Ah, Australian pinot noir. So passionately followed by few yet so deeply misunderstood by many.
Previously I held the belief that Victoria had a stranglehold on Australia's finest pinot noirs, but recent Tasmanian examples from makers like Stefano Lubiana, Bay of Fires, Freycinet and Tamar Ridge have forced me to reconsider.
I tend to find pinot noir is a forgotten variety among Australian drinkers, who sometimes don't realise there is a softer, lighter, more elegant and gentle alternative to the full-throttled, aggressively tannic shiraz/cabernet wines so common to our country. Being a young wine consumer I often encounter fellow drinkers who tell me they don't like reds, but enjoy a rose. Where possible I have directed these people towards pinot noir, often with positive results.
For my back reviews I've chosen the 2007 Bay of Fires, 2008 De Bortoli Windy Peak, 2007 Farr Rising (Geelong), Riposte's 2007 The Sabre, Stonier's 2008 and Tamar Ridge's 2007 Kayena Vineyard.
Pay attention here to how far Tasmanian pinot has come, how farr(!) Nick Farr's wines have come, and what incredible value De Bortoli's Windy Peak is. A better $10 Aussie pinot I've never seen!
BAY OF FIRES PINOT NOIR 2007
- Region: Coal River/Pipers River/Tamar Valley, TAS
- Price: $31-$43
Largely due to excellent wine quality Bay of Fires has proven a real success for the Constellation group. I'd have no hesitation in naming them one of Tasmania's best wineries.
From what was a pretty handy season for Tassie pinot, the 2007 Bay of Fires presents a vibrantly sweet fragrance of compelling charm. Opening to confectionary aromas of liqueur cherry, strawberry, musky rose petals, bubblegum and light spice; it revels in its youthfulness. Genuinely silky in mouthfeel, its harmoniously balanced palate contains beautifully precise, carefully restrained young pinot fruit flavours in the juicy, sweet red spectrum. It finishes clean and fresh, with valid cool climate spices and supple tannins gently tip-toeing throughout the mouth.
ü+ Brightly lit, balanced, elegant and precise; a truly delicious, if not astoundingly complex, young Tasmanian pinot noir. Drink to 2013.
DE BORTOLI WINDY PEAK PINOT NOIR 2008
- Region: Victoria
- Price: $8-$15
It's unusual for a $10 pinot to collect any meaningful accolades to say the least, so when De Bortoli's 2008 Windy Peak was included in James Halliday's Top 100 whilst notching up 92 points, I was overcome by curiosity.
Incredibly varietal for such an inexpensive pinot, its simple yet expressive nose reveals smart tones of sweet cherries and undergrowth, with a touch of gentle spice. Smooth and supple upon entry, the light-medium bodied palate shows a more savoury red fruit profile, which while retaining some sweetish edges, it still finishes dry with tingly acids wrapping around its uncomplicated base.
ü+ The 2008 De Bortoli Windy Peak is about as delicious and accurate a pinot noir as your wildest desires could dream up for $10, however, it just lacks the polish and stuffing to truly complete with the big boys. Great call Halliday! Drink now.
FARR RISING PINOT NOIR 2007
- Region: Geelong, VIC
- Price: $34-$43
Farr Rising is the winemaking venture of Nick Farr, son of ex-Bannockburn supremo Gary Farr. Regrettably, I've been disappointed with some of Bannockburn's recent pinots, but after drinking Farr Rising's excellent 2006 Mornington (91pts)and 2007 Geelong Pinot Noirs, I suspect Farr Rising is indeed a Farr in rising!
Fragrant and perfumed, with lifted aromas of cherries, stalk, peppermint and fresh cedar, Farr Rising's 2007 Geelong Pinot Noir is laden with compelling texture and persistence of flavour throughout its palate. Rounded, almost juicy and very polished nuances of smoked meats and red fruit are framed by soft, supple tannins and clean acids, before delving into a savoury finish which exudes brightness and vitality.
ü+ A very complete pinot noir which handsomely ticks all the boxes. Drink to 2014.
RIPOSTE THE SABRE PINOT NOIR 2007
- Region: Adelaide Hills, SA
- Price: $27-$34
No longer affiliated with Knappstein in the Clare Valley, Australian wine legend Tim Knappstein now makes wine for his own Adelaide Hills based Riposte. At present his best wines are a sauvignon blanc and the Sabre Pinot Noir, of which, the 2007 Sabre has received great praise from South Australia's wine media.
Vivid crimson, it unfolds to a sweetly fruited fragrance of red plums, cherry, strawberry musk and light spice, with excellent support provided by a delightfully toasty extract of cedar oak. Very clean and polite, with charming savoury undertones woven throughout its definitive red fruit flavours, the brightly lit palate finishes with refreshing acidity and hints of undergrowth. Precise overall balance benefits its gentle, fruit forward characteristics.
ü+ Beautifully uncomplicated drinking; a real bargain South Aussie pinot from a winemaking marvel. Drink to 2011.
STONIER PINOT NOIR 2008
- Region: Mornington Peninsula, VIC
- Price: $17-$26
The Japanese brewing company Kirin has recently announced a takeover bid for Stonier's parent company Lion Nathan. Such iconic Australian wineries as Petaluma, St Hallet, Knappstein, Tatachilla, Mitchelton and Stonier in Japanese hands?! What a crazy place the modern wine industry is!
Thin and substantially ripened, with a leafy aroma of prunes, black cherry and smoky ashtray-like oak, Stonier's 2008 Pinot Noir presents a light-bodied palate, which delivers somewhat burnt, dark earth flavours with an extract of sour edged, astringent acidity. Its soft, pleasantly fluffy mouthfeel is a fleeting highlight.
X The over ripe 2008 is yet another disappointing Stonier Pinot Noir to me. A shame really, as it's very popular with retail outlets and restaurant wine lists. Drink to 2011.
TAMAR RIDGE KAYENA VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2007
- Region: Tamar Valley, TAS
- Price: $20-$36
Tamar Ridge currently runs under the watchful eye of the highly esteemed Dr Andrew Pirie. A true icon in Tasmanian wine, some of Dr Pirie's achievements include establishing the Pipers Brook winery as well as becoming Australia's first PhD in viticulture.
Sourced exclusively from the Kayena vineyard in Tasmania's north, this 2007 Pinot Noir opens to gentle aromas of red fruits and dark cherry, with a lightly spiced influence of sweet, minty oak and stalk. Velvet smooth, its light-medium bodied palate shows evenly ripened, bright fruit nuances overlapped by emergent spicy, savoury undertones, soft ultra-fine tannins and persistent length. Displaying good depth of vibrant fruit and more than adequate varietal texture, its outstanding balance makes it a deliciously youthful, if not astoundingly complex Tasmanian pinot.
ü+ Surprise pinot of the year? Drink to 2012.