“With a more sophisticated global outlook, Australia’s Pinot Noir producers – from across Victoria, Tasmania and Adelaide Hills – are proving they can mix it with the world’s best. Everyone thinks of Australia as the country where you get big reds. Ironically, for me, pinot noir is more successful than shiraz right now.” Optimistically, perhaps, he went on: “It can’t be long before the world wakes up to the great value offered by Victorian and Tasmanian pinot noir.” Andrew Jefford – Decanter Magazine UK

“They brilliantly articulate a sense of place and the light and shade of vintage. No doubt about it, you can find a great intricacy,levity, intensity and layers in Australian Pinot these days.”       Sarah Ahmed – The Wine Detective UK

“Overall, the Mornington wines stood out in my recent tastings for their completeness. These are balanced, fragrant wines that possess silky textures and irrefutable charm.The wines are fragrant and silky, stylistically more Chambolle than Gevrey. Joe Czerwinski – Wine Enthusiast Magazine USA

“This set of Victorian wines would blow a range of Burgundies out of the water. They’d rank up there with some of the best  Premier Crus” Anthony Rose MW- Decanter Magazine UK

My Top 10 Most Underrated/Undervalued Australian Pinot Noirs

In Alphabetical Order

-1-  Ashton Hills Estate Pinot Noir 2015 (Adelaide Hills) – $45 per bottle

‘The Burgundy Slayer’ according to Richard Hemming MW who writes for Jancis Robinson’s Purple Pages. Winemaker here is Stephen George who recently sold Ashton Hills to Wirra Wirra. The Estate Pinot Noir comes from a 3ha dry-grown vineyard planted in 1982 in the Picadilly Valley (Adelaide Hills). This cool site sits in a rain shadow at an elevation of  570 metres, and is planted to 5 different Pinot clones, to create a complex, perfumed Pinot. Grapes are destemmed with some whole bunches used, dependant on vintage, and then aged in 1-2-YO French barriques. 1,500 cases produced.A Reserve Pinot from the ‘best of the best’ barrels is also produced here in small quantities.

-2-  Bannockburn Vineyards Pinot Noir 2014 (Geelong) – $56 per bottle

Yields were pitiful in 2014 and the Bannockburn Pinot included fruit from the close planted vineyards of ‘Serre’ and  ‘De La Terre’ . Winemaking  80% whole bunches used here, fermented  wild in 4 tonne open fermenters, and matured in new French hogsheads (30% New). After 12-months maturation the wine is racked and the returned to older barriques for 7-months further maturation, before bottling without fining or filtration. Layers and layers of earthy, plummy fruit matched to density and breed & complexity in the form of dark fruits and wild spice..Tannins here are firm and ageing is required. Quasi-Burgundian.

-3-   Bass Phillip Estate Pinot Noir 2014 (Gippsland) – $80 per bottle

Winemaker Phillip Jones is an old hand when it comes to minimal intervention Pinot Noir. A perfectionist who crops at 1.2tonnes/acre from this 22YO vineyard, that is planted in volcanic soils with silt and loam. This coastal vineyard benefits from sunny days and cooling late afternoon breezes from it’s proximity to the Bass Strait. Although a single vine at Bass Phillip barely makes half a bottle of wine, the highly perfumed nose, robust flavors, exquisite textures, profound complexity and minerality contained in each bottle provide a justification for this practice. The 2014 is the best yet!

-4-   Dalrymple  Vineyards Pinot Noir 2015 (Tasmania) -$29 per bottle 

 Dalrymple is owned by the Yalumba family and is located in Piper River Region of North East Tasmania (Tamar Valley). Vigneron Peter Caldwell served his apprenticeship in both Bordeaux & Burgundy and also spent a 10 year stint at Te Kairanga (NZ). The vineyard was established in 1987 and is planted on a steep hill 160 metres elevation that overlooks the Bass Strait Tasmania. This Pinot is a blend of Estate and Coal River Valley fruit and is exceptional value for money. The three S’s are in play here, Sweet, Savoury, Spicy (Chinese 5 Spice).

-5-   Giant Steps ‘Sexton’ Pinot Noir  2015 (Yarra Valley) – $50 per bottle

Steve Flamstead of Giant Steps is the current Australian Winemaker of the Year for 2016. Giant Steps produce four single vineyard Pinots  (Sexton- Generousity) , (Applejack- Powerful) , (Primavera – Savoury) & (Lusatia – Fragrance). The ‘Sexton’ and ‘Applejack’ vineyard bottlings are the first to sell out as they are both made in small quantities (250/cs). The ‘Sexton’ Vineyard is planted to the (MV6 Clone) which originated from Clos de Vougeot and adds structure to the wine. Winemaking here was 40% Whole bunches, wild yeast fermented, and matured for 11-months in French puncheons of which (25%) were new, before being gravity bottled. Rated 97 points by James Halliday.

-6-   Hoddles Creek ‘1ER’ Pinot Noir  2015 (Yarra Valley) – Sold Out

Owned by the D’Anna family and located in the Upper Yarra Valley (Victoria). The twenty year old vineyard (10ha) in size, is planted with 5 different Pinot Clones. Accent here is on terroir driven wines, and the ‘1ER’ Pinot is only made in exceptional vintages, and normally sells out within months of release. Here 20% whole bunches are used, and the Pinot is matured for a year in French oak (35% New) before being sent back to tank for a further six months ageing. This pretty Pinot shares lots of similarities with Chambolle Musigny, it’s mix of fragrant, flowery red fruits, and sharp detailed acid and tannins make it highly sought after. It is also a lot more affordable than fine Burgundy. Note the vintage 2016 will not see a ‘1ER’ Pinot made.

-7-   Kooyong Estate Pinot Noir 2014 (Mornington Peninsula) – $50 per bottle

Established in 1996 Kooyong Estate is the leading exponent of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on the Mornington Peninsula. Although Kooyong Estate produces three single vineyard wines, it’s the Estate Pinot Noir that is most consistently of high quality. All Pinot fruit comes from a combination of blocks (6.55ha) within the ‘Meres’, ‘Haven’, ‘Ferrous’ vineyards, and it’s this that gives it a broader representation of Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir.                             Fermented for 18-21 days with a small portion of whole bunches included, and matured in French barriques (25% New) for 9 months, before being transferred to large format foudres for a further 10-months ageing. The Kooyong Estate Pinot is an opulent, rich, heady wine, with masses of dark fruits, forest floor, herbs and earthen, smoky flavours from the use of stems. A truly complete Pinot Noir.

-8-   Oakridge LVS ‘Willowlake’ Pinot Noir 2015 (Yarra Valley) – $39 per bottle

 Winemaker Dave Bicknell makes two levels of high quality Pinot Noir. The flagship’ 864 Label’ reflects the Oakridge’s address though the fruit is sourced from other parts of the Upper Yarra Valley. The cheaper ‘Local vineyard Series’ LVS  for short, is made from the same Willowlake vineyard (planted 1979) as the ‘864’ but in larger quantities (500 c/s) and represents amazing value for money. Bicknell describes his winemaking as ‘Low-Fi’  where destemmed 100% whole berries, spend 20-days on skins with wild yeast, before being pressed to French oak (15% New), and remaining on lees for a further year. Bicknell neither plunges or uses pumpovers a hands off approach is fully utilized. Similar to the Hoddles Creek his is a fragrant, pretty, red fruited Pinot Noir with crisp acid & tannins and great length of purpose.

-9-  Stoney Rise ‘Holyman’ Pinot Noir 2014 (Tasmania) – $50 per bottle

Located in the picturesque Tamar Valley the estate vineyard (4500 vines per hectare) was planted in 1986. Owner Joe Holyman selects a small block within the vineyard (0.6ha) cropped at 2/tonnes acre for fruit for the ‘Holyman’ label. The ripest stalks were chosen to add (55%) whole bunches to the mix, and were cold soaked for 7 days, with natural yeast fermentation before maturation in French barrels (30% New). Vine maturity and the use of whole bunches, adds firm structure and tannin grip to this large scaled Pinot Noir. Bottled without fining of filtration.

-10-  10X Tractor  Pinot Noir  2015 (Mornington Peninsula) – $35 per bottle

 This is the entry level Pinot Noir from Ten Minutes by Tractor. The 10X Pinot Noir is combination of Estate and growers vineyards, (in regions Main Ridge, Merricks, Tuerong) where freshness and clarity are the aim for completeness. The 10X is cropped at 2/tonne acre from younger vines than upper level offerings, and sees less oak in the maturation phase. Like the Dalrymple this is all about the three S’s Sweet, Savoury, Spicy (Chinese 5 Spice), and a perfume that recalls Burgundy.  Great Value Pinot Noir!