there are some new reviews oozing though here, but we're not deckin em up all pretty til we work out an otherwise unborn style for this sleazy rube we call drankster


that's a George Grainger Aldridge cartoon ... obviously a pre-screwcap man

24 October 2009



Bass Phillip Premium Pinot Noir 2008
$??; 13.8% alcohol; cork; 10JAN10; 95++ points
I know Phillip Jones is a little prickly about me suggesting his Hillcrest Pinot was his best to date. Maybe he can start to relax. This sensual blob of gastronomic ordnance is from his own vineyards at Leongatha. It has sobering authority, with a whiff of the volcano and all, but is generally a dense, perfectly-formed young thing of a certain voluptuous level of health. Its acidity and tannin are racy but tough, its fruit not yet poking its head out. It has astonishing focus and direction, and to reach this level of refinement without filtration is a feat of bravery, sure, but also reflects some pretty savvy vineyard and winemaking voodoo. It gives me an excuse to stay alive for another fifteen years.

Hillcrest Yarra Valley Premium Pinot Noir 2004

$55; 12.6% alcohol; cork(!); 95+ points
Made by the much mythologised Phillip (sic) Jones, of Bass Phillip (sic), from the 34 year old dry-grown Woori Yallock vineyard previously used by James Halliday, I reckon this is the best Australian pinot I've had. Jones is tres feral, of course, and many of his wines are unfiltered and cloudy, like this one's groovy $38 (92+) little sister - they're both girls - but this has the extra spice of very expensive oak, and extra careful bunch selection. Jones thinks it's about as good as he gets. Rich, smooth, velvety, thick, healthy, breathtaking - very naughty Burgundy indeed, hiding in Australia like this. Coq au vin.

Moss Wood Vineyard Margaret River Pinot Noir 2006

$53; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94+++ points

She’s been sitting here for a week now, and I’ve still only managed to drink her down to the top of the label, while I’ve waited for her to show the slightest sign of breathing. Hardly any change. This wine will live for twenty or thirty years. 2006 being the coldest, slowest, latest Margaret River
vintage in forty years, one might expect such royal disdain from this revered vineyard. It’s very clean cherry-plum-raspberry sort of pinot at this stage, after a week, just as it was after a day. Maybe it’s developed a little beetroot; a little tabac. It’s after the extremely plush patent leather rather than the silk then velvet manner. A rather mysterious raven in a tuxedo and Bal a Versailles, by Deprez. Musk. Dried apple. She’s got Kahlua on her breath. Stunning sweetness of fruit and perfectly poised, neck-turning tannin. It’s like thanks I’ll move along and then wha-??? And you realise there’s wickedness afoot if you’re extremely patient, remain very well behaved, and certainly don’t fidget. It’s one of those wealthy spunks John Singer Sargent painted. She’ll take you when she likes.

Port Phillip Estate Morillon Tete De Cuvee Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2007
$46; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 15 OCT 09; 94+++ points

This is as good as Mornington has got thus far. It's mysterious, heavy and compressed. It almost smells of gun blue and gunpowder, but not quite. It reminds me of Domaine de l'Arlot Nuits Saint George 1er Clos des Forets Saint Georges 2004 as a young wine. It's black cherries, soot, black cats and licorice, with cassis and framboise below, which is not to say it's too alcoholic. It's just surly and authoritative and dense. The palate is lithe, tight, and ungiving, with little of the cheery raspberry and whatnot you'd expect, say, of Morey St Denis. This is one scary, sinister mutha. It needs at least a decade. Then, it'll kill you, but not by percussive intrusion. It'll slay by undressing itself, and then your defences. Forget all the firearms shit. This is a cross between Carmen Miranda wearing nothing but a hat made of fruit, and Nastassja Kinsky turning into the black panther in Cat People:

See these eyes so red

Red like jungle burning bright
Those who feel me near

Pull the blinds and change their... minds

It's been so long

Still this pulsing night

A plague I call a heartbeat

Just be still with me

Ya wouldn't believe what I've been through

You've been so long

Well it's been so long

And I've been putting out the fire with gasoline

Putting out the fire
With gasoline

If you haven't got my gist yet, this wine is not for you. It's for me. And I'll have to drink this bottle now, so I can join the girls.

Isabel Marlborough Pinot Noir 2004
$45; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 94+ points

Swoon. Schmooch. Sigh. This is what it’s s’posed to be like in Pinot World. Luscious and viscous, spicy and totally seductive, there’s no point in resisting: she slides all over your sensories like some wicked therapy oil, massaging every little worry away. I’d always thought Martinborough, (North Island), was the sexiest NZ pinot site, but this beauty says the wide valley of Marlborough, in the South, can do it just as well. Something with truffles.

Romney Park Reserve Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2006

$36, 13% alcohol; diam cork, 94+ points

Romney Park’s Reserve Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2006 ($36) was one of the few trophy winners deserving of its gong at the Adelaide Hills wine show. The peanuts in charge had served it in thimbles at that event, so now, with keener curiosity and a proper glass, I slid the proboscis in … I was already seated so I couldn’t sit down and weep, in the company of a polite couple I’d only just met, so I could barely disrobe and dance … The oak stonkered me first. Perfectly apt, old, seasoned French barrels had adorned the welling fruit with an edgy piquancy that reminded me of a Spanish lady I met on a train … All that fleshy fruit: a little roll of it protruding over the edge of her polished black satin. Like the cleavages between each toe, puffing up against the edge of the low-cut flamenco shoe leather, as mysterious as baby beetroot; but as simply obvious in intention, purpose, and presentation as pomegranite and raspberry; as tight with gushing blood as a juicy black cherry ... I licked it. Mmm. Tang of sweat, putting an edge on the savoury olive oil texture … and yes, a little kalamata amongst the cherry and baby beetroot, with a dollop of sour cream, like a borscht … “Utterly wicked and sinful”, I was
scratching, “swoooonful! – now to 2014 – ” when the bodgie pterodactyls outside swooped me back to Hahndorf. Romney Park is named after the Romney sheep they once counted, with a doff of the beret to Domaine de la Romanée Conti, the sacred heart of Burgundy. While Ashton Hills pinot is probably closer to the austere DRC in style, this red is more like Smitty’s devine Domaine de l’Arlot: more amiable and fleshy from the start, with one less zero at the end of the price. 15 FEB 08

Marchand & Burch Great Southern WA Pinot Noir 2007

$70; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93+++ points
Burgundian winemaker/viticulturer Pascal Marchand is half of this hot partnership in the deep south west; the other bit’s Jeff Burch, owner of Howard Park. Think: traditional winemaking combined with the best cool fruit Burch could coax from the Porongorup and Mount Barker vignobles, and some determined biodynamic tendencies. Inhale: ripe wild cherries in chilli chocolate sauce, nutmeggy oak, and richly composted earth. Drink: silky syrup with slender, persistent natural acidity and extremely fine-grained, gently insistent tannins. Exhale: sheer, saucy, deep pleasure, especially when it contains some roast pork belly. Ponder: langorous, teasing, appetising luxury that hangs on and on.

Penfolds Cellar Reserve Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2007$49.90; 14% alcohol; cork; tasted 20 FEB 09 and 7 MAY 09; 1 MAY 10; 93+++ points
“It’s a wine of its vintage” said Peter Gago when I suggested this was a more feminine and cheeky pinot than most of the dour macho brutes that went before. Peter’s still managed to make a pinot in the Penfolds style, but with less of its predecessors’ sheer might. It reminds me of some of the early Morey St Denis wines which Jacques Seysses made at Domaine Dujac, but it’s probably still much bigger than those – it may only ever look feminine amongst the brothers lined up about it on the Penfolds bench on these amazing days! From the fresh whole berries that sit on top, down through the borscht and fruitcake to the reduced turnip greens of its tannins, it’s a lovely pinot noir, and one which will thrive with a decade’s dungeon, if the Portuguese bark contribution permits. It’s had only natural yeast, hand-plunging, and no fining, filtering or tannins added, and it’s much the sweeter for all that. The oak’s just dandy, too: nine months in French barriques, half of them new.

Phi Single Vineyard Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2010
($55; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 8,640 bottles; tasted 25-27JAN12; 93+++ points). 
I love Pinot I can see my fingers through: somehow a little translucency reassures me that the exercise is about to become a lot more elegant and refined. I’ve had young Burgundies from very famous vineyards which this wine would merge into neatly on the tasting bench – it’s disarmingly chubby with maraschino cherry, black Russian tomato and blood orange flavours as much as framboise liqueuer.  It’s slightly fleshy, in the cutest, nuttiest way.  And then, that same relentless chalky tannin.  (I say chalk, because many don’t know what volcanic Kraznozems, which are not chalky, taste like.  They’re ferruginous and deep and quick to drain.) Very fine, highly appetising, and teasing more than satisfying, it’s perfect now with goat’s cheese and smoked salmon.  But it’ll get rounder and more opulent in the cellar, like that Phi Chardonnay 2010. It’s a beauty. 

Port Phillip Estate Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2008

$37; 14% alcohol; Diam cork; drunk 14-15 OCT 09; 93+++ points

Spicy, not quite abrupt, Burgundian timber itches the inside of your nose when you put it in here.
You don't have to put it in very far. But there are blackberries which ease this lumberjacked machismo. Deadly nightshade. Juniper. Anise. Dried figs. Baby spinach. Chicory. Peppery watercress, like the stuff Colonel Light left in the Delamere Creek in 1836. Some sorta thing blacker than a cherry. Dried prunes. That all makes your nose feel well scratched. I'd like to say that when you put it (the wine, not your nose) in where your teeth are, it's soothing, but no. It wangs around your mouth like a polecat in a cage trap. It's livid and vivid and very hard to feed. But shit it's a good wine. It has all the tight stuff, all the intense black devilry, all the hot gearbox and clutch of a pinot which will be a ravishing beauty in about six to eight years. So call it a Jaguar (car) and forget the polecat bit. No bullshit. The tannins (extra fine and velvety) and the acid (not quite Sandoz or Owsley, but pretty swift) and the sheer sinewy nature of the fruit and the sap all add up to a trip that's worth waiting for. And I don't mean a Ford with a Jaguar badge. I mean pre-aircon 4.2, stripped to the bones. Bravo, sweet Sandro Mosele!

Romney Park Pinot Noir 2007
??; 14% alcohol; diam cork; 93+++ points
This wine is tighter and meaner than the 2006 ever was. It has the trademark Hahndorf acidity jammed through it like a stake. Even at 14% alcohol, the natural acid is fierce. The wine has many facets of wild black cherry and hedgerow berries, even black tea, but it's as tight as a fist, and will
need a good lie down before it'll be letting anything loose. I'm not saying it's not pretty or entertaining or anything, for it most mercifully is, with cute raspberry gels, lemon drops, and lollyshop topnotes in general. But that palate is as tight and disciplined as I've seen in Hills pinot, maybe ever. These minimal oxygen wines of the Shorts are the opposite in style to the less retentive pinots of Steve George. It will be fascinating to have a pair of 97s in a decade! 04 APR 09

Bass Phillip Crown Prince Pinot Noir 2008 
$??; 13.8% alcohol; cork; 10JAN10; 93++ points
A doughy cherry tart, not quite cooked. Whiffs of white pepper and Marello cherries. Menthol. Toasting marshmallows. The wine is perfectly gentle, with a soothing and comforting viscosity. Umami. Then it tightens into a savoury, astringent juvenile as pure as the driven ice. So modest voluptuousness soon turns to the stuff that will keep this lovely wine alive for a decade or two. Its extremely fine tannins and brilliant natural acid dance a merry darn thing indeed, winding that long tapering whiprod of a finish up real tight.

Morillon Port Phillip Estate Tete du Cuvée Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2006
$??; 13.5% alcohol; Diam cork; 93++ points

I spose if you’re copying a wine style from France you might also copy their ling. This coulda bin called sumpin different. But it doesn’t jam in my craw, the ling. Nor does the wine. I like the fact that it’s not a juicy fruity pinot, filling the Port Phil’s top bot, nor is it a big tannic bugger, pretending it contains shiraz but not really. This is perfectly balanced, perfectly formed young pinot, understated in almost every way. But add all that understatement together, and you’ve got a simple, humble, plainly crafted antipodean wine that should have the haunches of all Burgundy ashiverin. Nice knock. Spare ribs.

Grosset Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2006
$65; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points

Probably Grosset’s best pinot, this won’t be out for a week or two, but there’s only 300 cases, so jump the queue or squeeze out a pre-release squirt. It’s a different style to Steve George’s exemplary “lightness of being” DRC models, with their paler hues and firmer acidity: it’s built more around riper tones and more obvious, hearty oak, closer to earlier Penfold’s than current Ashton Hills. The flavours are of the chewy black cherry family; the aftertaste still quite acidic, but with black tea tannins in place of the tight raspberry-and-lemon finish of Ashton. Great with T-Chow duck. (9.2.8)

Montalto Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2005

$37; 13.2% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points

Montalto is one of the more stunning vinstallations on burgeoning Mornington; it’s more of your Shaw & Smith (with a shiny bolt-on restaurant) than Rockford, with PR flak packed with shrapnel like “spectacular…natural…premium…extra virgin…springfed…pure …natural wetlands…highly-regarded…award-winning…self-sustaining”. What? No “nestled in”? Nope. But here’s a damned fine pinot. Nutty, and more astringent wild cherry than simple raspberry, this is firmly acidic, firmly tannic, clean-as-a-whistle pinot for the cellar, more DRC than Juicy Fruit.

Blind River Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007
$40; 14% alcohol; screw cap; drunk 14-15 OCT 09; 92+++ points

Many Kiwi pinnerwahists (they really call it pinner wha in the Land of the Wrong White Crowd) seem to be stuck in an oak addiction similar to many Australian redmen of the seventies and eighties. This wine is acrid with sharp blackwood sap. But there are many cherries (wild little black ones, and marello), a hint of persimmon, some kalamata and some anise, all adding up to quite a smell. The swaller department is more entertaining and fruity, as those dark fruits climb over the carpentry in a determined manner, leaving the drinkers grinning that mad purple grin that people develop when they're in red heaven. I've enjoyed shlucking this baby, but it'll be more sinful sensually, and less schoolmarmish paddy whack wise, if you let it forget the examinations, roll a few doobies, and sleep off the rest of its secondary schooling in the dungeon. It has sufficient acid to eat some of that oak and support some of that fruit for, well, what? A decade? If you prefer a bit of biffo, get it now at Vintage Cellars, which means you'll have to come to Australia.

Moss Wood Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2008

$??; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; consumed 21-24 OCT 09; 92+++ points
On first opening, this seemed simple. Maraschino, raspberry, maybe some grilled cashew, and alcohol. It almost went down the sink. But on day three, whoop-y-doo! We got us a convoy. Spicy Burgundian oak, cherries, vanilla bean, creme caramel, firm yet sort of distant acidity ... suggesting the wine should be left in the cold for four years, or decanted for about four hours. The typically brief label text suggests the wine was made to the Moss Wood recipe on Mornington, but names no culprits ... Sando Mosele is my bet, but theplace is Dromana, not Red Hill, where Sandro waves his wand. When Clare Mugford gets back to me I'll let you know. In the meantime, this is the lighter, simpler little sister to the Moss Wood Margaret River model lauded above. I'll be keen to discover why the Mugfords went to Mornington, and not Tassie, for this distant addition to their fold.

Bass Phillip The Estate Pinot Noir 2008
$??; 13.5% alcohol; cork; 10JAN10; 92++ points
Iced borscht with sour cream and raspberries afloat just about wraps up the bouquet department. There’s a mint leaf, too. This is the least viscous of the Bass Phillip trio. It has similar authority and force to its bigger siblings, but is the most slender and least complex – it’s less acidulous and its tannins are finer, too. It’s great schlűcking pinot for the earnest beginner or casual connoisseur alike; give it another few years and it’ll be a very serious mature dinner wine.

Eldridge Estate Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2006

$??; 14% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 24-28 APR 09; 92++ points

Deceptive wine, this, as many an alluring pinot finds itself. It's delicate and nutty (cashew) with stacks of cherry (marello and maraschino). It also has a fascinating savoury tweak of Chinese olive. The oak is subtle and gently spicy (ginger and nutmeg); the flavours gentle but persistent, with precise acidity and elegant tannins to offer perfect counterpoint to the wine's finely viscous texture. It's too cute now: it needs three more years to properly vol up to us. It was perfect, though, with rabbit liver pate on rye, one caper per slice, at breakfast in the rain.

Hurley Vineyard Estate Balnarring Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2006
$40; 14.8% alcohol; Diam cork; 92++ points

A sinuous, complex mess of black cherries, beetroot, fennel, cedar, old nutmeg, musk,
confectioner’s sugar, anise and whatever you’ve got the time to wait for, this is an alluring and engaging pinot from one of the southern hemisphere’s best pinot sites. And it’s not a mess, really. It’s quite neat and tidy. But it’s not behaving yet; it’s not trained. It lashes restlessly about the mouth like a sinuous beast, leaving a light coating of black tea tannin and a long acidulous astringency. It’s big, but balanced, long, intense and strapping. I’d love to drink it in four years, but it’ll go much longer than that. Give it plenty of decanter, serve it in big glasses, and have it with classic boeuf bourguignon. And somebody whose eyes you can gaze into for at least two bottles. One before; one after. FEB 09

Paradigm Hill L’ami Sage Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2005

$40; 13.9% alcohol; Diam cork; 92++ points

Just under a tonne to the acre on the smug cool of Mornington must mean extreme intensity, in any variety. Make it pinot and you’ve got my nostrils flaring. A whiff of sooty oak opens the glass, then, reluctantly, a long, tight, infuriatingly shy red gradually exudes. Beetroot, black cherries, bilberries and blueberries simmer away in it; charcuterie meats hover below it; magic ethereal topnotes will gradually evolve above it. It has svelte acidity and the muscles of a sprinter. Wait five or six years. Duck.


Pipers Brook Vineyard Estate Tasmania Pinot Noir 2009$42; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92++ points
Highly refined, yet almost melancholic in an autumnal decay sort of way, this moody salon cat puts me somewhere between Morticia Addams with a martini and Eartha Kitt on the Campari.  It’s never droll.  With apologies to both women, its top note is old white pepper box.  Marello cherries this time. With Red currants and some estery banana cream.  Just between you and me, it’s too much of a tightwad to put on flesh, but it remains nicely sensual, as in a very close thing.  I love the way the acid snakes away through all that black velvet tannin.  There’s some hedgerow stuff there too, almost like basil or peppery cress like the stuff Colonel Light’s doctor left growing all up the Delamere Creek. This wine is sufficiently well-mannered to be ideal with fat tuna steaks as raw as you can get them with about 5 ml of pink-white-black (in that order) char-grilled flesh on the outside.  Oh yes.  I haven’t mentioned fruit. Well I sort of did. Bit it’s more as if those fruits were poached in Sauternes and whipped into a crème.  It’s custardy. Very tidy.

Toi-Toi Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008
$??; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 20-23 June 09; 92++ points

While I reckon this may be quite a lot more alcoholic than the above claim, this is a wine of some elegance and poise. Prune and beetroot abound, but there's a lovely burst of florists' and confectioners' colour at the top of the bouquet, teasingly dancing through and around the blazing staves. The palate has a cheeky raspberry gel simplicity and texture about it, and then the cooper comes knocking again. Repeat the whole exercise, and the glass fills up with exquisite Morello cherries. Not too bad at all.

Herbert Mount Gambier Barrel Number 1 Pinot Noir 2006

$??; 13.6% alcohol; screw cap; 92+ points

Black tea and walnut shells seem to add their dry, dark, wo
ody aromas to this, the best barrel of Herbert’s in 2006. Below those moody, slightly acrid topnotes there wells a bowl of beetroot, prune, raspberry and marello cherries. The palate’s beautifully viscous, with all the above flavours in neat balance. If there’s a style hint required for tragic Burgundy nuts, think along the lines of a junior Domaine l’Arlot. Like the standard 05 model, the wine is better for its honesty: it’s not forced, sophisticated or pretentious, but just, simply, overwhelmingly, HERE, NOW. Juicy pork cutlets.

Stefano Lubiana Primavera Tasmania Pinot Noir 2006

$28; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92+ points

Dear Stefano’s been plugging away there on the Derwent for nearly twenty years, after the shock of telling his family their Riverland vineyards weren’t what he wanted, selling out and moving so far south they could hardly see him. This is the result: a hearty, fruity, honest son-of-a-gun of a pinot, gloriously wholesome and healthy. Black cherries. Crème caramel. Dry dark spices too hard to track down. That’s the nose full. The palate? Lovely neat acidity, all natural, with fluffy raspberry and cranberry whip around it. Like a trifle. Wet sponge cake. Cream. Cassis. Vanilla custard. Leaves the mouth like a sylph on the fly. Pork cutlets.

Stonier Mornington Peninsula Reserve Pinot Noir 2005
$45; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92 points

It’s a good thing, watching the Mornington wineries hit their straps. Stonier is one of the oldest, and the vines that went into this fine pinot are around twenty-five years old. It’s an elegant, yet complex red, with harmonious twists of dried fig and prune humming along beneath a dusting of lightly sooty oak and the beginnings of leathery maturity. There’s some appropriately cute tannin, too, drying off the tail. Half an hour in the decanter really sets it loose. Confit of duck. (18.11.26)

Dominique Portet Gippsland Pinot Noir 2009 
$??; 13% alcohol; screw cap; drunk 21-22MAY10; 91++ points
An honest and straightforward wine, this babe never attempts to be anything it's not. It has a seep of smoky carbon, heading towards peat, and pleasant hints of prune, dried apple, and blanched almond. The palate's neat and tidy, and works the mouth gently, puckering the cheeks and the gums ever so slightly, releasing the mouth juices in anticipation of food. Like rabbit rillete, or T-Chow duck. It's much better after twenty four hours' air, indicating it's worth stacking some away for a couple of years. Never complex or overbearing, it's a pleasant, almost cheeky, fresh and savoury drink that can be savoured slowly without demanding too much Pinotphilippia in the conversation department.

Paracombe Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2011 
$20; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 91++ points
I can’t believe that these vines are nudging 30 years of age: it seems like yesterday et cetera; more difficult to accept is that this cheeky baby comes from the horror vintage of 2011.  But the Droggies picked this before the moulds took hold, gave it their no-nonsense old barrels treatment, and got it on the market fast so the wood’s ready for 2012, which is now. I was about to call it sassy, but it’s almost too big to hang much sass.  It’s certainly savoury, in the precise sense of the appetizing herb of that name. It smells of Montmorency cherries and red currants.  It also smells of summer in the dust, something there was very little of in the second wettest vintage in Australian history.  It’s acrid and spicy, along the lines of cordite and cumin.  Then it smacks you in the mouth.  That’s sassy.  And brash.  While it has modest viscosity, it’s teasing more than reassuring or comforting. There’s not a lot of syrup about it.  It’s tannic (fine-grained; bone dry) and acidulous and audacious, all of which are character traits that a year or three of dungeon would fix to the point where you won’t believe it’s the same wine.  It makes me crave the gelatinous nature of the grilled egg plant and pork belly.  Wah Hing tea-smoked duck.  Every week it’ll settle a little, and it’ll be almost ready to behave when it hits the tables in the sun at Festival time, when I’ll bet you’ll see it along every footpath from the Hydey through town and way up the Parade. Shloosh it in a decanter or jug in the meantime.  The price looks really silly.

Herbert Frosted Mount Gambier Pinot Noir 2005
$25; 12.2% alcohol; cork; 90++ points

A tweak of spicy, slightly sooty wood gives this ripe-raspberry-lollies-and-marello-cherries delight a pleasant walnut shell edge. Like all three current Herbert pinots, it’s disarmingly open of face, reminding me of the parlour maid in The Duchess of Duke Street, which is before any of you were born. This one has the most prominent acidity, and will be the best performer in the dungeon, if you feel a little Max Mosely sesh coming on. It’s simple, but never duh-dumb nor pretentious. Perfect fare for smoked hocks served on blue cabbage, with poached beetroot, Spanish onion and kalamata olives.

Cloudy Bay Marlborough NZ Pinot Noir 2005

$40; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 90 points

Martinborough, at the bottom the north isle, truly owns the Kiwi pinot throne. But this naïve south isle blossom proves that even Louis Vuitton can do it there, on a mighty industrial scale. Such sanitary wine is scarce in Burgundy, but the simplicity and barefaced cordial nature of this fruity cutie makes it the perfect tailgater to the CB savvy b along all those endless boulevards of thirsty blondes and tan blokes with deck loafers and no socks. Made for chargrilled meats, red or white, served by big Greeks.

Hurley Vineyard Harcourt Balnarring Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2006
$49; 14.9% alcohol; Diam cork; 90 points

Too much, too much alcohol. What a pity. If your pinots are hitting the scales at 14.9, you have to start wondering why you’re growing it there if you really can’t face picking it at 13.5%. Maybe you should be growing grenache. Not posh, though, grenache, especially on a peninsula like Mornington, where there are more Ferraris than school buses. Or there used to be. Maybe now that the money’s all evaporated we might see some grenache planted there, and a few more school buses. Now, this wine. Black tea, black spice, black soot, black cherry, black iron like a steam locomotive, maybe some old pre-ground black pepper ... then a slurp of viscous, elastic goo goo like that stuff that sticks to the wall when you hurl it, but black again. I want pinot to be full of dark pink and eventually some russet. FEB 09

Penfolds Bin 23 Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 200

 $40; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 15APR10; 89++ points
Cellar 23 is a rather hallowed hall buried deep in the hill at the back of Penfolds’ Magill Estate winery; it’s where the Penfolds Pinots age in barrel, and has also been the site of some very special, er, underground tastings. Now it’s given its number to a new Bin Range of Pinots designed to be a little easier on the pocket than the Cellar Reserve. There is no secret that the record heat blitz of 2009 fried much of South Australia’s vintage; fortunately the cooler higher Hills fruit had not yet achieved veraison when this blasted through, and so we have a survivor from what Peter Gago calls “some of the younger vineyards”. I always thought that the notion of Penfolds developing its own style of Pinot seemed unlikely if not impossible, but here you have living proof that’s now been done. This is not Burgundy. This is indubitably Penfolds. It has greenish tannins that Peter calls “rhubarb”, which is close to my “weedy”, but these will assimilate and mellow with five years dungeon. Which is what this wine’s all about: cellar. It’s bright and sassy, cheeky and cheery in this its infancy, with a quite sharp juniper edge adding some cut to its nutty fats.

Stoneleigh Marlborough Pinot Noir 2005

$19; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 89 points

Burgundy must sweat when it sees pinot of this quality, made after its own traditional manner, at this price. The free-draining river stones of Marlborough, at the northern end of New Zealand’s south isle, grow pinot effortlessly, reflecting the sun’s heat from beneath the vines to ensure full ripening. Supple cherry, raspberry and prune flavours abound, with hints of dark charcuterie meats. Saltimbocca. (18.11.26)

Penfolds Bin 23 Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2011
$40?; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 88+++ points
Given the way bloody perfect Hills Pinot fell apart in the incessant wet of 2011, it’s little surprise that there’s hardly any of this wine available.  But I have a glass of it here, so it exists for the moment.  Bang!  It smells of mace.  Then, it’s one of those Pinots that smell of everything else: like the grasses and herbage that surrounded it in the vineyard.  It has the acrid dark green hints of the nightshade family -- think herb, hop, potato, tomato leaf -- sitting like the sward atop the fruits, which are Curaçao and Blood oranges, pink grapefruit, Juniper berry and Oxheart tomato, before a rare Marello cherry dares poke a hand up. Then, it’s a pickled under-ripe one. The oak grabs some of that dusty leafy burlap character and it becomes a dusty hessian sack for all those ingredients.  It’s about as good as you’ll get from these Hills in this year.  Give it a year or two if you want Burgundy.  (MAR 12)

Herbert Mount Gambier Pinot Noir 2005

$18.50; 12.8% alcohol; screw cap; 88 points

Considering this lovely bright young thing is made from only one clone (55V12), while deities like Steve George spent 25 years cutting 2? clones down to six in pursuit of pinot truth, this is a fair dinkum cutie. It reminds me of the first Morey St Denis Jaques Seysses made at Domaine Dujac in Burgundy, all those years ago. Nutty, with pretty maraschino fruit, and just a hint of suitably spicy oak, with a nice, thick, almost waxy texture, it’s a primary duckster, or maybe chook-a-vin accompanist. Good thing is it doesn’t try to be anything it’s not.

Moorooduc Estate Devil Bend Creek Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2007

$25; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 88 points

The devil’s in the detail: while this label’s a tad ambiguous, this is not an estate wine, but a blend of grapes from around Mornington – it’s their cheapy. Nothing cheap about its production, however, with all the proper pinot business going down in the winery. Pleasantly unobtrusive oak adds a dry spicy edge to the marello cherry/raspberry/beetroot fruit, and to the palate’s nicely viscous texture. The flavours are pleasantly nutty, like cashew, in a conserve of all those fruits in the bouquet. 2007 was a disgusting year across Victoria, so it’s a wonder this got through the crap. Roast duck or pork.

Oyster Bay Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007

$23; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 87 points

Aniseed and licorice aren’t the sorts of things I expect to find growing in pinot bottles, but they seem to be growing very well in here. Hard to say how much of that comes from oak, and the lumberjacks have certainly been at it in here. There’s fruit, too: minty blackcurrants and black cherries, but more kalamata. So it must be seen as a savoury sort of pinot: one that irritates enough to make one hungry. (“Would one be interested in giving one one?”, Billy Connelly asked last time I saw him, but he was speaking of neither me nor a drink, as he’s not allowed to drink. He was joking about the language and his beautiful crazy wife, Pamela.) So this is black licorice more than raspberry. Big volume commercial pinots like this seem to be tending toward a generic soft dense shiraz sort of style, which might be what Burgundy was like when they regularly topped it up with shiraz from Algeria or the Languedoc, or, if they could afford it, the Rhone. Syrupy smooth aniseed balls. Or rings. Well waxed. You’ll not be coughing up fur balls after drinking this polished rake. Or his tattooed missus. FEB 09

Holly’s Garden Whitlands Pagan Pinot Noir 2006

$??; 13.5% alcohol; cork; 86++ points

Whitlands is high (850 metres), cool and beautiful. The pests are phylloxera, wombats, currawongs and humans. I can’t understand why this wine smells a little porty, and yet is only 13.5% richter. It’s thick and pagan to drink, like some witch’s essence, with beetroot and blackberry and carbon, like a fresh-shaved Staedtler 6B artists’ pencil. It has no finesse. It’s thick and velvety with tannin, then it gets thicker and more tannic. I know that sounds tough, but, well, I can stand a pinot that sucks your lips into your oesophagus with its astringency, but I’m scared of this one waving a spear at me.

Kooyong Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2008
$48; 13.5% alcohol; cork; drunk 4-7MAY10; 84+
Pancetta and capocollo smells be here; along with some of that tussocky, sedge and fen bouquet of Mornington Peninsula. Beetroot, too, and prune. Slightly sooty oak. The palate’s bone dry – as dry as crushed bone china – and the fruit scarce. It is staunch, sparse, austere, ungiving wine which may do big things in your dungeon, but I suspect that thinning skein of fruit flesh won’t be enough to fill it properly and carry it.

Deviation Road Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2007

$??; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 83 points

You don’t often encounter porty pinot, so this is a novelty. 2007 was a hot drought year in the Hills, and it’s been very well captured in this bottle. I’m not saying it’s simple: it’s black and thick and stacked with licorice and aniseed balls, and it’s got unobtrusive oak and strapping acid, but let’s face it, why not make a shiraz? I can’t hlep thinking this would have been better picked at 13. Sure it would have been acidic, but it would have been more like presentable Burgundy.


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  2. Stumbled onto this blog and am enjoying the reviews immensely. It was great to see a wine at 12.6% ( Pinot Noir )get such a good review and to see other wines below the 14% level. I have been getting desperate to find good wines that allow me to drink more than a thimble full before my knees threaten to fail me and my taste buds are so drunk that they can not taste anything and it is not worth causing my liver all that work.

  3. Philip - you do write so sexily! Whenever I need a cheer-up, I read a series of your reviews and they are just sooo entertaining. Bucks me up!