Pinot noir is as luscious to say out loud as it is to drink.
When it comes to red wine, the smoothest and lightest of them all is pinot noir. It’s the perfect accompaniment to various occasions, and it mixes well with lightly flavoured meals like salmon and pasta. But first you need to buy the right one which can be tricky for even the most discerning tipplers. With so many things to consider, we’ve sought the expert winemaker Adrian Sparks, chief winemaker at Mount Pleasant and Winemaker of the Year.
Location, Location, Location
“It’s no lie that pinot noir is particularly fickle and comes with its fair share of challenges to grow,” says Adrian. “It’s extremely sensitive to temperature and therefore the secret to the perfect pinot noir all begins with a great vineyard and an even better location.”
Pinot noir, like Champagne, originated in France under the name “Burgundy”. So this might give you an idea of the ideal location and climate. France holds a cooler climate, so the ideal vineyard to buy pinot noir from is one situated in a colder location. Where as warmer climates can dry out the soil and lower water retention. Cold temperatures can be sought by either high altitude, oceanic breezes or being close to the north or south pole, so think Melbourne or Tasmania.
A Fickle Grape Requires A Fickle Grower
“Gentle handling, minimal oak and a hands-off approach are the best ways to retain all those wonderful flavours and aromas,” says Adrian. “Although pinot noir might seem like high maintenance, the work is worthwhile as most of this successful wine is premium in style and quality.”
Just like any wine, the better quality ones have the most meticulous winemakers. But this is especially important for pinot noir. Don’t be afraid about being pedantic, especially if you want amazing flavours and aromas. Do your research on the vineyard. What’s their vibe? Do they put a lot of effort in their production process? As Adrian says, pinot noir is a fickle grape, and a fickle grape requires a fickle grower. Someone meticulous, who pays attention to every detail, down to the intermittent watering and necessary pruning.
How to pick the perfect Pinot
“Choosing the best pinot takes time,” says Adrian. “Australia is a diverse landscape and each region produces different styles of pinot, with even a lot of variability within one region.
“Start with wines that have won a medal at a wine show, or check a reviewers comments, like Winefront, for example. Then go, buy and try, and see if this style appeals to you. If not, select a different region and keep exploring till you find that perfect one.”
So, not only does a fickle grape require a fickle grower, but a fickle wine requires a fickle consumer. Taking into consideration the enduring process of making a perfect pinot noir, you should have enough knowledge to go forth and search for your new favourite. In our personal opinion, letting our hearts do the choosing works just as well as using logic. Sometimes your secret intuition is best. Wines that have won awards are great, and are the perfect place to start, as Adrian says, but (as with any human creation), not all amazing wines are award winning. Sometimes your decision can be purely based on how quirky the label looks. But make sure to turn that bottle around and read the back for the tasting notes, as they help match wines to your picky taste buds.
Thankfully, Adrian has picked out three pinot noirs for us to try:
Mount Pleasant Mount Henry Shiraz Pinot Noir
This is pinot noir with a twist. Bright and vibrant Shiraz, selected for its supple mouth-feel and fine silky tannins is framed by the lifted aromatics and bright acidity of pinot noir. This beautifully poised wine will continue to gain character and complexity for many years.
Why Adrian loves it: “The Mount Henry was a blend made famous nearly 100 years ago and to this day provides a complex and unique perspective on wine. The fresh red and dark fruits and lovely tannin profile makes this a beautiful drink with or without food.”
Giant Steps Applejack Pinot Noir
The Giant Steps Applejack Pinot Noir has a sleek and fresh-feeling taste, with hints of pepper and garrigue-spiked sour cherry scents and flavours. This has some mojo, loaded with personality in its slender, transparent feel.
Why Adrian loves it: “Giant Steps is a wonderful vineyard and made by a great winemaker. Complex and intense with lovely drive and tannin structure, a beautiful example of Australian pinot.”
Pooley Cooinda Vale Pinot Noir
Pooley’s is Tasmania’s first sustainable vineyard producing beautiful wines. The Cooinda Vale Pinot Noir exhibits an aroma of rich and ripe red fruit, extreme vibrancy of red currants, cranberry, cherry, vanilla and rhubarb with a light fennel note and orange zest that lingers.
Why Adrian loves it: “Vibrant, fresh and aromatic; a lovely wine full of fruit with great flavor and beautiful acidity.”