In the 1980s it was the general view that the six regions of the dress circle around Melbourne – Geelong, Gippsland, Macedon Ranges, Mornington Peninsula, Sunbury and the Yarra Valley – were the epicentre of the burgeoning flower of Australian pinot noir. If true, there were two major exceptions: Moorilla Estate (1958) and La Provence (1956), both in Tasmania, grew pinot before any of those regions, and Best’s Wines in the Grampians has been doing so since 1866; indeed, its original plantings are still producing superb grapes, the vines the oldest varietal examples in the world.
Two factors are changing the dynamics of pinot in a way seemingly impossible a decade ago. First, hesitant plantings in new regions in the Australian mainland are starting to mature, investing the vines with the ability to withstand climate challenges thanks to deeper root systems and balanced canopies. Second, plantings in Tasmania have spread to districts previously ignored. While the newer incursions in, say, the Huon Valley are yet to mature, spectacular pinots from all points of the compass are coming on song. Tasmania will soon become the most highly valued Australian pinot noir region.
A quick gallop across Australia adds the Adelaide Hills, the Jamieson district of Central Victoria Zone, Great Southern and Mount Barker (Western Australia), Mount Gambier (South Australia), Orange and Tumbarumba (NSW).
Maturing vines to one side, how is it that a warming climate should see an increase in regions successfully growing pinot noir? We know it refuses to co-operate in Coonawarra, notwithstanding its theoretically suitable climate. But, on the opposite extreme, the Hunter Valley is (once again) producing pinot noir-shiraz blends of merit, just as Maurice O’Shea did 60-80 years ago. What is old is new again.
2019 Geoff Weaver Single Vineyard Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir
25% whole bunch fermentation, matured for 12 months in French barriques (50% new). Clear colour and bright cherry/plum fruit provide instant appeal. Good line and length, likewise balance. Needs a year or two for the rainbow of spices to emerge. 13.5% alc, screwcap 96 points, drink to 2030, $45 www.geoffweaver.com.au/
2018 Mount Terrible Jamieson Pinot Noir
Five days cold soak, open-fermented with 20% whole bunches, basket-pressed to French barriques (33% new) filled by gravity, matured for 18 months. Perfumed violets and red berries fill the bouquet. The palate is elegant and long, and the spicy, predominantly red fruits have made light work of the new oak. 13.5% alc, screwcap 96 points, drink to 2038, $45 www.mountterriblewines.com.au/
2017 Coola Road Single Vineyard Mount Gambier Pinot Noir
Good colour; has excellent varietal expression engendered by a cool vintage in a very cool region. Red and dark cherry fruit has a silky web of spicy/savoury complexity. A really attractive pinot; it’s a bargain, too. 12.5% alc, screwcap 95 points, drink to 2030, $28 Available to buy direct from the winery: https://www.coolaroad.com/products/2017-pinot-noir