Wriggling out of the steely grip of winter, we’ve decided to go pinot mad this month simply because it’s a fine idea and there are some cracking new releases. An excellent pinot gris from a fine Tasmanian collaboration, a beautifully perfumed pinot noir from one of South Australia’s finest and a brilliant pinot noir/syrah blend from an exciting project in the Macedon Ranges. We’re drinking well.
Haddow & Dineen
2018 Grain of Truth Pinot Gris
I have a proclivity for daydreaming. I’m a Pisces … maaaan. In one of my scenarios I am a very important member of a newly installed world government as the Global Minister for Wine & Cheese. You can understand my delight when this wine flitted across my field of vision: a collaboration between a winemaker and cheesemaker. I have interpreted this as a very positive sign.
Jeremy Dineen has been head winemaker at the excellent Josef Chromy wines in Tasmania for the past 13 years; Nick Haddow is the man behind Bruny Island Cheese and, having grown up in South Australia, a closet winemaker. It’s a fine match.
The formula is simple. Great fruit from special places guided along in a gentle, considered manner or, as they like to put it, with ‘vigilant inaction’. I do like that concept. The special place here is a single, tiny vineyard in Yorktown near the mouth of the Tamar River in northern Tasmania.
It’s an austere place with white quartzite gravel and pans of orange clays resulting in tiny yields of intense fruit – hand-picked, whole-bunch pressed and barrel fermented with wild yeast. There is texture and richness to burn here, more akin to a wine from Europe in that respect but with fine Tassie acidity drawing it into line. Pear and peach fruit, white floral hints, grilled nuts, dried honey and evanescent flashes of marzipan and crushed stone. It’s a lovely wine with great inherent drinkability and flow across the palate.
2018 Pinot Noir
As proud South Australians, we are already aware that the Adelaide Hills is capable of consistently turning out some of Australia’s finest examples of pinot noir, and the wonderful Ashton Hills winery is at the pointy end quality-wise.
This particular release tickled my fancy because of its delicate perfume and fine, airy flow across the palate. All from what can be described as a growing season of extremes. Late bud-burst, a warm January and February followed by a cool March allowed excellent flavour development even with lower than average yields.
Winemaker Stephen George has shown great interest in venturing outside his own estate’s boundaries in search of complexity and blending options. The Ashton Hills Piccadilly Pinot Noir is a blend of estate-grown fruit, in this case Ashton Hills’ own Tregarthen Road estate, and grapes from nearby vineyards in the Piccadilly Valley.
For the lover of pinot noir, it ticks a lot of boxes. As mentioned, it is a detailed, beautifully fragrant and perfumed wine with fruit notes of red cherry, raspberry and macerated strawberries. There is a dusting of Asian spice, rose petals, porcini mushrooms, amaro herbs and some gamey notes to keep the fussiest of pinotphiles happy.
The wine’s bright energetic line, fine curtain of tannin and mouthfeel that evokes a sense of space and delicacy brings the whole package together. The 2018 release is a wine that is superb drinking straight off the shelf but will continue to improve over the next five years or so.
Place of Changing Winds
2018 ‘Tradition’ Pinot Noir/Syrah
Blends of pinot noir and syrah stand tall and proud in Australian wine history thanks to the incredible examples from the legendary Hunter Valley winemaker Maurice O’Shea in the 1940s to 1960s. It pleases me greatly that we are seeing more winemakers embracing this red blend with such a rich pedigree and this particular example from Victorian estate Place of Changing Winds is one of the best I’ve seen.
It was always going to be a vineyard project to keep an eye on. Founder Robert Walters from Bibendum Wine Co has an eye for detail and an outstanding knowledge and palate for the great wines of the world. It’s a blend of their Macedon Ranges pinot noir and Heathcote syrah from some very special, organic vineyard sites with head-spinning planting densities.
There is depth to the aromatic profile here: black cherry and dark plummy fruits abound with hints of amaro herbs, blackberry pastille, exotic spice, roasting game meats, white pepper and purple floral notes. It smells bloody wonderful … wild-edged, complex and alluring.
There is impressive concentration on the palate yet the wine retains space and detail with a gorgeous seam of sapid acidity that gets the mouthwatering and a sheen of chalky, ripe tannin gently tugging at the roof of the mouth and providing structure. Great velocity and drive through to the finish which is long and tapers beautifully with a savoury, exotic dark-fruited flourish. There is an awful lot to like here and I can see this wine being a regular in my quiver. A ripper.