this is bright ruby red, the glossy fruit sitting beautifully, the barest hint of gamey, sappy flavours in a torrent of red fruit. This just pulsates Marlborough Pinot fleshiness, but with deeper, dark overtones, with depths below the surface to keep you enthralled. It built on me slowly this red, and every sip I found myself thinking ‘this is so convincing in its concentration’. Best drinking: Now and up to five years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.5%, $58. Would I buy it? I definitely would. A style I’d happily drink.