Cool is best for pinot noir
Pinot noir prefers a cool climate, and there are two ways to achieve that in Australia: go up or go south. Altitude or latitude … but which is best?
A recent tasting organized by the Wine & Viticulture Journal attempted to answer that question.
One thing the panellists agreed was that Duncan Cook’s pinots from Orange were outstanding. His Cook’s Lot Hand Picked Pinot Noir 2016 (AUD $35) and Cook’s Lot Iconique Pinot Noir 2016 (AUD $50) were two of the top four wines out of 35 tasted. The other two top wines were Yes Said The Seal 2015 (Bellarine Peninsula, Geelong region; AUD $35) and Moorooduc Estate Pinot Noir 2015 (Mornington Peninsula; AUD $38).
So, two from uphill and two from down south.
The tasting comprised 20 wines from southerly locations (below latitude 37.5 degrees South) and 17 from high altitudes (600 metres or above). That adds up to 37, but two of these wines – from Hanging Rock Winery in the Macedon Ranges – fell into both camps.
Somewhat frustratingly, the tasters – three highly experienced winemakers and one university student – were unable to discern any differences between the wines that indicated either altitude or latitude. However, the scores of the winemaker judges were averaged, resulting in nine wines achieving silver medal scores, seven from southerly latitudes and just three from high altitudes. So, the southern wines had the edge.
This is very inconclusive of course, as a different selection of wines (or a different group of tasters) might easily come up with an entirely different result.
Fifteen wines achieved bronze-medal scores, and these were evenly split between the altitude and latitude groups.
Incidentally, the following vintage of Yes Said The Seal, 2016, won the trophy for the top wine at the recent inaugural Australian Pinot Noir Challenge, organized by the Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association. It was made by Darren Burke from grapes grown on sister vineyard, Leura Park Estate.
Perhaps all that really matters is that pinot noir vineyards need to be cool. This is where the grape consistently produces its most defined and most detailed wines.