This month, it’s all about Pinot Noir here at Graham HQ, just because we like drinking it. And you’d have to argue that the best Pinot Noir in Australia almost exclusively comes from Victoria (with a few Tasmanian and even fewer South Australian interlopers) so let’s focus on that.
Broadly, the highlights here come from the (generally) classic 2017, ideal 2015 and good (if warm) 2018 vintages. 2016 was tricky for many producers (drought year, some dried out wines) and remains the outlier.
Of course they’re just broad generalisations and there is great Pinot Noir to be had from all through 2015-2018. If I had just one vintage to champion, however, it would be the perfect 2017s.
Curly Flat Pinot Noir 2017
Matt Harrop has stepped straight into the hotseat at Curly Flat and is producing frankly delicious wines, just like this one. Masculine Curly but with excellent acidity. Succulent raspberry, a lacquer of rich oak. Flavour! A big wine for Macedon. But acidity. Red raspberries. Carefully balanced tension between raspberry fruit and acidity. And very convincing. Best drinking: now and will be good for five years plus. 18.7/20, 95/100. 13.3%, $52. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Levantine Hill Colleen’s Paddock Pinot Noir 2015
Another very clever, high-quality wine under this label. The prices are madness, the quality is not. Finessed, red raspberry fruit is still primal – it could be 2017, not 2015! Sappy redcurrant is vinous and varietal and pure, classy oak folds in nicely. This is beautiful, fine and smoky, fine-tuned Pinot with just the right amount of stem tannins, just the right amount of fruit and acidity. Professional winemaking and quality fruit at every point. Best drinking: now and the plateau will go for five years plus. 18.7/20, 95/100. 13%, $200. Would I buy it? A bit rich for me.
Bellvale Quercus Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017
This is a bargain. I always think about how much more concentration you get in mature, dry-grown vineyards and it is writ large here. Lovely, red-fruit laden Gippsland Pinot with raspberry fruit, fine fine tannins and a moreish personality. So seductive and clean, yet also unequivocably concentrated. Village Burgundy eat your heart out! Seriously, you could pay double and get less wine than this. Best drinking: now and for up to five years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.5%, $35. Would I buy it? Heck yes.
Oakridge Vineyard Series Willowlake Pinot Noir 2017
Yet another top Oakridge wine. I feel like a broken record. Straddles the balance between delicacy and more serious structural elements. Red currant, a little bacon, the juiciness offset by light furry tannins. Substantial Pinot yet beautiful too. Poised and substantial. Best drinking: good now and for at least five years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.3%, $42. Would I buy it? Yes.
Bird on a Wire Pinot Noir 2018
More quality. Did I miss the crossover to a black label? There’s a contrasting character here – between a palate that is angling towards spicy and elegant yet still pushes towards glycerol rich red fruit ripeness. The result is layered and lush, just on the right side of the ripeness scale. Good form. Best drinking: good now and over the next few years. Drink younger. 18/20, 93/100. 13.2%, $55. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
First Foot Forward Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2018
I was banging on the other day about The ’18 Tokar Estate wines, and here is Martin Siebert’s own project. And what a well-priced, smart wine. Light colours, light flavours, but vinous and pure. Varietal, primary fruit-laden, the flavours wandering between more open red fruit, then off to more savoury mushrooms, a passing note of vanilla and then a lithe, flirting with firmness tannins. Lovely, poised, medium-weight, pretty yet not facile Pinot. And the price? Jeebus. Best drinking: now to five years 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%, $28. Would I buy it? Yes!!
Gippsland Wine Company Calulu Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018
A new name to me and promising early. This Pinot comes from a plot near Bairnsdale (and close to the coast). Red ruby meets a little purple. It’s a bony, yet ripe Pinot that sees a contrast of flavours. It’s almost syrupy through the middle, but it’s also twiggy and whole bunch spicy and anything but sweet-fruited. Dried spices, tannins, acidity. Push. Pull. It works though, even if the tannins through the finish are a bit leafy. Quality. Quality and promise for the label. Best drinking: now and for six odd years plus. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%, $40. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle.
Mount Monument Pinot Noir 2016
Another new name, and promise (again). From a block planted in 1998 at Romsey, 620m up in the Macedon Ranges owned by Melbourne Architect Nonda Katsalidis & partner Eleni Arbus. Incidentally, the Mount Monument 6 pack box folds up to be a wine stool. Made by ex De Bortoli (and now Galli) winemaker Ben Rankin. Wild fermented, with 40% whole bunches. 12 months in 30% new oak. Despite the low alcohol, there is the syrupy texture and subtle smoky warmth of ‘16, the flavours tending to raspberry cough medicine, punctuated by smoky stem influence. A real creeper this – at first it seems a bit firm and raw, but there’s a smouldering spiciness too. In a phase, perhaps, but length and peppery punch. Interest, no doubt. Best drinking: next year and for at least five years. 18/20, 93/100. 13%, $40. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Oakridge Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2018
2018 is shaping up to be a strong red vintage in the Yarra (though I’m mixed on the whites – some broader wines floating around). This is very well priced too. Generous Yarra Pinot with the flesh of 2018. Bright strawberry fruit, light tannins, lots of flesh. It’s pretty and juicy, round but not too round, the balance about perfect. Lovely wine. Best drinking: nowish but will hold for a few years. I’d open it sooner rather than later. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Tokar Estate Pinot Noir 2018
Instructional to try in the same breath as the First Foot Forward. A real juiciness here, and a lovely balance with red raspberry fruit, a real languid nature, a high note of raspberry and a whisper of pepper. It’s more juicy and maybe a little softer than the First Foot Forward, though both are attractive (and tasty). Maybe lacks just a little acidity. But so open and easy. Yum. Best drinking: now. No need to wait. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Yes.
Passing Clouds Estate Pinot Noir 2018
Macedon Pinot from the Passing Clouds vineyard. Such a backward wine. It puts some kirsch fruit up, but it’s reluctant, the palate compact and brooding, the tannins a late dark hit with a little herbs. Serious Pinot but it’s not quite composed yet – just missing that final beat to make it great. Best drinking: likely better next year and will be going for six plus years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.4%, $47. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Soumah Pinot Noir 2018
The entry level Soumah Pinot and its a likeable wine. Bright red raspberry fruit with a little bark and mulch, the style just medium bodied and with a sappy, almost crunchy charm though with the glycerol ripeness of a warm year. Handy, stylish Pinot with lots of charm at a very good price. Best drinking: now to four years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13%, $28. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Sunshine Creek Pinot Noir 2016
Given the challenges of ’16 this a good result. Generous, warm year Yarra Pinot. Flush with dried raspberries, a whiff of bark. The tannins are just a bit firm, but the body and the ripe earthy berries are on point. Maybe a little bold and drying. Great concentration though. Best drinking: now but the tannins are there for it to last for five years easy. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $?. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Balgownie Estate White Label Pinot Noir 2017
A change in style for this Balgownie Pinot. More bones, less body weight. Coppery colour, and a quite ferrous high acid palate. Crunch and vinous here, if almost too lean. Has length of flavour though. Good. Best drinking: likely better next year, and will keep up for five year. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%, $45. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Williams Crossing Pinot Noir 2017
Affable and very well priced Macedon Pinot. Benefited from a half hour in the fridge, interestingly. Despite the low alcohol this has a plump raspberry lift through the middle, the style juiicy with background spice, the light and fun with little tannins and lots of juiciness. Really appealing if a little short. Best drinking: now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.3%, $29. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Balgownie Estate Black Label Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2017
Fascinating that this looks rounder and riper than the White Label. Light ruby. Ripe raspberry fruit, a little mint and a shell of vanilla oak. The fruit tends a little broad through the middle, soft and squishy flavours then a palate that feels warmer than 13%. Friendly, if not quite the balance and top notes. Best drinking: nowish. 17/20, 90/100. 13%, $25. Would I buy it? A glass or so.