Last night I was lucky enough to be invited to a Great Southern Pinot Noir Masterclass at the Petition wine bar. The tasting consisted of 10 Pinot’s from WA’s Great Southern wine region, plus a couple of extra surprises from the cellar. I definitely learned a thing or two and I feel I have some very compelling reasons why you should buy a bottle or 5 of Great Southern Pinot next time you’re wine shopping.
Firstly a big thanks to our hosts, Jo Bradbury from 3 Drops and Rob Diletti from Castle Rock Estate for inviting me along. It was super interesting to hear their knowledge on the Great Southern regions and thoughts on Pinot. I was surprised to find out that many people around Australia don’t believe WA can make decent Pinot Noir, because the Great Southern definitely has the climate for it and it’s safe to say I tried some bloody good gems at this tasting. Uh, more for us at the end of the day!
Pinot in the Great Southern
As Jo pointed out, the Great Southern is a very diverse region and is Australia’s largest wine region spanning 150kms east to west. The hero varieties of the region (what the GS is known for) are Riesling and Shiraz naturally but that doesn’t mean that’s all they’ve got!
Pinot Noir is a very site specific grape variety – which means you can’t just plant it anywhere. The Pinot grapevine is rather picky as to where it thrives and can produce grapes that’ll turn into Pinot masterpieces in your glass.
Rob pointed out that a good Pinot Noir will:
- Come from a cool site
- Come from decent aged vines (i.e. the vine ages from the wines we tried at this tasting ranged from 3 Drops 1982 vines to Castle Rock’s 1999 vines)
- Be produced at a low yield (I believe Rob said 2 tonnes per acre to get that intensity we love in Pinots)
Basically the lower the yield – the less grapes you get from the vines which also means the price for the wine is going to be higher. Yet the wine is more intense and concentrated, i.e. better quality.
What I think stood out at this tasting was how all the Pinots on taste seemed to have that perfect balance of fruit and savouriness. The wines at the tasting were handpicked by Rob and as he put it, they’re Pinots he would really rate.
The tasting ended with 2 back vintages of GS Pinot, a 2011 3 Drops and a 2008 Castle Rock Estate Pinot. The point of pulling these out of the cellar was to show us that Great Southern Pinot can age – and very gracefully if you ask me. I loved how Jo put it “don’t just look for wine for next weekend, pop a few bottles of Pinot away too”. I know I am guilty of doing the former a lot!
I wanted to write a few words about the set-up of this wine tasting as I thought it was fantastic. As most of you know, I love Petition and the Perth State Buildings as a wine tasting venue. It’s such a beautiful location and Petition’s wine bar is a lovely intimate setting – seriously who wouldn’t enjoy being surrounded by that selection of wine!
The tasting was a sit-down affair which was absolutely perfect for an after work event. There was a seating plan and everything was laid out and organised before we got there. Technical wine notes and the price list for the wines were on the tables and throughout the tasting the Petition kitchen treated as to a selection of cheese and charcuterie. If you get a chance, stop into Petition for a bite to eat and a wine sometime – you can read my Petition post for some droolworthy photos.
Keep an eye out for upcoming events as they really do know how to hold lovely wine tastings and if you stay tuned to their Facebook page you might catch some of the free events they hold too.
Tasting Notes from the Masterclass
I rarely write tasting notes when I attend events, especially if I’m not spitting (yep everything went down the hatch last night – it seemed criminal to spit!) however last night seeing as it was a sit-down event I thought I would jot down a couple of thoughts on the wines we tried.
For me, the standouts were both Castle Rock vintages (particularly the 2008 – I am still gobsmacked at the quality of this GS 8-year-old Pinot), the 2014 Harewood Reserve and the elegant 2015 Larry Cherubino ‘Laissez Faire’.
Castle Rock Estate Pinot Noir 2015
Garnet on the eye, beaut cherry filled nose with some wild mushroom, flavours of cherry & raspberry in the mouth with an earthy/savoury backbone and a decent finish.
3 Drops Patterson Pinot Noir 2015
Maroon colour in the glass, more earthy and savoury on the nose than fruity with black plums and spice on the palate, sweet fruit on the finish.
Zarephath Pinot Noir 2015
Fairly deep garnet colour in the glass, an interesting nose of cherry cigars (sweet and smoky) and a touch of mint, loved the mouthfeel of this one, it was quite ‘chewy’, dense and mouth puckering.
Rockcliffe Single Site Pinot Noir 2015
The colour of cherry flesh on the eye, black jelly beans and olives make up a rather savoury nose, the palate is vibrant and juicy, well-rounded and flavour covers the entire the mouth, nice finish.
Howard Park Flint Rock Pinot Noir 2015
Dark rose colour in the glass, savoury plums on the nose, perfectly ripe fruit in the mouth with a light, fine structure.
Larry Cherubino Laissez Paire 2015
Deep maroon colour on the eye, leafy, earthy, savoury nose, with a superbly rounded, silky and elegant palate. This wine oozed sophistication.
Castelli Pinot Noir 2014
Maroon with orange tinge on the eye, very farmy on the nose and it actually made me think of a roast meal with some type of berry sauce, the palate has some powerful fruit flavours and I loved the gorgeous everlasting finish.
Harewood Reserve Pinot Noir 2014
Red with bronze tinge in the glass, cherry milk chocolates on the nose, spicy cherry and vanilla infused plum flavours on the rather long and dry palate. This one spent nearly 2 years in barrel which is longer than most.
Snake & Herring ‘The Hard Road’ Pinot 2015
Garnet on the eye, nice full nose which is very fruit driven and full of fresh cherry, plum and raspberries. Juicy, fruit forward and vibrant on the palate. The grapes came from the same vineyard as Zarephath but picked earlier.
Abbey Creek Pinot Noir 2015
Garnet colour in the glass, deep and fairly pungent perfume of fruit and farmy-ness on the nose. The palate surprised me with its juiciness and vibrancy. Lovely!
3 Drops Patterson Pinot Noir 2011
It really has that orangey tone too it, riper fruits on the nose compared to the other wines we tried tonight however the palate still holds a lovely vibrancy with riper fruit flavours.
Castle Rock Estate Pinot Noir 2008
Deeper colour of red to the above, yet still with that browny tinge to it, violet perfume with stewed cherries and plums on the nose. The palate is well structured, elegant and the freshness definitely surprised me – a favourite of the night for sure.
So there you have it folks! I am pretty sure I need to revisit all the wines again just to remind my taste buds and no doubt my tasting notes will be different again. Don’t forget wine is very subjective and so many things can come into play and affect your judgement from the time of day to the atmosphere in the room and even your mood!
This was an awesome opportunity to try a selection of Pinot from the one region and it’s safe to say I’ll be hunting out more Great Southern Pinot!