Chatto Pinot Noir 2013

Wine communicators collectively wet themselves over this on its release. I’m tasting it for the first time tonight, and like it somewhat more than its 2012 predecessor.

It’s a smart wine. Transparent, cleanly articulated, complex; this is immediately expressive and shows a distinctive personality. There’s a bristled spice and sour tang to the flavour profile that recalls food as much as wine. I regret that sourness is almost always considered a deficiency in wine appreciation; although it can be indicative of poorly handled acid, here it provides the refreshment of a tamarind amongst pungent spice, balancing the wine’s warmer notes and creating an impression of freshness.

The palate structure is firm yet light, as is indeed the wine as a whole, but intensity is striking and flavours are confident. There’s an ease to the way this moves down its line, fanning satin berry fruits across the tongue then whisking them away with a clean flourish, teasing with a shake of tannin and a spritz of acid.

The question of longevity must, of course, be invoked, and having done so I shall dismiss it without answer. Who cares? It’s drinking fabulously right now.

Price: $50
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Gift

Chandon Brut Rosé

Indian sparkling wine courtesy of Moët Hennessy. I’ve had a dreadful run of Indian red wines, with many exhibiting wild technical faults that render them basically undrinkable. Whites and rosés, however, have fared better. When I saw this on a restaurant wine list, I didn’t hesitate to give it a go, assuming (correctly) that it would, at least, be free of egregious winemaking faux pas.

Chandon’s Indian operations are new, with the first wines having been released in late 2013. Grapes are sourced from the Nashik region of Maharashtra, and the varieties that contribute to this sparkling rosé are Shiraz and Pinot Noir (an inadvertent nod to the Australian micro-tradition, I like to think).

To be clear, this recalls little of Champagne. Its hue is deep and tends towards a burnished red rather than the vivid pink or salmon one might expect. Mousse is lively and coarse, and the whole thing looks totally frivolous. Flavours are also quite unlike cool climate sparkling. These are robust, ripe fruit flavours with little of the lees influence that characterises many sparkling styles. There’s certainly no neutrality of fruit here.

All of which adds up to a shockingly enjoyable wine and one that goes well with food. It’s quite clever, really. This isn’t an aperitif style. Rather, it’s a wine that seems designed to pair with pungent, rich food. Forget notions of complexity and elegance, this doesn’t possess or require such things. Instead, it’s balanced to local food and has the acid cut required to wipe the palate clean after a mouthful of spiced deliciousness.

I’d do this again.

Chandon India
Price: ₹4000
Closure: Cork
Source: Wine list

Attwoods Old Hog Pinot Noir 2012

A tale of three vintages, from the difficult 2011, through this wine to the as-yet unreleased 2013. These wines are those of a good friend, Troy Walsh, who made wine school a hell of a lot more fun than it otherwise would have been for me, and who comes with a background working as a sommelier in some of London’s better-known fine dining establishments. After returning to Australia, he and his family settled in the Ballarat area, and his goal is to make exceptional Pinot Noir. He works with Geelong and Ballarat fruit, and is in the process of establishing his own vineyard on a lovely slope in Scotsburn. The best is almost certainly yet to come.

All of which makes these three wines fascinating. There’s a family resemblance, but each speaks clearly of its vintage. The 2011, long sold out, is a light wine, savoury in character and ephemeral in effect, providing a transparent look into a challenging growing season. This is a massive step up, with more of everything – intensity, structure, length, density. This is a sinewy, uncompromising style that is all about savouriness of flavour and acid-driven structure. It’s startlingly adult, in fact, and very regional in its refusal to cushion its impact with any sort of plushness. I can imagine its vibe might be too extreme for some, but for those who can get inside the wine, there’s a wealth of detail and interest, and surprising depth of flavour. A distillation of Geelong Pinot.

The 2013, though a way off release, softens the 2012’s countenance slightly with a big opening of bright fruit. There’s a good deal of whole bunch happening here, so I presume some of this fruitiness is a function of some carbonic maceration as well as extreme youth – in any case, the question of family resemblance is quickly settled as the wine breathes. Although showing some puppy fat, this is a savoury wine at heart, if one with a bit more flesh and scale than the 2012. I tasted this over several days (it was decanted on opening and stayed that way) and it never tired. It simply became darker and more like the 2012 in flavour profile. I look forward to its release.

It’s fascinating to watch this portfolio evolve through its early stages. Already, Troy is exploring his somewhat uncompromising view of wine style, and engaging strongly with the regions he chooses to work within. I see only good things ahead.

Attwoods Wines
Price: $A45
Closure: Cork
Source: Gift

Mitchell Harris Sabre Vintage 2010

The second release of Mitchell Harris’s sparking wine, this has credentials that stretch back far beyond the establishment of this label. Indeed, John Harris brings a wealth of experience as former winemaker at Domaine Chandon to this wine, and it’s important to remember Western Victoria was once renowned for its sparkling wines above all other styles. So, quite a pedigree.

The style here, as with the 2008, places an emphasis on freshness and generosity. It’s an absolute crowd-pleaser, in fact, but still retains a range of complexities of flavour that reward closer tasting. What I like about this wine in particular is how its lees-derived, savoury notes creep their way in softly, adding interest to a core of citrus fruit and creating an edge of sophistication without robbing the wine of its fundamental deliciousness.

Acid and texture, the bugbears of many an Australian sparkling, are well-handled here. The palate has a creamy mouthfeel that complements its fruit and spice flavours well. There’s ample spritz which means the wine is lively in the mouth, yet it has a softness to its textures that is pleasing. Some nice, chalky phenolic pucker brings up the rear.

While it’s possible to approach this wine analytically, that would be somewhat missing the point of a style that seems designed, first and foremost, for drinking.

Mitchell Harris
Price: $A40
Closure: Diam
Source: Sample

Domaine Pierre Amiot et Fils Grand Cru Clos de la Roche 2010

Opening bottles too soon was a bit of a theme this past weekend, and with this Burgundy I bring you the second of three tales of vinfanticide (the third bottle was a 2010 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay — talk about tight). Unlike the Prüm I wrote about a couple of days ago, though, this opened up relatively quickly and provided more immediate drinking pleasure.

On opening, a high toned splat of a wine, with gorgeously specific savoury aromas of beetroot and flowers mixing with a streak of minerality and a good deal of oak. With a bit of air, this opens out somewhat but the wine’s character is fundamentally fine and light.

Structurally, this was much too firm initially, a hard palate structure giving admirable drive but obscuring some flavours. As with the nose, though, this opened up after half an hour or so of swirling, shedding its acidic stridency and softening to reveal a sophisticated, luscious mouthfeel. While it’s not a wine to convert lovers of McLaren Vale Shiraz to Pinot, this strikes me as everything that’s good about the grape in its most classical expression – light, intense, precise, focused. Everything’s here and I suspect it will be a thing of beauty in a few years’ time.

If drinking now, be patient. It’s worth a bit of glass time.

Domaine Piere Amiot et Fils
Price: $130
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Domaine Jean-Claude Bachelet et Fils Bourgogne Rouge 2010

I’m getting old.

The last time I tasted this label was a few years ago when the 2005 was current. Re-reading my earlier note, much might apply to this wine save for a firmer acid structure, not surprising considering vintage conditions. The same light (and quite pleasing) colour, slightly confected red fruits and general air of simplicity. There are a few savoury angles too — a hint of undergrowth, some snapped twig, the suggestion of a child running through a favourite patch of forest — that add interest, although one would never accuse this wine of being overly complex.

This wine begs the question: what’s the point? As an Australian drinker with access to — at last — a selection of great local Pinots at reasonable prices, what’s the value of a cheap Burgundy that isn’t any great shakes in the distinctiveness department? I suppose this proves, at the very least, that small French producers can make technically sound wines at a reasonable price point, which hasn’t always been something to be taken for granted. Otherwise, as pleasant as this is, it lacks dimensions of character and intensity that might elevate it beyond an easy weeknight drink.

Domaine Jean-Claude Bachelet et Fils
Price: $A23
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Stefano Lubiana Estate Pinot Noir 2012

My esteem for this producer grows over time. Never a maker of easy Pinot styles even at entry level, this Estate wine, made entirely from biodynamically grown fruit, has something to say about Pinot from the Derwent Valley.

On opening, the aroma is deeply ferrous, smelling of blood and rust and all things manly, telling a confronting story that gradually softens with the emergence of dark cherry fruit. This is rich, almost liquerous, in character, and sits below the aroma’s savouriness, like wool undies under a suit of armour. There are other notes too — undergrowth and crushed leaf — that fold easily into a nose that is a strip tease of forbidding lusciousness. Personally, I love how different this smells from so much Australian Pinot. It’s unabashedly savoury, with a muscularity that continues to flex even as the aroma evolves with air.

In the mouth, predictably structured and intense. Stylistically, this is a “take no prisoners” wine, presenting on entry with firm acid and good density of fruit. Despite some heft and generally dark flavours, the palate structure is quite sprightly, thanks in large part to that acid, but also to tannins that are chalky and firm towards the back of the palate. Flavours flow well with nary a peak or trough, though they are, understandably for such a young wine, not as integrated as they will be in time. Even an hour or swirling brings notes closer together, so give it plenty of air if drinking now. Length is there, needing a slight attenuation of structure to fill out.

This speaks so strongly of place, and I’m drawn in by its narrative. A terribly good wine, then, with its best days firmly ahead.

Stefano Lubiana Wines
Price: $A50
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Domaine Denis Mortet Marsannay Les Longeroies 2009

From the “value” village of Marsannay comes this lieu-dit by Gevrey Chambertin-based producer Denis Mortet. It was recommended to me and my dining companion by the affable Alan Hunter at E’cco Bistro. I probably would have glanced past this on the list, but Alan’s recommendation was spot on; this is why we love good sommeliers.

The wine itself is tremendously honest and full of flavour. Aromatically, it begins with rustic spice and undergrowth, joined quickly by some bright fruit notes, mostly in the red berry spectrum. I like the sinewy character of the aroma; it’s quite complex, with plenty going on, but there’s always room to move between notes, such that it never smells overwhelming.

In the mouth, a palate structure that complements its flavour profile perfectly. Here continues a run of berry fruit and lignified twigs, supported by a frame of tannin that feels expansive and textural. Although only medium bodied, the wine’s architecture is spacious and allows flavours to articulate cleanly on the palate. The overall impression is of a certain rusticity, which isn’t code for anything unpleasant, more a reflection of the wine’s straightforward character and lack of artifice.

Enjoyed this one a lot.

Domaine Denis Mortet
Price: $A200 (wine list)
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Swinging Bridge m.a.w. Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012

Now we’re talking. I like this a great deal more than the companion single vineyard Chardonnay. It has character, a bit of wildness and, most of all, the sort of distinctiveness that is its own justification.

The aroma is totally Pinot in its least plush, most sinewy mode. Sap, sous-bois, spice, orange peel and crunchy red fruit. There’s a good deal of complexity, but what I like most is its sense of abandon. This is a wine that’s barely in control, and that makes for some exciting tension within the aroma. This all leads me to suspect a rather acid-driven wine in the mouth, yet it’s far from overly structural. In fact, there’s a certain plushness within the context of a light to medium bodied wine, and that helps the predominantly high toned flavours to fully express themselves. Oak provides some nice flavour inputs, deepening the wine’s registers a little. Length is merely adequate.

This is a very one-sided wine: flavours are pitched at a certain level, body is light, intensity only moderate. Yet it clearly comes from somewhere specific, and therein lies its value and interest. Most worthwhile.

Swinging Bridge
Price: $38
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Lost Lake Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011

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.

Lost Lake
Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail