Hello and good evening once again fellow wine lovers.
Tonight I thought I would forgo my usual reviews and look at the difference of one of the most luxurious red wines in the world. The very noble Pinot Noir.
For those of you that have followed my posts since the beginning; you will know that this is one of my absolute favourite varietals. Secondly, you might know that I don’t’ often review this variety often. Why is that you might ask? Well, primarily, South Australia is not renowned for its Pinot Noirs. We tend to lean heavily on our big red wines. Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon being the most common varieties in this state, and hence, a majority of my reviews are of these two varietals. (Hey I am the SA wine Guy) I primarily review South Australian Wines, but for all the Shiraz and Cabernets I review, I want to look at some more Pinot’s. Problem is, South Australia only has one region which is able to grow this Variety, and that is the Adelaide Hills. As some of you may be aware, out of all the red wines Pinot Noir is the one that actually suits the conditions of white wine growing locations. Since there is only really one region here in South Australia for Pinot Noir, I thought tonight I would look at what you can expect from different regions in Australia, and then look at the famous Burgundy region, where Pinot Noir can command upwards of $1000 a bottle.
So first let’s look at one of the best producers of Pinot Noir in South Australia. Ashton Hills Vineyard located, (exactly where you would guess) in the Adelaide Hills. This vineyard is famous for its Pinot’s and produces the best in this state, and mixes it up with being one of the best Pinot producers in Australia. They make 3 different Pinot Noir’s. However, it is their “Reserve” that is the prize jewel in this state. What makes this wine so good though? I am going to drop that French word “terroir” into the mix again. This is also where I can link those ridiculous and somewhat ludicrous prices of those from the French region of Burgundy. Unlike anywhere else in the Adelaide Hills, the Ashton Vineyards are nestled away in the Piccadilly Valley, which has a climate completely unique to itself and unlike that of anywhere else in the Adelaide Hills. This element of terroir (the sense of belonging and geographical positioning) influences a way a wine will taste. Being such a cool climate with traditionally greater than average rainfalls in the region; these Pinot’s have just a bit more than the usual fruit drive that we most often get from this variety, especially in this state. If you want to taste great Pinot Noir, which in my opinion encompasses all the elements of wine, (fruit, floral, savoury and earth) then this Pinot is the closest you will get to the Grand Cru wines of Burgundy. Secondly, unlike Grand Cru wines, which here in Australia, you will pay minimum $400 a bottle for, this one comes in a completely reasonable $70 a bottle.
Now that we have established terroir and how climate impacts this variety, we can now explore the rest of Australia where this grape variety thrives. You could have guessed it; these are areas in Australia that have cooler climates. One is Tasmania, the other is Victoria. Tasmania has the best climates in Australia for this grape, but it is the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula (South of Melbourne) that produce this country’s best Pinots. It is now noted that Gippsland and Geelong are starting to come to the forefront of this nation’s best Pinot Noirs. But why? It’s all about location and climate. Here in South Australia, McLaren Vale is the closest region to our oceans, but because McLaren Vale is relatively flat, the climate in this region is way too hot to produce Pinot Noir of quality. You might be familiar with Victoria, but all these regions I am talking about are geographically close to bodies of water, and it is these sea breezes that cool off the grapes in the morning during summer, and the valley’s that bring fog during early spring when budding starts to get underway. These are the conditions that Pinot loves and thrives in. Also Victoria’s annual climate is nowhere near as extreme as South Australia’s. I have mentioned the delicate skins on the Pinot Grapes, and they cannot withstand torturous heat, and really fail in heatwaves. Their skins can be best accustomed to that of a porcelain doll, or like me, the typical Irishman. I don’t tan, I just go 50 shades of red. Same with the Pinot Grape. (It doesn’t go red,) but it burns, and the fruit juice within is lost with sugar levels that are way too high that you’re best making a jam out of the grapes and not wine. The skins contain the grape tannin which gives a wine its body. Take it away and its fructose juice.
So what has France got to do with this all? Well here in Australia, we are fortunate enough to get good high quality Pinot Noir for no more than 100 dollars a bottle. Good luck getting that kind of wine for that price over in France. Burgundy is the most egotistical self-indulged wine region in the world, that is so hooked up on the concept of terroir, that in the space of half a kilometre, wine can be anywhere from $40 dollars right up to $20,000 dollars a bottle, and it’s all because of this word terroir. So transfixed on the geographical benefactors of location, climate, soil, sunlight, rainfall, altitude and which direction the vines face, means that these wines can command such ridiculous prices.
Having Pinots from all these regions, I must say the best I have come across are those from France; ironically. However, are they worth the $400 plus price tag on their Grand Cru wines? No I don’t think so, not that price anyway. The beauty about South Australia, and Australian wine in fact, is that we have a great quality control. It is pretty difficult to find a crap wine in Australia. Yes, they exist; but in France they are everywhere. However, there is something you get from the best French Burgundy’s (Pinots) and that is a real sense of location and history in the glass. I have yet to find a Pinot Noir in Australia that has come close to the Cote d’Or region Grand Cru Comte Georges de Vogue Bonnes Mares, but at $850 a bottle, I think you can get better value for your money here at home rather than having to venture into international territory to source great Pinot. Never-the-less, if you ever do get the chance to sample some of the best Burgundy’s in the world, go for it. The French, unlike here in Australia, really make their Pinots to age and last. They display more of the vegetative and floral nature that this grape gives and let the fruit of the wine play second fiddle binding this wine together.
This is what I love personally about Pinot Noir, everywhere in the world you go Pinot Noir is different. Whilst our Shiraz and Cabernets differ too, it’s the Pinot Noir that characteristically changes the most depending where in the world you source it from. That’s why I love this varietal so much. It is one of my absolute favourites; and when done right, there is no better wine variety in the world. To men this wine is everyone’s dream woman, and to women, this wine is the undisputed prize Prince. No wine can come close to touching the best made Pinot Noirs. It is a wine that plays out like Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata all 3 movements soft and delicate aromas (1st Movement). Builds up on the palate and gives you more than it shows upfront (The 2ndMovement), then Finally it explodes and all comes clashing together the array of floral, fruit, vegetative and earth all working relentlessly as one, (3rdMovement) and wishing that you had more. It’s not until the last traces of the wine leave the palate that 15minutes has passed away effortlessly. Though, it has left a lasting impression, and to me, this is why Pinot Noir is undisputedly the best wine Variety in the world.
The SA Wine Guy