Partly out of perversity, I was on a Pinot kick while visiting Western Australia earlier this year. So, while driving around the Pemberton, Manjimup and Great Southern wine regions, I sought out as many examples as I could. Pemberton offered up plenty in this regard, with Pinot something of a regional speciality.
Pemberton’s a funny wine region; the vast, well-funded cellar doors of Margaret River are a long way away and the mix of local producers ranges from hobby to medium sized family. Larger wineries like Houghton have historically obtained grapes from Pemberton too, though the number of derelict and decommissioned vineyards I saw in the area suggests this may have recently changed.
Back to this wine, though, which is handsomely packaged in a bottle of sensible weight and represents Lost Lake’s entry level Pinot. The nose is utterly, screamingly varietal, with the lifted floral aromatics and bright red fruit of the variety at its most recognisable. There are edges of dark spice and undergrowth too, not loud enough to distract, but certainly adding some welcome complexity. Balanced, bright and attractive.
The palate is more challenging in that it feels quite extracted given the flavour profile of the fruit. Entry is light and bright, with good acid carrying fresh fruit onto the mid-palate. Here, tannin starts to emerge and the wine’s weight seems to grow. The after palate becomes quite savoury and textured, tannins again a primary feature. There’s decent extension through the back palate, though the fruit here seems less fresh and the flavour profile almost caramelised. It’s not at all unpleasant, but I miss the simplicity and vibrant freshness of the aroma and attack. I’d be interested to taste Lost Lake’s barrel selection, as some more fruit power and density could carry this sort of structure more easily.
Still, a very pleasant wine for not a lot of money.
I attended a showcase of Picardy wines on Wednesday evening. On offer were the 2001 and 2007 vintages of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernets. The wines triggered a wide-ranging conversation amongst my dinner companions. I summarise some personal impressions here.
I recently purchased a few Pinots and made a point of selecting wines from various regions outside of the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula. This wine, for example, is from Pemberton in Western Australia, a region from which I’ve tasted the Pinots of only one other maker (Picardy).
A rosé style made from predominantly Merlot grapes. First, a word of warning: I served this wine quite cold, in accompaniment to an Indian curry. Whoops. Not an experience I’m keen to repeat, and not entirely the fault of the wine.
Quite a deep colour; one might mistake it for a light red rather than a rosé. On the nose, somewhat reticent aromas of strawberry and herb. It’s nicely savoury but lacks the sort of outré character that I (guiltily) enjoy in a rosé. The palate is livelier, with more light strawberry fruit and herbal overtones. There’s some astringency here, initially driven by acid but carried forward on fine tannin. This aspect of the wine is less than satisfying because, although its structure is quite prominent, the wine lacks a sense of freshness, perhaps due in part to a certain lack of intensity of fruit flavour. Although generally in fear of gratuitous residual sugar, I wonder if this wine might benefit from a less austere approach in the winery. Certainly, it lacks stuffing and, in a style that is often all about effortless enjoyment, I’m having to work fairly hard to get flavour from it. A nice lift kicks in towards the after palate and brings some aniseed-like flavour to the finish.
I’m not sure where this wine sits in the scheme of things. On the one hand, its savouriness demands more concentration than fruit-driven, breezy rosé styles. On the other, it lacks the attributes of a truly fine wine: intensity, balanced structure, complex flavour.
Date tasted: October 2009
Shiraz shiraz shiraz — it always amuses me to read accounts of Australian Shiraz as if it were a single, monolithic entity. If nothing else, the Hunter version will always be sitting out there on its own, stylistically. My point is that it can be misleading to talk about Australian Shiraz as a single wine style. Take this Picardy wine from the Pemberton region in Western Australia.
A transparent ruby colour, moderately deep. Striking nose that shows bright red cranberry-like fruit alongside pretty dried flowers (lavender) and peppery spice. The fruit is remarkable in that it mixes edges of intense sweetness with the sort of savoury character one encounters in dried fruit. It’s not very complex, but it is characterful and attractive. There’s a subtle undercurrent of vanilla oak.
The medium bodied palate shows a good continuity of flavour profile from the nose, but kicks it up to a slightly higher register. It’s bright, pretty and delicious. Entry is gentle but does deliver flavour quickly to the tongue. The mid-palate is full of more bright red fruit, and the floral/spice elements are more prominently balanced here than on the nose. As bright and high toned as it is, the wine’s palate shows an elegant smoothness that encourages drinking. There’s no harshness here, and it’s achieved through balance and harmony of flavour components. Acidity is present and supportive, yet very soft in character. Fine tannins are equally soft, and gently dry the acceptably long finish.
53% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc. Australian Merlots are a curious beast – perhaps a little like Shiraz, they can tend to be chameleon-like, morphing with region and idea of style. This one is from Pemberton in Western Australia.
The nose immediately establishes the wine’s savoury flavour profile. Genuine complexity draws one back to smell repeatedly, with savoury black fruits, leafiness and cigar box oak flavours intermingling and constantly shifting around. The linear entry opens out to a palate of medium to full body, with full yet not terribly sweet black fruit sitting alongside the same mix of leafy/green olive notes and relatively prominent oak as seen on the nose. Flavours are quite dense and of reasonable intensity. The wine’s structure at this stage is assertive, both from an acid and tannin perspective. The tannins are quite interesting in character, being relatively abundant, ripe, and moderately (but not overly) fine. They have a nice rustic edge, in fact. The wine shows a nice line with no dips through the palate, and finishes with good length.
The wine responded extremely well to a strongly flavoured pasta dish, the structure calming a little and the power of the fruit shining through. This is a very good wine with, I think, good potential for improvement through bottle age. Blindingly good value.
Date tasted: November 2007