Category Archives: Pinot Noir

Aug 08 2016

Tasmanian Pinot Noir: Reaching for New Heights – Highlights from Sydney’s Vin Diemen Tasting

Posted on August 08, 2016 | By

Vin Diemen, the annual showcase of Tasmanian wine, is always a great event and this year was no exception. Held last Saturday in a new venue – the beautiful historic National Arts School in East Sydney – many of the winemakers were on hand and happy to field questions while busily pouring their wines for big crowds.

The outstanding quality of Tasmanian pinot noir (with some pretty hefty price tags to match!) was one of the highlights of the tasting. The enticing dark cherry and plum fruit aromas of the Holm Oak “The Wizard” Pinot Noir 2014 ($60) led to a vibrant flavour driven palate with excellent length and silky tannins. Delicious!

The elegant Spring Vale Estate Pinot Noir is a perennial favourite of mine and the 2015 vintage ($45) exhibited this wine’s hallmark dark cherry aromas with herbal touches. Well structured, its clearly delineated fine grained tannins framed a complex range of dark fruit flavours with savoury overtones.

The Coal River winery Domaine A has built its reputation on cabernet, but winemaker Peter Althaus also knows how to make a very fine pinot noir. The Domaine A Pinot Noir 2009 ($90) is an excellent example of Tasmania’s potential to produce a rich, opulent style of pinot noir designed to age. This is a well-structured elegant, delicately scented medium-bodied wine with concentrated flavours, silky tannins and a lingering finish.

The 2013 Glaetzer-Dixon Family Winemakers ReveurPinot Noir ($56) with its firm yet fine tannins and vibrant acidity was also quite Burgundian in style. A beguiling nose of strawberries, dark stone fruits and savoury spice led to a supple and complex flavour profile of cherries and blackberries. Definitely another good one for the cellar!

2014WizardPinotNoirsmallOver the years the best Tasmanian winemakers have come to understand the subtle nuances of their … Read the rest

Feb 02 2016

Tasmania’s Spring Vale Pinot Noir 2013: A Taste of Burgundy in Australia!

Posted on February 02, 2016 | By

Good vine age, winemaking experience and ideal climatic conditions. These are just some of the key ingredients that have recently coalesced to make Tasmania arguably the most exciting pinot noir producer in Australia at the moment.

Last year the Tolpuddle Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 was awarded Best Australian Red at the International Wine Challenge in the UK. Owned by Shaw + Smith owners Michael Hill Smith and Martin Shaw, the Tolpuddle Vineyard, planted in 1988, is located in the Coal River Valley just 20 minutes outside of Hobart

2013 was also a great year for another of Tasmania’s East Coast wineries, the Lyne-family owned Spring Vale in Cranbrook. Sixth in a field of 42, the Spring Vale Pinot Noir 2013 beat out some serious competition in a recent GT Wine blind tasting of single-vineyard Australian pinot noir. Writer and judge Toni Peterson MW described it as “a poised and classy wine with excellent varietal character and energy. Notes of red berries, herbs and tamarillo. It is very pure and focussed with a lovely loose texture. It built more complexity in the glass with time.”(Single Site Pinot Noir by Nick Bulleid MW, GT Wine, Aug/Sept 2015)

I had an opportunity to try the wine at the annual Vin Diemen’s wine tasting and decided to track it down! I have been enjoying it ever since, and fortunately secured a few bottles for the Cellarit Wine Market.

So what makes Tassie pinot noir so good? SMH Good Food writer Jeni Port spoke to a number of high profile Tasmanian winemakers who believe that the climatic conditions of Tasmania are remarkably similar to Burgundy and Champagne, where cool climate and humidity in combination create grape compositions that are more delicate and less tannic.

Tasmania Wine MapCharles ”Chilly” Hargrave, group sparkling winemaker for Treasury Wine Estates told … Read the rest

Sep 09 2015

Tasmania’s Best Pinot Noir – Tolpuddle Pinot Noir 2013

Posted on September 09, 2015 | By

The 2013 Tolpuddle Pinot Noir, from the famous Coal River Valley vineyard owned by cousins Martin Shaw and Michael Hill Smith of Shaw + Smith in the Adelaide Hills, was recently named Best Australian Red Wine at the International Wine Challenge in London in April.

First released in 2012, the universal applause for both the inaugural and 2013 vintages is the best evidence to date that Tasmania is starting to realise its potential for pinot noir.

Certainly Shaw and Smith haven’t been shy about attaching an expensive price tag to their award-winning wine ($75 rrp). As the UK’s top wine critic Jancis Robinson remarked: “This is not a cheap wine. It costs about the same as many premier cru burgundy. But it has the advantage of being already delicious to drink – unlike most 2013 burgundies.” How’s that for a wonderful backhanded compliment! (Tolpuddle Pinot Noir 2013 by Jancis Robinson MW,, 15 April 2015)



Tolpuddle Pinot Noir 750ml NV copyFirst established in 1988 by Tony Jordan, Gary Crittenden and Bill Casimaty, Tolpuddle won the first-ever Tasmanian Vineyard of the Year Award in 2006. Describing their decision to try to buy the vineyard in 2011 (it wasn’t even listed at the time), Shaw and Smith said “it was love at first sight. 20 hectares of mature Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines planted on a long even slope, with lean soils, forests above and water below and great vineyard exposure. Fantastic.”

The Coal River Valley is proving climatically ideal for slow ripening pinot noir. The cool but relatively dry climate allows the grapes to ripen slowly in autumn without the threat of disease pressure from heavy rainfall.

Shaw and Smith note that in 2011 Peter Dawson, former chief winemaker at Hardy’s, boldly predicted that “Tasmania would be making Australia’s best Chardonnay and … Read the rest

Jan 01 2015

Hoddles Creek Estate 1er Pinot Noir 2013 – Australia’s best pinot noir?

Posted on January 01, 2015 | By

Over dinner with friends last week at the wonderful Vietnamese-French fusion restaurant La Mint in Darlinghust we enjoyed a bottle of Hoddles Creek Estate 1er Pinot Noir 2013. The wine was a gift from a friend who really knows and loves his pinot noir: “I want you to try something special,” he said.

The wine certainly presents itself as something special. It’s a big, heavy bottle with a very Burgundian looking label. We opened it just at the right time; the slightly sweet, richly layered berry fruit flavours and clean but silky tannins perfectly complemented the deliciously succulent, slightly spicy pork belly.

I certainly wasn’t surprised to read Gary Walsh’s absolutely glowing review in The Wine Front:

Some people might think $45 is a lot of money for a wine, but this, put simply, is a bargain. To get quality like this out of Burgundy you’d be up for $150+. Anyway, I just ordered a dozen.

Dark cherry, ripe raspberry, sweet damp earth scattered with flowers, pencils and cinnamon and layers of spice – it’s rich, fragrant and deep, and the minute you smell it, you know you’re in for something pretty special. Medium bodied, layers of fruit, mineral and spice, and the thing that marks it out is the pixel fine bed of graphite tannin that forms the foundation of the wine. Superb texture. Then the finish is all spice and sweet ripe tannin washing the palate clean. Yeah, you know, 96 or 97 points. Seems high, I know, but it’s as good as any Australian Pinot I’ve tasted. It’s up there with anything, from anywhere. (The Wine Front, 14 January 2015)

The Hoddles Creek Estate 1er Pinot Noir is the winery’s premium single vineyard release. It comes from the original Vineyard block next to the winery on the … Read the rest

Oct 10 2014

Marlborough Pinot Noir wins Six Nations Wine Challenge

Posted on October 10, 2014 | By

New Zealand has a well deserved reputation for making some of the best pinot noir in the world. But until recently Marlborough on the South Island was far better known for its sauvignon blanc than its pinot noir.

A couple of weeks ago Marlborough’s Dog Point Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 picked up three very impressive gongs at the prestigious Six Nations Wine Challenge in Sydney – joint recipient of ‘Wine of the Show’ and individual awards for ‘Best Pinot Noir’ and ‘Best Red’ wine .

The Six Nations Wine Challenge is no ordinary wine show. An initiative of the Association of Australian Boutique Winemakers, wines are selected for entry by a leading wine writer from each of the six nations represented and then judged blind by the same wine writers. The six nations are the world’s top ‘New World’ producers: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, Argentina and the United States.

Wine critic and show judge Huon Hooke described the Dog Point Pinot Noir 2012 “as arguably the greatest pinot noir yet seen from Marlborough, a wine that takes power and density to a new level in a region better known for white wines and lighter pinot noir.” (Six Nations Wine Challenge winners by Huon Hooke, Hooked on Wine, 15 October 2014)

The 80 hectare Dog Point Vineyard is run by winemakers James Healy and Ivan Sutherland. Working with their wives Wendy and Margaret, the team launched the Dog Point label in 2004 using fruit from the 2002 vintage. Rave reviews soon followed with the Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin describing their 2006 offerings of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir as “nothing less than exceptional.”

The partners have brought a wealth of experience to their very hands-on Dog Point Vineyard venture. Healy and Sutherland worked together for over a … Read the rest

Jun 06 2014

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir: Terroir + Experience = Superb Results!

Posted on June 06, 2014 | By

I’ve been fortunate to enjoy a couple of bottles of the Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2012 over the past few months. On both occasions I was really impressed with the enticing dark fruit aromas and the vibrant, pure fruit flavours complemented by a thread of minerality and ever so slight savoury undertones.

The 2012 Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir is quite Burgundian in character

The Wine Front’s Mike Bennie described this wine as being quite Burgundian in character, meaning, to quote Bennie, “fancy oak aromas for the first five minutes, then the dark and red fruit flows with a higher tone of what I call alpine herbs. Very pure and tense across the palate, finishes with almost the pucker of sourness, but it’s not, it’s just hewn to a rapier-point with succulent acidity. Smooth, flowing, light to medium bodied feel with graphite minerality laid under bright fruit flavours.” (The Wine Front, 21 May 2013)

2012 was an exceptional vintage for Yarra Valley pinot noir

Bennie spoke with wine critic and Coldstream Hills ex-proprietor James Halliday, who was ebullient about the quality of the Yarra Valley fruit for the 2012 vintage. The flagship Coldstream Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 is also winning rave reviews.

Coldstream Hills winemakers are finalists for 2014 Gourmet Traveller Wine Winemaker of the Year

Coldstream Hills is a winery that seems to have hit its stride. Chief winemaker Andrew Fleming and winemaker Greg Jarratt are both finalists for Australia’s Gourmet Traveller Wine’s prestigious Winemaker of the Year award. Fleming recently told wine critic Huon Hooke that “We’ve always been very successful with chardonnay but our pinots have come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years…The pinots have been improving because the vines are getting older, but also because the people are getting older, and … Read the rest

Feb 02 2014

Oregon’s Domaine Drouhin Laurène Pinot Noir 1997 – A Testament to the Cellaring Potential of New World Pinot Noir!

Posted on February 02, 2014 | By

At a dinner party on Saturday night I enjoyed an extraordinary wine. It was the Domaine Drouhin’s Laurène 1997 – a pinot noir from the Burgundian family’s Dundee Hills vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

The Drouhin family has been making wine in Burgundy since 1880 and in Oregon since the late 1980s. Interestingly Robert Drouhin first “discovered” Oregon as early as 1961. His interest, however, was really piqued in 1980 after David Lett’s 1975 Eyrie South Block Reserve Pinot Noir placed second in a competition organised by Drouhin at Maison Joseph Drouhin in Beaune.

Robert’s daughter, Véronique Drouhin-Boss, worked harvest with three of Willamette Valley’s founding families – the Letts, the Casteels (Bethel Heights) and the Adelsheims (Adelsheim Vineyards) – before taking charge of winemaking at the Oregon winery in 1987. Her brother, Philippe, is in charge of viticulture. The Laurène, named after Véronique’s daughter, is a reserve bottling from specially selected barrels.

The Burgundian character of the Laurène was striking, especially since on the same night I had the unique opportunity to compare it to the Joseph Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny 1999.  (By the way, all wines that night were matched with exquisite Japanese cusine).

The Chambolle Musigny 1999 was more highly perfumed than the 1997 Laurène, but the Laurène’s silky texture, complex flavour profile and remarkable freshness were a revelation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI couldn’t find a tasting note for the 1997 Laurène, but the Wine Spectator’s Harvey Steiman suggested a drinking window out to 2006 for the 1996. Perhaps another example of how critics have underestimated the ageing potential of New World pinot noirs? (see my post, Cellaring Australian Pinot Noir: How Long Do They Last?)

In a very interesting article, Profiles in Pinot Noir: Domaine Drouhin, Steiman explains that the Drouhins brought a fresh … Read the rest

Mar 03 2013

Whose Pinot Reigns Supreme? Australia versus New Zealand

Posted on March 03, 2013 | By

Acqua Panna Global Wine Experience, Saturday, 9 March 2013

When New Zealand winemakers’ Blair Walter (Felton Road) and Nick Mills (Rippon) opened their address with a very loud and captivating rendition of the Maori Haku, the stage was set for a very lively debate about whose pinot reigns supreme? (Wished I taped it, but my photo of Nick Mills give you a bit of an idea!)

The audience was collapsing with laughter while the two Australian winemakers on the panel, Michael Dhillon (Bindi) and Nick Farr (By Farr and Farr Rising), looked on with bemusement! No, unfortunately, they hadn’t prepared an Aussie comeback! (C’mon Aussie c’mon perhaps?)

The subsequent discussion, led by wine critic Nick Stock, was fascinating so I thought I’d share a few of the highlights:

Clonal Variety vs Vine Age – New Zealand vs Australia

Farr noted that due to stricter Australian quarantine rules, New Zealand has had the edge when it comes to choice of clones.

But according to the Australian winemakers vine age can compensate for the effects of less clonal variety. The vines of the MP6 clone used for the Macedon Ranges’ Bindi Block 5, for example, are now 18 years old. Dhillon believes he has seen increasing complexity, minerality and balance with each subsequent vintage of his wine.

Terroir is Key

Of all the varieties pinot noir is probably the greatest communicator of terroir.  Not surprisingly, the winemakers said their greatest challenge is finding the right location!

Nick StockMills noted that for New Zealand winemakers achieving wines with good fruitiness is practically a given, as New Zealand’s dramatic diurnal variation is very good for sealing in flavour and colour. The right terroir is what gives the wines their coveted subtle flavours, complexity and structure.

Winemaker’s Influence Read the rest

Feb 02 2013

50 Wines to Try in 2013: No. 5 – Pooley Wines Coal River Pinot Noir 2011

Posted on February 02, 2013 | By

2012 was a big year for the family-run Coal River Valley winery Pooley Wines. At the prestigious Royal Melbourne Wine Show the Pooley Wines Coal River Pinot Noir 2011 won the hotly contested Douglas Seabrook Trophy for the best single-vineyard wine and the Dan Murphy Trophy for best pinot noir  The winery was also named 2012 Tasmanian Vineyard of the Year – an award given by the Royal Agricultural Society of Tasmania in recognition of viticultural practices. To cap it off, third-generation winemaker Matthew Pooley won a Nuffield Scholarship to travel overseas and investigate sustainable small-scale winery establishment and management.

Matthew Pooley firmly believes that “if you have good fruit you will have good wine.” He has implemented some interesting innovations to improve soil health and sustainability. Peas, for example, are grown in between the vine rows to organically enrich the soil with nitrogen. Oats and rye grass complement the pea plantings by encouraging microbial matter and moisture retention in the soil.  (Pooley Wines scoops the pool by Margot Foster, ABC Rural News, 26 October  2012)

The Coal River Pinot Noir is made from 20 year old vines from the cool-climate Campania Vineyard on the banks of the Coal River. Established in 1985 by Matthew’s grandparents, Denis and Margaret Pooley, the winery is one of the oldest in Tasmania. Until her death in 2010 Margaret worked alongside her son John and grandson in the vineyards.

Of the award-winning 2011 vintage, Gourmet Traveller’s Wine correspondent Nick Stock offered the following critique:

It’s a mid-red wine with gentle depth and complexity. It opens up smoothly in the glass and delivers a very fragrant aroma with fine bright cherry and wild herbs, a waft of pepper, some earthy notes and a meaty edge too – the oak is discreetly balanced. The palate Read the rest

May 05 2011

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti: The Quintessential Expression of Terroir

Posted on May 05, 2011 | By

If you really want to understand how even small nuances in terroir can create wines with very distinct personalities, the wines of Burgundy’s most famous and revered estate, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC), are perhaps the most telling examples.

DRC either owns outright or has an interest in six of the Grands Cru vineyards of Vosne-Romanée. These vineyards either adjoin or are closely located to each other and some are very small. The most celebrated of them all, La Romanée-Conti, is less than five acres.

Positioned mid-slope above La Romanée-St-Vivant, the well-drained soil of La Romanée-Conti is stonier, shallower and poorer than the lower sited La Romanée-St-Vivant. Of course, both of these vineyards are endowed with the signature, highly prized soil of the Cote d’Or – a mixture of silt and scree over layers of marlstone and clay on a base of calcium-rich limestone. But the slight differences in soil type, orientation and elevation of the different vineyards impart unique and authentic characteristics to the wine.

According to esteemed British wine critic Hugh Johnson, La Romanée-Conti is the quintessential expression of pinot noir. It is exotically perfumed, richly nuanced, concentrated and complex with perfect balance. La Romanée-St-Vivant is slightly lighter and more elegant in style than La Romanée-Conti. La Tâche, also owned entirely by DRC and just across the road from La Romanée-Conti, is earthier and more muscular than its siblings. (Hugh Johnson, Editor and Hubrecht Duijker, Touring in Wine Country: Burgundy)

DRC is one of the largest landholders in Burgundy, having assembled around 62 acres of vineyards over 140 years. The Domaine was formally established in 1942 and is jointly owned by two families, Leroy and de Villaine.

Under the direction of Aubert de Villaine, the estate has worked tirelessly to improve the vineyards so the subtle differences … Read the rest