Highlights: Great Southern Pinot Noir
Last week I was booked. Not for speeding, I’m pleased to report, but to present a Wine Australia Pinot Noir Masterclass to the trade next February. The line up showcases three vintages of top Pinot Noirs from Mornington Peninsula and the Yarra Valley – Victorian regions which are at the vanguard of Australia’s Pinot revolution. I’m excited about it already! And I was also excited to see great progress with Pinot Noir during my recent Western Australia Great Southern trip. Here’s my best of the West from said August trip, plus a couple of examples sampled tasted at home:
Harewood Estate F Block Pinot Noir 2012 (Denmark, Great Southern)
Ask a winemaker at what age vines hit their straps and, in my experience, 9 out of 10 will say 15 years. Which, where vine age is a key factor to quality Pinot, puts Harewood Estate at an advantage. What’s more, the 15 year old dry grown vineyard is planted to the much rated Dijon clones 114, 115 and 777. This terroir-driven wine is sourced from F block, a north facing site with a gentle slope on gravelly karri loam soils. Most of the grapes were de-stemmed, then crushed and (open) fermented over around 10-15% of whole bunches. It’s a delicate shade of garnet but shows lovely intensity on the palate with savoury undertones and overtones to its red berry and cherry fruit – suede, pine needle forest floor, mushroom and (from the oak, French barriques and puncheons, 30-40% new), smoked charcuterie. I particularly liked its persistent, mineral acidity. A long, stone-washed mineral finish seems to be a hallmark of Denmark Pinot Noir in particular. The 2013 vintage is very good too.
Harewood Estate Pinot Noir Reserve 2010 (Denmark, Great Southern)
One again this features Dijon clones 114, 115, and 777 and, while the winemaking process is broadly similar, the Reserve has more whole bunch fruit and is aged for eighteen months on lees in 100% new French oak barriques. The higher whole bunch (stems) content (and all new oak) is evident in this Pinot’s firm structure – a palpable spine of tannins to its bright, well defined gem-like red fruits. Savoury layers of mushroom, forest floor and smoky charcuterie notes bring lovely complexity. Mineral acidity carries a long finish. Again, the 2012 is very consistent in profile – great sense of place.
Marchand & Burch Mount Barrow Mount Barker Pinot Noir 2011 (Mount Barker, Great Southern)
From a single elevated vineyard in eastern Mount Barker next door to Porongurup this wine from a joint venture between Howard Park’s Burch family and Burgundy winemaker Pascal Marchand is developing very nicely. It has a lovely lifted nose with violets, high-toned savoury suede and the sweet scent of red cherry. Very long in the mouth with silky, juicy red and black fruits and svelte tannins. A sensual finish reveals delicate spices – star anise, cinnamon and cedar, while the back palate has a funkier forest floor and mushroom resonance. Very good on song Pinot for £17.50 at Field & Fawcett. 13.5%
Larry Cherubino Ad Hoc Cruel Mistress Pinot Noir 2013 (Great Southern)
A blend of clones (777, MV6, 114, 115) and sub-regions (Porongurup/Denmark) brings attractive complexity to this mid-weight, soft, juicy, very drinkable Pinot Noir from Larry Cherubino. I can understand why The Good Wine Shop told me it was such a hit. It shows fresh dug beetroot on nose and supple milk-chocolate-laced black currant, cherry and fleshier plum palate. Fine tannins and lingering, mineral acidity carry a long, stone-washed fruit finish with hints of pine needle, mushroom and forest floor. Very well done. 13.5%
Snake & Herring Wide Open Road Pinot Noir 2013 (Great Southern)
Snake & Herring’s winemaker Tony Davis worked a vintage in Beaujolais and, with the help of carbonic maceration, has styled this Pinot after the region’s famously vivacious Gamays. Made from foot stomped Mount Barker (115 clone) and Porongurup (older – 1994 – droopy or MV6 clone) fruit it’s a really joyous, lifted vin de soif style with just a hint of texture to its red fruits (it was aged in 500 litre puncheons for 6 months). Best of all, it’s fresh and dry with a grown up drinkability – most unlike the squishy strawberries and cream quaffers I first encountered from Great Southern. 13%
Snake & Herring Hard Road 2012 (Porongurup, Great Southern)
Don’t be fooled by the name of the clone. This sub-regional wine from 100% droopy clone Pinot takes itself more seriously. It’s firmer and meatier, meaning more concentrated, more savoury, though its red berry fruit is deliciously silky. Aside from – in fact no doubt because of – the provenance (sub-region, clone and vine age) the winemaking was more extractive. The fruit (up to 20% whole bunch) underwent three weeks’ post-fermentation maceration on skins and was aged in 500 litre puncheons (1/3rd new) for 12 months. I’ll be interested to see how it develops in bottle. 13%
Karriview Pinot Noir 1991 (Denmark, Great Southern)
Speaking of bottle development this mini-vertical of Karriview Pinot Noir – a now defunct label – proved a fitting finale to stay. I’m pleased to say that the vineyard from whence this label came is not defunct since it is home to Denmark’s oldest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, planted in 1986. The vineyard now belongs to ambitious young gun Paul Nelson (who also works at Harewood Estate). He is restoring the vines and was most encouraged by the intensity of these old Pinots. The 1991 is still bright with a pink hue. The nose is pure Western Australia forest grove with mushroom, menthol/resin and a wet earth minerality. It follows through on the palate which retains a delicious, delicate red fruit sweetness. The acidity is bright, consistent and well integrated – no drying out here. Impressive.
Karriview Pinot Noir 1998 (Denmark, Great Southern)
Deeper and richer in colour and on the palate which gives it broader appeal in every sense. It has very concentrated still ripe red and black cherry, chocolate and truffle fruit. An old fashioned, more extracted red wine style – impressive but not quite so charming as the ’91 – not for me anyway!
Karriview Pinot Noir 2002 (Denmark, Great Southern)
Again, more extracted with very firm tannins but I like its stealthily building forest grove earthiness which lingers long thanks to still fresh, integrated mineral acidity.