Bass Phillip (tastings) is recognized by many observers as the finest pinot noir producer in Australia. In my experience, the wines are more consistent these days, but in the past, they were very uneven – even erratic.
Owner and winemaker Philip Jones (pictured) acknowledges that things weren’t always as good as he’d have liked in his earlier years. Health issues didn’t help, plus the fact that Jones is a one-man-band who seems to find it difficult to share responsibilities. This meant that when he was unwell, the wines were neglected.
The top Bass Phillip pinots, the Reserve (tastings) and Premium (tastings) bottlings, have clearly been the outstanding wines, especially the Reserve, which set new standards for price (the 2013 was $550 retail – tasting) as well as its minimalist label (it’s about one centimetre square).
A vertical tasting I attended in December largely confirmed the observation about older vintages.
The 2014 (tasting), 2012 (tasting) and 2010 (tasting) Premiums were simply exquisite. No Reserves were tasted, the wines all being either Premium or Estate. The Estates from ’14 (tasting) and ’10 (tasting) and to a lesser degree ‘12 (tasting) and ‘11 (tasting) were excellent.
The 2009s (Premium – tasting & The Estate – tasting) were very good without lifting the ceiling. The ‘07 Premium (tasting) was disappointing, and the ’03 Premium (tasting), while good, was a bit rugged, robust and lacking detail. The oldest wine, a 1993 Estate (tasting), was well past its best.
No doubt closures have a role to play in older Bass Phillip wines, and Jones steadfastly refuses to use screwcaps. He has, however, switched to Procork since around 2010. I believe the jury is still out on Procork, an Australian invention which involves a synthetic membrane applied to both ends of a natural cork. None of the samples sealed with Procork was showing any sign of oxidation or cork-taint. But then, they were the youngest wines in the tasting. I’d need to see more aged wines under Procork before being fully confident. So far, it looks good.
*Image courtesy of The Australian