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People are really starting to figure out the beauty of a good Pinot Noir. Shiraz has been the front-runner red wine in Australia for a long time. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good Shiraz – some steaks are just begging for one. With bursting fruit flavours, you don’t have to try too hard to like a Shiraz. But Pinot is something special. In the best Pinots, the flavour doesn’t jump out at you... instead, it brings you in. The flavours have elegance and restraint, and the best will progress seamlessly from the initial taste to the finish.The hard part with Pinot, is buying the right one. It’s a pesky little thing in the vineyard and takes strong winemaking to bring out its fullest expression. I’ve chosen wines from different wineries, sites, vintages and contrasting winemaking techniques. You will see subtle variances in both the Upper and Lower Yarra Valley wines. The key is the grape quality from the sites that contrast the beauty and depth of the Yarra Valley.
2018 Rob Dolan White Label Pinot Noir
I’m kicking off with my own, not to pat myself on the back, but because this Pinot comes from a seriously good vineyard... in fact, probably the best in the Yarra. Willowlake sits in one of the coolest parts of the Yarra, and in combination with its deep red soils, grows near-perfect pinot grapes (MV6 Clone). Vintage 2018 was a warm, bountiful year and certainly a high-pressure vintage due to different varieties ripening at the same time – its rare to be harvesting Pinot Noir at the same time as Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is a delight right now with its supple cherry and plum aromas and savoury tannins. Give it another year in bottle to allow tannins to integrate. Mid-term cellaring for a minimum of five years will be rewarded.
2019 Dappled Single Vineyard Champs de Cerises
Winemaker Shaun Crinion has a great understanding of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay through his many and varied Winemaking roles over 20 years, both in the Yarra and internationally. Fruit is hand sorted prior to being lightly de-stemmed, then combined with 30% whole bunch fruit. This is a handmade, wild yeast and foot stopped wine style that exhibits complex savoury bunchy and stalky characters on the nose and palate. Dappled Wines was recognised by James Halliday as the Best New Winery of 2018. Shaun focuses on making small quantities from distinct sites in the cool upper Yarra. This style really shows the beauty of Yarra Pinot Noir.
2017 Santolin Gladysdale Pinot Noir
Adrian Santolin really understands wine. He grew up on a vineyard and has spent his whole life in the industry, making him a wizard in the winery after many hard yards in the world of wine. He believes that a low-intervention style reveals the true characters of a wine and his Gladysdale single vineyard Pinot Noir is a great example of this. This wine is from the cooler benchmark 2017 vintage (my favourite) which produced pure varietal and finely textured savoury wines. Adrian uses small open pot ferments with some whole bunch and foot stomping to ensure softness and complexity. This wine has bottle age and is great drinking now and will develop added complexity and depth with careful cellaring.
2018 Stefani Estate The View YV Pinot Noir
A complex, single vineyard wine that will continue to develop in the bottle. With notes of sour cherries, Christmas pudding and cinnamon on the nose, the palate is rich and textural with hints of strawberries, forest fruits and earthy undertones. Enjoy now or cellar for up to a decade - it’s got a great capacity to age.
2018 Rob Dolan True Colours Pinot Noir
While the White Label tells a story of a vineyard, the True Colours tells a story of the Yarra. The fruit comes from 16-17 vineyards around the Yarra Valley, making a style very true to our region, so if you’re new to Yarra Valley Pinot this is a great place to start. Easy drinking, and great bang-for-buck! The wine is varietal, soft and fleshy and great drinking now. The vineyards involved in this blend stretch from Woori Yallock, Chirnside Park to Coldstream through to Gruyere, Yarra Glen and Dixons Creek.
2019 Mandala Estate Pinot Noir
This wine is sourced from sites in Dixons Creek and Yarra Junction. The style is fruit-driven soft and textural with aromas of cherry, pomegranate and soft tannins. Mandala are a family-run winery in the Yarra, and a lot of love goes into their vineyards. I love their style of Pinot Noir – fresh, bright and fruit-driven with supporting oak and natural acidity. Another brilliant example of Yarra Valley Pinot!
"The hard part with Pinot is buying the right one."
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