Allen Meadows, one of the leading Pinot Noir authorities suggested that, “most enthusiasts cut their wine drinking teeth on other varieties for the first five to ten years”. He went on and proposed that, and following this ten year period, most have become relatively sophisticated in their tastes and understand what they like. I am not entirely convinced I would declare myself as ‘sophisticated’ but I do agree with Allen’s assertion that one’s palate does require many years of wine work before Pinot Noir can be fully enjoyed.
For many years, I have rejected the notion that Pinot Noir can offer brilliance. In my very early wine years, and this is my entire defence, I thought Burgundy lovers were a collective group of snobs who took more enjoyment from talking about the next bottle of Chablis and hadn’t the foggiest idea when it came to appreciating the complexities of the regional and district appellations nor the fifty-plus communal appellations. But, in fairness, do many?
More prosaically, and certainly in my case, I could not afford to purchase great bottles of Pinot Noir and given the stratospheric prices of Burgundy today, this remains unchanged. Having the ability to afford better wines comes with age, which brings the issue of Pinot Noir full circle and to where I stand today. I could not be further away from a Burgundy snob, but I will declare that inexpensive, quality Pinot Noir is fictional. Indeed, this is a sad fact and I am yet to find or sample one sub £15.00. Granted, some may be acceptable, but this is too much to pay for an adequate bottle. Syrah / Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are just a few examples of grape varieties which offer super value at this price level.
It is suggested that lovers of Pinot Noir are seeking another level of enjoyment – more intellectual against those seeking a hedonistic palate rush. I understand both observations but do tend to shrink back from the overuse of the descriptive term, ‘intellectual’. I use it sparingly and certainly not when the description should be old, dried-out and knackered. I also believe that Pinot Noir should be considered in the context of where it is grown and produced as the terroir (its environment) comes into play more than any other grape variety.
Also, the winemaker is key to the style produced. Some have a symbiotic relationship and produce wines of ethereal elegance whereas, and if I use Dave Phinney (winemaker at Orin Swift) as a complete opposite, produces a Pinot Noir which is the polar opposite. 16 degrees of alcohol and a wine with serious attitude which smacks you from left to right. Personally, I am not a fan, but I do not disapprove either as it’s great to see this fickle mistress turned into a Metallica roadshow. It’s not for everyone, but nor is otherworldly Burgundy.
I sample wines as a part of my daily profession, and I am one of the fortunate few that take their work home, which is never an inconvenience. Each evening I like to open wine; I must be incredibly unwell for this not to happen. Over time my evening preference has become more and more predictable with Pinot Noir being my first choice when opting for red wine. It is a similar story with white wines as I invariably opt for Chardonnay. I have been buying Bordeaux wines for twenty-five years and have more than I can possibly consume, however I rarely tuck into them.
Most are left for at least ten-years before I am even tempted. I recently started on my ‘09’s and found some cracking bottles. The Larrivet Haut Brion being a sensation for the money whereas, last Sunday’s bottle of ’09 Château Gruaud Larose was a real disappointment and not cheap at £75.00 per bottle. All-in-all, I estimate that I drink less than two cases a year. On the positive, it’s going to be one-hell of a wake!
I have questioned myself as to why I have joined the ‘sophisticated’ ranks and my answer is more complicated than I expected. My lifestyle is the key reason, which appears unusual. I am surrounded by wines daily and often sample wines which are not always to my liking. When I tackle young Aussie Shiraz, I prepare myself, as some can be monolithic in their proportions. Running a busy wine company places physiological and emotional pressures on me, which and by the end of each day, takes its toll. You would think that uncomplicated wines would be my ideal partner, but you would be wrong. I love wines which offer fruit and those which are now in their secondary or tertiary stages of their lives.
Palate feel and the weight of a wine is important to me – more so after a long, tiring day. Emotionally, I struggle to face the attack of a young Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz and drinking mature wines daily is, to me, unnecessarily greedy. Given I started collecting wines from the age of eighteen, I can afford to drink amazing wines, which cost me little. Today, many are worth ten-times their value but I am conscious of this fact and prefer to keep these for special occasions.
Pinot Noir is the last bastion where terroir, a true sense of a place, comes into force. I have spent far too many years working with the Bordelaise and listening to their well drilled pitches concerning ‘terroir’. In a blind tasting, I would struggle to name the region let alone the appellation as some wines which I have sampled ‘en-primeur’ resemble wines from the new world. Pinot Noir is different as there is no hiding. As a winemaker, it must be thrilling to work with such a capricious varietal – It would certainly be my choice. I believe all great wines have the ability to thrill, to offer an emotional connection however, Pinot Noir has the greatest sense of amazement but also disappointment.
Recently, I opened a bottle of Jacques Frederic Mugnier, Nuits Saint Georges Clos Marechale (2005) which I believe sells in the region of £120.00. Many years back, I purchased two cases following a great lunch in London and have slowly been working my way through them. He’s a great winemaker and I have enjoyed each bottle. Have they thrilled me? Not quite. Actually, I should have sold one case which would have paid for the one which I opened. I have sampled lots of Burgundy ‘en-primeur’ and often raise an eyebrow when I note the retail value in excess of £1,500 per case for something I would describe as delicious but nothing to get overly excited about.
Burgundy has always been expensive and as the years roll-on, prices continue to rise. Great Pinot Noir is never cheap and often inconceivably expensive - Domaine de la Romanée-Conti being a case in point. Sampled by the press each year, but rarely consumed by us mere mortals. I have been felt let-down by more Pinot Noir than any other grape variety, but I still keep coming back.
" Australia’s Yarra Valley, Victoria, Tasmania, Adelaide Hills and Macedon Ranges are now producing world class wines and for me, compete for the number one, new world spot."
Away from Burgundy, more and more examples of good to great Pinot Noirs have come to market. California, (Oregon, Sonoma & Russian River Valley) in particular are producing wines equal and often better than many Grand Cru Burgundies. Australia’s Yarra Valley, Victoria, Tasmania, Adelaide Hills and Macedon Ranges are now producing world class wines and for me, compete for the number one, new world spot, but I will declare that the US has the edge. That said, and an important caveat, Australia Pinot Noirs ranging from £20 to £45.00 are outpacing the US with a confident stride. With the odd exception, I cannot recall many US Pinot Noirs which compete at this price point. Conversely, they produce some extraordinary examples around £70-£90 which, as yet, Australia cannot contest – Paul Lato and DuMOL being two, brilliant producers who craft wines with so much soul – they’re highly addictive as is my thought-provoking fascination with this true, great varietal…
A list of some of my in-house favourites
Exquisite Pinot Noir from the US
DuMol Finn Pinot Noir 2014
99-100 Points - Stuart McCloskey "The nose is very intense and does require a good hour in a decanter to unlock its captivating bouquet of dark berries, bilberry and sous-bois. The palate is medium-bodied exquisitely balanced with ultra-fine tannins. At times the ‘Finn’ comes across as something very powerful, at other times sensory. Certainly, a mercurial Pinot Noir which washes effortlessly across your palate. Extraordinary, a moving wine and nigh on perfection."
£84.50 per bottle
Anthill Farms Campbell Ranch Pinot Noir 2014
97+ - Stuart McCloskey "We thought the 2013 was something special, however the 2014 could well go down as one of the greatest ‘young’ Pinot Noirs to ever pass our lips. The ’14 is blessed with an incredibly intense, powerful nose - the perfume is extraordinary, almost exotic. Although young, the palate is showing beautiful structure, filigree tannins and is utterly sensuous. This is an irresistible Campbell Ranch, a little fatter and more generous than the previous two vintages. Effortless, mercurial and brilliant."
£39.95 per bottle
Chanin Wines Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir 2013
98+ Points - Stuart McCloskey "The élevage here was 40% whole clusters and 16 months in 15% new French oak with all the hallmarks of a very serious Burgundy. The aromatics are stunning, as is the fruit and texture on the palate. Wild berries and undergrowth unfold in the glass. The palate has astonishing structure – Such tension. The wine unfolds with amazing precision to reveal layer upon layer of dark fruits that just seem to flow and flow on the never-ending finish. There is also plenty of underlying structure to allow for significant aging (should you be able to resist)."
£50.50 per bottle
* 4 bottles remain *
from New Zealand
97+ Points - Stuart McCloskey "A stupendous Pinot Noir from Devotus, which is getting better and better with each passing week. Wonderful aromatics of plums, spice, sour cherry, petal, cedar and warm earth. The palate is medium-bodied, tensile, layered, incredibly balanced with fine, grained tannins. The sweet entry is adorable which would lead most to the wrong conclusion; this is a regal, fine-boned Pinot Noir executed perfectly by a supremely skilled winemaker. Furthermore, a wine which happily outshines any Burgundy at this price level. My advice is that fans seeking energy, quality, and a laser-like focus should flock to this fabulous wine. Only 2,502 bottles produced. Served using Zalto Burgundy glassware."
£36.95 per bottle
Seresin Zosia Organic Pinot Noir 2011
97+ Points - Stuart McCloskey “Entering its twilight years, far from tired (drink up by 2022) and full of personality. Everything is in its right place and there is precision all the way to the long finish. I am impressed (very much so) with the wine’s complexity. Wonderfully natural, and this wine perfectly demonstrates that New Zealand Pinot Noir can last a decade in the right hands. The palate is defined, seamless with super-fine tannins. As one would expect; now offering tertiary aromatics and flavours ranging from hedgerow, wild strawberry, a little smoke, herbs and black tea… It’s a Pinot Noir for those searching out intellectual pleasures. What a marvellous wine. Served with Zalto Burgundy glassware”
World class Australian Pinot Noir
Hoddles Creek 1er Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2017
97+ Points - Stuart McCloskey "Franco’s 1er Pinot Noir always comes from a block from his top paddock vineyard called 'SRM'. This block faces West but runs down to the South. This is the only block which sees the inclusion of around 20-25% whole bunches in the ferment. There’s a heavenly, very pure bouquet – crushed wild strawberries intermixed with a melange of red berry fruits, anise, a tartness coming from cranberry scents and a lift from aromatic violets and rose petal. Everything is pulled together with a lovely minerality bordering salinity. The palate is medium-bodied and tensile. Wonderful judgment between the fruit, filigree tannins and perfectly pitched acidity. As with the nose, the purity is breathtaking. There’s a captivating sense of weightlessness – Feminine and highly intellectual. The never-ending finish of blood orange sorbet is a joy. Franco should seriously consider a rebrand from 1er to Grand Cru as this is special. Drinking now to 2025 and would benefit from a further 1-2 years in the bottle. Decanted for one hour and served using Zalto Burgundy glassware.""
£30.50 per bottle
PSB Pinot Noir 2018
97++ Points - Stuart McCloskey
£35.95 per bottle
Special weekend price: £32.50 per bottle
* Available until 9:00am Tuesday 3 March *
Domaine Simha Rama Pinot Noir 2017
98++ Points - Stuart McCloskey “The bouquet is both intoxicating and beguiling ranging from petrichor (that wonderful earthy scent when rain falls on dry, hot ground) brambles, hedgerow fruits, orange rind and floral notes to pencil. Certainly, edging towards a more savoury side. The palate is broad, expansive and keeps giving – far from being a nervous Pinot Noir. The tannins are svelte and melt into a heady mix of wild berries. The lavish texture is impossible to ignore – Satin and structurally perfect. The deep core of fruit is impressive as is the bottomless finish. Simply magical and a highlight in our portfolio. I cannot wait to see how this wine ages over the coming 6-10 years. Served with Zalto Burgundy glassware (as important as the wine itself)”
£44.50 per bottle
Doug's Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018
97 - 98 Points - Stuart McCloskey
£35.95 per bottle
Special weekend price: £32.25 per bottle
* Available until 9:00am Tuesday 3 March *
Glaetzer-Dixon Rêveur Pinot Noir 2015
97-98 Points - Stuart McCloskey “Ethereal is a good place to begin and certainly one of the best bottles of Pinot Noir I have drunk sub fifty-pounds. You would be mistaken to believe this wine has a decade of aging behind it due to the tawny rim. The bouquet is astonishing, and again would deliver a verdict of a mature wine; dried rose petals, cherry, warm minerals and a lovely savoury undercurrent. Close your eyes and think autumn with a splash of wild strawberry. The palate is fresh, medium-bodied, precise, with acidity judged to perfection. The wine fans-out with a lovely garden savouriness with bay leaf, cedar and finishes with dried, blood orange. As with many wines, I am drawn to the wines texture and this is ultimately blessed. It’s simply effortless, harmonic and will fill you and your glass with serenity”. Served in a Zalto Burgundy glass
£37.95 per bottle
Glaetzer-Dixon Avancé Pinot Noir 2017
96+ Points - Stuart McCloskey “The Pinot Noir for the ’17 Avancé was sourced from three vineyards in Southern Tasmania’s Upper Derwent and Coal Valleys. Sweet, succulent entry with an abundance of red cherries, wild strawberry, plums and sweet spices all laced together with bright, perfectly judged acidity. Medium-bodied, with pure silky tannins. The quality of racy, plush fruit is exquisite however, it’s the wines overall balance and completeness which stands out the most. You will have to look very hard to find a better buy for the money. A wine of pure and total pleasure. Just gorgeous and not to be missed”. Served in Zalto Burgundy glass (Highly-Recommended by the way! ), drinking beautifully now but will develop over the next 3-6 years."
£22.50 per bottle
Special weekend offer
£19.50 in cases of 6 or more
* Available until 9:00am Tuesday 3 March *
Sailor Seeks Horse Pinot Noir 2017
98+ Points Stuart McCloskey "The aromas waft from the glass with consummate ease… Touches of smoked, grilled meat, redcurrant, liquorice, dried orange rind, blood orange, spice (black pepper & cinnamon) and rose hip. Very Burgundian. The palate is medium bodied with tannins as long and fine as one could imagine. As with their Chardonnay – This wine shows an amazing level of control. Not a millimetre is out of place. The fruit conveys a cool-climate, saline elegance which is far from sparing. Unfurling, charming, precise and certainly built for the cellar (5-10 years). There are two Aussie Pinot Noirs which I go to and this is one… Such is the brilliance, Paul & Gilli should pay Burgundy a tutelage visit. For now, I award 98+ points but I believe this will increase over the coming years. This is a fantastic Pinot Noir and a benchmark against which other Aussie wines should be measured. Decant for one hour and serve using Zalto Burgundy glassware"
£44.50 per bottle
Speaking of vinous nostalgia which Stu spoke of as part of our special 100th edition Weekend Read, and a bolt out of the blue, we sampled a bottle of Seresin Zosia Pinot Noir 2011, which has close to a decade of bottle age.
Clearly, a little nostalgia is socially acceptable as the recently re-introduced producers such as Majella, Stella Bella and Suckfizzle received much interest. So much so, the entire parcel of Majella Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 sold out quicker than expected. What did you think of the wine? We would love to hear your thoughts – please do drop us a line.
In fact, we completely missed out on taking some stock ourselves which we were very much looking forward to. As such, and fingers crossed, we are hoping to source a little more. Again, if you missed out or would like a little more, then please drop me an email and I will put you on the wish list.
Similarly to Majella and Stella Bella, Seresin wines also formed a part of our opening wine list and shared shelf space with Dog Point and Ata Rangi. For those not in the know, here is a little background on Seresin…
Seresin winery was famously established by a successful cinematographer, Michael Seresin. When Michael left New Zealand in 1966 and settled in Italy for the very best of European cinema, there was no real wine culture in New Zealand. Back in the day, the landscape was dominated by vast stocks of sheep rather than vineyards. In Tuscany however, wine blended seamlessly with food, music, art and culture, which captured Michael’s imagination. Yet he chose New Zealand to make his wine – an idea born in Italy over a modest bottle from the small family Domaine, Rapet Père et Fils. Pinot Noir had done its magic…
Seresin’s first vintage was in 1996 and the winery was completed in mid-2000. Today, Seresin is rightly proud to be one of only two Kiwi estates to have become a member of the very purist, biodynamic association; Renaissance des Appellations. The hand seen in Seresin’s logo is a symbol of strength, tiller of the soil and a mark of the artisan.
"Everything is in its right place and there is precision all the way to the long finish."
** Available for delivery from Monday 2nd March - all orders including Seresin will be despatched on Friday 28th February **
Seresin Estate Zosia
Organic Pinot Noir 2011
97+ Points - Stuart McCloskey “Entering its twilight years, but far from tired (drink up by 2022) and full of personality. Everything is in its right place and there is precision all the way to the long finish. I am impressed (very much so) with the wine’s complexity. Wonderfully natural, and this wine perfectly demonstrates that New Zealand Pinot Noir can last a decade in the right hands. The palate is defined, seamless with super-fine tannins. As one would expect; now offering tertiary aromatics and flavours ranging from hedgerow, wild strawberry, a little smoke, herbs and black tea… It’s a Pinot Noir for those searching out intellectual pleasures. What a marvellous wine. Served with Zalto Burgundy glassware”
A link to Seresin’s website, for those wishing to explore more details about the vintage and how the wine was produced. Also available directly for a handsome price of $85.00 per bottle (circa £44.75).
It’s been a fun week revisiting a few old favourites including the superb 2009 Stella Bella Serie Luminosa Cabernet Sauvignon. Luminosa is the Italian expression for a “bright or brilliant series” and it is a fitting description for the very best wines from Stella Bella. Luminosa Cabernet Sauvignon is made only in exceptional years, as was the case in 2009.
"...the truest expression of
Aussie Cabernet Sauvignon"
Stella Bella Serie Luminosa
Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
97++ Points - Stuart McCloskey “The years have been kind however, it’s got a bright future ahead (perhaps another five or so years). The aromas are deep, rich and savoury ranging from scorched earth, briar, leather, lead pencil, liquorice, exotic spice and a touch of menthol which intermix beautifully with ripe blueberry and blackcurrant. The palate is the truest expression of Aussie Cabernet Sauvignon and offers a lavish wash of the same blueberry and blackcurrant fruits and those who (like me) are fanatical home harvesters, will spot oodles of fennel seed. There’s warmth from the earth rather than alcohol – dried herbs and cedar too. A smidgeon of vanilla and plum… All-in-all, a particularly exquisite wine which will offer much happiness. Served with Zalto Bordeaux glassware – Decant for 1-2 hours.”
£38.95 per bottle
A bargain as the new releases (ex-cellar) are $90.00 per bottle…
Only 58 bottles available
We confess, once the wine juices get flowing in the office, one good bottle inevitably leads to the team opening more. Following on from the Luminosa sample, our attention turned to the brilliant duo that is Thomas Hardy’s 2013 and 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon. Both vintages sold out last year but, and following the recent meeting with Team Accolade, we were offered a little more stock alongside Eileen Hardy Shiraz 2010, St Hallett and House of Arras.
Decanter Wold Wine Awards 2015 - Gold Medal
Sydney Royal Wine Show 2016 - Gold Medal
Thomas Hardy Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
97 Points - James Halliday "Margaret River, Coonawarra. Full red-purple; a potent, powerful cabernet, the focus on blackcurrant fruit, complexity provided by bay leaf/black olive/mint nuances; French oak is where is should be (on the shoulder of the fruit) and the tannins, while firm, hold no terrors."
£37.50 per bottle
£35.50 in cases of 6 or more
Every purchase of 6 bottles will receive
the original wooden case
Price comparison: ex-Australia pricing circa £50.00 per bottle
Thomas Hardy Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
97 Points - James Halliday "The bouquet provides a perfect idea of what is about to follow on the full-bodied palate: towering blackcurrant fruit with bay leaf, black olive and earth all dripping from the fruit where they meet implacable tannins and a poultice of French oak."
£37.50 per bottle
£35.50 in cases of 6 or more
Price comparison: ex-Australia pricing circa £50.00 per bottle
The UK's largest Australian wine tasting for private customers
OXO2, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, Level Two, London SE1 9PH
Date & Time:
Friday 22 May, 4:30pm to 8:30pm
Saturday 23 May, 10:00am to 6:00pm
Saturday 23 May:
A series of special Masterclasses all priced at £15.00 each will be running throughout the day. A Masterclass ticket must be purchased in addition to a tasting ticket for the main room. A tasting ticket does not entitle you to attend a Masterclass. Please read the T&C's that apply on the tasting ticket.
The outstanding list of winemakers who will be attending
Artisans of Barossa, Dan Standish, Jaysen Collins (JC’s Own), Massena, Nick Glaetzer, John Pooley, Nav Singh from Domaine Simha, team Greenock Creek, Stuart Angas from Hutton Vale Farm, Julian & Alana Langworthy from Nocturne, Stuart Pym from Flowstone, Greg Hobbs, Kay Brothers, Craig Stansborough from Purple Hands / After Five Wine Co, the boys from Wild Duck Creek, Soumah are back, Angus Vinden from Vinden Estate, Paul & Gilli Lipscombe from Sailor Seeks Horse, Franco D’Anna from Hoddles Creek, Grant Taylor from Valli Vineyards (New Zealand)… and we are waiting on confirmation from Domaine Naturaliste. All-in-all, a very impressive line-up.