IPNC Master Class on Pinot Noir in Australia

After a Friday of drinking Pinot Noir from dawn until dusk at IPNC, I am not as Springtime fresh as I would prefer. But three hours of the 2016 Master Class on Pinot from Australia, yes, Australia await.

Let the charming accent and talk of dingos eating babies and shrimp on  barbies commence, while we tipple a grape about as far from its Burgundian origins as imaginable.

In truth, Australia’s Southerly fringes and hills can grow outstanding Pinot. James Halliday, Queens Order of Australia AM, prolific wine writer, and winemaker of Coldstream Hills introduces Australia’s varied history with Pinot Noir growing.

We ready ourselves for 14 wines. Here are the highlights:



James describes his own Coldstream Hills, Pinot Noir, Farm Vineyard, 2015

Our first wine, and arguably the cleanest and prettiest. It is a youthful purple color, fresh and delicate with bright raspberry juice, tomato, and light all spice. Very good (4 of 5) and will reward with a few years.

Deeper, woody, and tannic is 2013 Mount Mary Vineyard from Yarra Valley. This old vineyard (1971) provides red apple skin, cranberry, twang and savory notes that and lengthy (4 of 5).

Issues of VA, acid adjustment, and reductive over-sulfuring mar a few examples.


South of Yarra and Melbourne and Mornington juts out into the sea. Leafy green notes and meatiness overshadow a few. But Paringa Estate 2014 Mornington Peninsula shines. Made by a school teacher gone organic, it shows a rich purple color, pronounced dark cherry aromas backed by bacon and pepper. Bright acidity akin to orange peel tames the plump warm body full of spices. Very good (4 of 5). The cold coastal influence of Mornington is hard to ignore.

West on the other side are the Macedonia Ranges, with organic Bindi Kaye. Their 2014 is clean if a bit quiet aromatically with clove, rose, raspberry, and powdered chalk. The body is light, acid high, and overall a zingy little drink. Very good (4 of 5).

Eastern GIPPSLAND 2014 Bass Phillip Premium is inky, angry, hot,  woody, wild and meaty. Big stuff but too disjointed and possibly heat damaged.

Cold coastal GEELONG creates a disappointing wine By Farr 2012 showing its terroir and too much Brett.

TASMANIA, that chilly triangle dangling off South Australia, drums up the most excitement. Although they produce half a percent of Australia’s wine.

Home Hill Estate 2014 wins the group with a floral violet, tobacco, raspberry-laced nose. Acids and tannins create a bright, brambly, but balanced medium bodied Pinot. It is complicated and delicate and very good.

Dawson James’ 2014 Tasmanian Pinot brings more spice, orange, wood, leaf, tart cherry and in-check Brett. It’s dark but twangy, and very good (4 of 5).

ADELAIDE HILLS sits a skip west in South Australia and high in elevation (where it is cooler).

Ashton Hills Reserve 2014 works with bright cherry, eucalyptus, caramel, and a savory, earthen forest quality. It needs time to harmonize but is very good (4 of 5).


Somehow, this great panel brought 70 cases from Australia of fresh, interesting Pinot. They have moved away from big brooding reds, and seem to be finding success with mixed whole cluster and whole berry programs. I do not think they have mastered wild ferments on a whole and some chasing extreme climates seem to lead to mixed results in poor years. But in general, Australia’s Pinot scene is interesting, creative, and not just following Burgundy’s shadow.





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4 Responses to IPNC Master Class on Pinot Noir in Australia

  1. The Wine Culturist says:

    Fascinating! Sounds like a wonderful event.

  2. Looks like I need to pay more attention to Pinot’s from Down Under!

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