AUSTRALIAN PINOT NOIR
Pinot Noir is an elegant and nuanced red varietal that Australian wine lovers adore, but is Pinot from Australia? Despite its popularity, Pinot Noir did not originate here, but in France many centuries ago. It’s possible that a clone of Pinot Noir made its way to Australia with the First Fleet in 1788, and it was definitely part of the collection of vines that James Busby established in the Hunter Valley in the early 1800s. The Yarra Valley’s re-emergence as a wine region (following the phylloxera outbreak that virtually wiped out the variety) coincided with the rebirth of Pinot Noir, and today it is the most widely planted red varietal in that region.
Pinot Noir has steadily grown in popularity in Australia as consumers search for an alternative to fuller reds made from Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. It now seems that the best examples of Pinot Noir are grown in cooler conditions. Australian Pinot Noir is typically low in colour pigmentation, has a perfumed nose and shows red fruit such as cherry, raspberry and plum flavours balanced by smooth tannins. Great Pinot Noir should age well and develop complex truffle, game and earthy characters.
WHAT IS PINOT NOIR?
Pinot Noir is a red grape varietal that has been grown in France’s Burgundy region for centuries. Believed to be over a thousand years older than Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir gets its name from its distinctive grape cluster and colour, which looks like a dark pine-cone – Pinot is French for pine, and Noir means black or night.
Pinot Noir is temperamental and sensitive to a whole range of influences in both vineyard and winery. It should be ethereal and hint at its origins or the soil it came from. Tannins are typically fine and soft, expanding at the back of the palate. The best examples age well and often take some years to realise their true character.
When tasting Pinot Noir, it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s not a big red wine, but that it is all about delicacy and length, harmony and finesse. Pinot Noir is also one of the classic Champagne grapes, and is prized around the world for the production of Sparkling wine.
WHAT REGION IN AUSTRALIA MAKES THE BEST PINOT NOIR?
Cool to moderate climates such as Tasmania, the Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills, and Mornington Peninsula are Australian wine regions that are excelling in their examples of Pinot Noir, while Western Australia’s Pemberton and Great Southern regions are showing plenty of potential.
Tasmania is a premier region for the production of high-quality Australian Pinot Noir. It has an ideal climate for the varietal, for both Sparkling and table wine production. Some of the most exciting Australian Pinot Noir is produced in Tasmania, particularly on the east coast.
The soils and climate of the Adelaide Hills region makes it an ideal site for the cultivation of quality Pinot Noir, which tends to be medium bodied with richer, ripe cherry and berry flavours.
The Yarra Valley has made exceptional Pinot Noir for some time. The wines are light in character, elegant and very approachable in their youth.
Some fine Australian Pinot Noirs are produced on the Mornington Peninsula. These wines are light and elegant yet show fabulous complexity and are often very approachable in their youth. Paringa Estate, Crittenden, Stonier and Red Hill are just some of the names to look for, for representative examples of Mornington Pinot.
Western Australian Pinot Noir
We have seen a marked increase in the number and quality of Pinot coming from the West in recent years, particularly from the cool WA region of Pemberton and the vast Great Southern area which encompasses five distinct sub-regions.
Orange and other New South Wales Pinot Noir
The cool climate NSW regions of Tumbarumba and Orange are also being increasingly celebrated for their premium Pinot Noir. And surprisingly, there are small quantities grown in the Hunter Valley, where the tradition of blending Shiraz and Pinot, perfected by the legendary winemaker, Maurice O’Shea, is making a resurgence.
WHICH ARE THE BEST PINOT NOIR BRANDS IN AUSTRALIA?
We are increasingly spoilt for choice when it comes to premium Australian Pinot Noir. Here are some producers to look out for from some of the top Pinot regions.
Tasmanian Pinot Noir producers include:
- Josef Chromy, Pooley Wines, Holm Oak, and Tamar Ridge.
Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir producers include:
- Petaluma, Shaw + Smith, Wicks Estate and Ashton Hills.
Yarra Valley Pinot Noir producers include:
- Rochford Estate, Giant Steps, Rob Dolan, De Bortoli, Boat O ‘Craigo, Yering Station and Toolangi.
New South Wales Pinot Noir producers include:
- McWilliam’s (from their Tumbarumba vineyards), Rowlee, Gilbert Family Wines and Cook’s Lot (Orange), and Pinot/Shiraz blends from Keith Tulloch and Carillion.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT PINOT NOIR
What is Chardonnay Pinot Noir?
Chardonnay Pinot Noir is a light and fresh Sparkling White wine that is made by combining the two varietals and is a very popular style of wine. Australian now stands tall among the greatest Sparkling producers on earth.
How to serve Pinot Noir?
How you serve Pinot Noir and how you drink it can depend on what foods you are pairing it with. Pinot is one of the world’s great food wines. Its bright acidity, fruit flavours and textural tannins make it a good match for salmon, charcuterie, gamey and earthy dishes, and anything where mushrooms are a star. Pinot Noir can even be served slightly chilled, so pop it in the fridge half an hour before you plan to serve it.
What is Australian Pinot Noir called?
Aussie Pinot Noir retains its traditional name, though it is often shortened to just ‘Pinot’ in casual conversation.