Pinot pleasures from 2017

Meadowbank Wines vineyard pinot noir block. (Photo: Meadowbank Wines)

We’ve never had a better crop of pinots than the 2017s.

No grape variety fills me with pleasurable anticipation more than pinot noir. So it was that I tackled 100 new releases recently and came away with the suspicion that the level of Aussie pinot noir (they were mostly, but not all, Australian) has never been higher. And that the 2017 harvest – at least in the Yarra Valley and Tasmania – is outstanding. When you put together the two observations that winemakers and viticulturists are handling pinot better than ever (partly because of increasing expertise) and the great season, it’s easy to reach the conclusion that we’ve never had a better crop of pinots than the ‘17s. The one cloud on the horizon is that yields were poor and wine volumes extremely low.

I tackled 100 new releases recently and came away with the suspicion that the level of Aussie pinot noir has never been higher.

Where to begin? There are just so many delicious wines.

Peter Dredge’s Dr Edge wines from Tasmania… four bottlings, one each from the East, South, and North, and a blend, all AUD $50, were gorgeous. Some were a little on the light side, but so delicious. The South bottling was to me the most joyous. And then there’s the Meadowbank, that Dredgie also makes, in a similar style. (ie. light to medium-weight, fragrant, soft tannins, a light hand on the oak, lovely to drink young.) Similar response from me.

A trio of Clyde Park single block wines from Geelong’s Moorabool Valley were cast in this producer’s now well-established powerful, concentrated style. Impressive wines that will surely reward some ageing. They’re tossing down the gauntlet to their near neighbour, By Farr.

Coldstream Hills’ Deer Farm and Reserve bottlings are both sublime. The Yabby Lake ‘17s are wonderful, as I’ve previously written here – despite the fact that Mornington Peninsula did not have such an immaculate season as the Yarra. Yabby’s Red Claw Pinot Noir is a candidate for the best value of the vintage. Its full price is AUD $30 and I rated it 92.

Soumah’s Equilibrio from its Hexham vineyard in the Yarra is mightily impressive in a big, rich, full-on style.

Johnny Hughes’s Mewstone D’Entrecasteaux Channel Pinot Noir from the Channel Country south of Hobart is a stunner.

Also impressing from Tasmania is a new AUD $95 wine from Pipers Brook Vineyard: the 2017 New Certan. The name and label are peculiar, in that they evoke the owner’s family connection with Bordeaux’s Vieux Château Certan. The label is almost a carbon copy, and the name Certan has no resonance with Australia or Australian wine, and anyway, it’s not from Bordeaux grapes, it’s pinot! The wine is very good, albeit young and a little hard to read, but I suspect it will grow into a ripper. Two other 2017 Pipers Brook Vineyard pinots, the Estate bottling (AUD $45) and Single Block A10 (AUD $75) are also excellent wines, the trio making a strong statement about the changes in winemaking since Jim Chatto came on board as part-time chief winemaker. These are all delicious, beautifully-made modern pinots.

Still in Tassie, Holm Oak’s top pinot, The Wizard 2017 is a beauty (and why not name a wine after a tennis racquet? Everything else has been done before!). This is a very layered wine and much more ‘bunchy’ than any of the Pipers wines.

Value buys?

Oakridge’s Hazeldene vineyard bottling is a candidate for the best value for money at AUD $38. Clyde Park Locale at AUD $25 is a very good buy, but the Yabby Lake Red Claw probably steals the cake. It’s nominally AUD $30 but probably cheaper in some shops. And Chris Bendle’s DCB Wines provides consistently great value – his 2017 is a Lone Star single vineyard Yarra Valley wine and just AUD $23.

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