Australian pinot noirs on the up


Winemaker Rollo Crittenden at Crittenden Estate.
Winemaker Rollo Crittenden at Crittenden Estate.

AUSTRALIAN pinot noirs have improved more rapidly on an international scale than any other variety in recent years.

Australia’s cabernets, chardonnays and shiraz, while sometimes of a different style, produce very good wines.

Pinot noir though, with the exceptions of Gippsland’s Bass Phillip and a few other isolated releases until about 2000, were caricatures of quality Burgundy.

Everything pinot has changed since then and Australia has crafted some marvellous examples.

The Bass Phillip releases, currently the 2015 vintage, are Australia’s, and perhaps Australasia’s, finest and they range in price from $60-$500 per bottle.

Mac Forbes’ various vineyard releases have excelled in recent years and tiny quantities of the 2016’s will be in Perth in October.

In general, it is fair to say that Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula provides Australia’s best drinking value-for-money pinot noirs.

Rollo Crittenden has come back to his parents’ Crittenden Estate down there and is showing that he understands pinot noir in a way that few do.

Crittenden’s 2012 pinot noir vintage first showed that he was one of those that understood.

As can happen with an agricultural product, the 2013 vintage releases had less charm.

The 2014s were very good, and reviewed as such by some of our best wine writers, including Tim White in the Australian Financial Review.

The 2015 pinot noir vintage across southern Victoria was agreed by most to be their finest so far.

Add greater vine age, more experience, better oak selection and techniques and more very good pinot noirs resulted from that vintage than ever before.

Crittenden’s 2015 pinot noirs are more lively and fresh than you will ever see in a Burgundian pinot.

The tannins are ripe, gentle, unobtrusive and the resulting wines have superb underlying supple, dense and long fruit and very fine subtle, drying tannins lingering through the finish and aftertaste.

Each of the five labels has enormous length for its price range.

The Estate Geppetto 2016 ($30) and Peninsula 2016 ($40) pinot noirs will have benefited from the research done for the more expensive wines.

The Zumma pinot noir 2014 (18.4 pts, $65) is both excellent and amongst the nation’s best, but the great length and placid nature of the 2015 (18.5 pts) is superior. These are very high points for Australian pinot noirs.

Crittenden’s premium release, the Cri de Coeur pinot noir 2015 ($90) will be outstanding.

As with the others, and as discussed above, these are very young now but the greater length and intensity here, when added to the texture and mouthfeel, will give one of Australia’s most satisfying pinot noirs from 2019-2030.

As mentioned above, these wines are lively and need time to settle down but the underlying fruit quality and great length, and Rollo’s deft handling, will ensure that these will develop into some of Australia’s finest, and at the right price.