Howard Park Wines International Pinot Tasting
Words Paul Diamond | Photography Borrowed Salt Photography
publisher Paul Diamond indulges his love of Pinot at a privileged
tasting with the incredibly generous Burch family of WA’s Howard Park Wines. Find out how you can attend the exclusive invitation-only
Howard Park Wines International Pinot Tasting and Lunch this October
Humans certainly get interesting when they add wine into their system, but
the complex factors that shape what varieties we prefer, how often we like
to enjoy them and how much we are prepared to spend would make for a
revealing branch of Anthropological Psychology.
Some of us collect and covet, some of us stick to what we know, whilst some
of us are always looking over the horizon, yearning to explore and
Then there are those who splurge and share. These folk love sharing their
passion, knowledge and experience. Generally humorous and highly social,
these peeps are OK with nursing a
little hangover tomorrow in exchange for enjoying good wine, food and company today.
Sharing is caring
Jeff Burch, head of Burch Family Wines, is one such gent. Every year since
2006, Jeff and his wife Amy, daughter Natalie and sons Richard and David,
welcome friends from all over the country to share in a day of wine
exploration, great food and conversation.
It started with Riesling, mirroring their love for producing cool climate
Rieslings from their Great Southern vineyards. Howard Park Riesling is now
the fourth most collected of its type in the country. Out of millions of
wines produced in this country, it is now considered a varietal benchmark.
It takes considerable energy, resources and expense to every year collect
some of the best varietal examples in the world, fly people from all over
the country to Perth and ship them down to Margaret River then put on a
tasting and lunch.
Maybe the enlightening perspective gained from benchmarking your wines
against the best in the world is the driving motivation behind the whole
exercise. Each has their differing opinions on this, but one thing is for
sure, putting yourself up against the world’s best year after year is
a brave thing to do, especially with something as subjective as wine.
In 2010, the family decided to switch its focus from Riesling to Pinot and
the annual International Pinot Noir tasting and lunch was born. The move
reflects their commitment and desire to explore the possibilities of the
variety from the cool climate regions of WA, specifically Great Southern,
the Porongurups and Mount Barker.
Jeff and his family produce Pinots across their MadFish and Howard Park
labels, as well as Marchand & Burch, a collaborative project with
Burgundian winemaker Pascal Marchand from Domaine Comte Armand, previously
at Domaine De La Vougeraie.
Passion for Pinot
Pinot Noir is most definitely the flag bearing variety when it comes to
pursuits for the passionate. To most it is the holy grail of wine and
winemaking; the stars have to align for it to work, it thrives in cool to
harsh conditions and takes insight, understanding and intuition in the
winery to produce wines of depth and quality. Whilst its popularity is
growing, it is still one of the least
grown and sold varieties in Australia, if not the world.
Despite all this, Pinot can produce some of the most expensive, expressive
and sought after wines on the planet and if you truly want to explore the
psychological effect of wine on humans, share a good bottle with someone
who loves Pinot.
Jeff Burch would be a perfect subject for this pleasurable experiment and
the experience will go a long way to explaining his generosity and energy
when it comes to Pinot.
Last year, 100 of the Burch family’s friends, wine club members,
trade partners and local Pinotphiles congregated at Howard Park’s
Margaret River cellar door and got to sample 18 of the world’s best,
most interesting and expressive Pinots.
Across three brackets hosted separately by Howard Park’s Chief
Winemaker Janice McDonald, Optometrist, Burghound and Master of Champagne,
Steve Leslie, and Jeff, the wines were tasted blind, scored and everyone
nominated what they believed the wines were from a list of six. The wines
were then revealed and discussions were held regarding each wine: their
homes, history, style and expressions.
The tasting format, while challenging, was as refreshing as it was
illuminating. Everyone knew what was in each bracket, but not knowing which
wine was in which glass removed prejudice, allowing everyone to absorb the
many glorious expressions this variety can exhibit.
Most Pinot tastings are a race to the top with the French Premier Cru (1er)
wines getting all the attention due to their expense and scarcity. But this
tasting was a true exercise in perspective, featuring interesting,
expressive wines that captured attention. Yes, there were some1er Cru
French wines, but there were as many German ‘spatburgunder’
tasted as well as interesting Australian, New Zealand and American wines.
One of the big conclusions from this exercise was that whilst the French
wines still hold the crown for classic, deep, ethereal and nuanced Pinot
Noir characters, the new world – America, Australia and New Zealand
– offers an incredibly broad and exciting range of varietal
After the tasting, lunch was served, the world’s biggest cheese table
was assembled and as the band started, a game of backyard cricket
‘glass in hand’ style was beginning. The day stands as a
wonderful celebration of Pinot Noir, warm hospitality and the Burch
family’s generosity. Long may they all live.
Enjoy the best of Western Australia's majestic Margaret River wine region
with our exclusive and intimate Margaret River experience, Friday, October
27th to Tuesday, October 31st, 2017.
Curated especially for Wine Selectors Members through our friends and
partners in this breath-taking wine destination, you'll get unprecedented
access to some of the best winemakers, wines and prestigious estates in
Margaret River during this unforgettable 4-night, 5-day adventure featuring
money-can't-buy food+wine experiences.
If you designed your ultimate Margaret River trip, this would be it
! To view the full itinerary
o find out more