Pinot Noir is difficult, expensive to grow. They say you can’t possibly buy a decent Pinot under $20 or $30.
Once that was certainly true. In times where the winemaker may have had fewer tools at their disposal and could only source fruit from the few great growing areas, the cost alone would have made it prohibitive to sell anywhere under $20. Yet times have changed, and opportunity abounds. Pinot Noir’s popularity, and therefore area under vine, has grown exponentially over the last two decades.
This to me, opens up two great ways to find Pinot Noir well below the $20 threshold. While winemaking techniques have improved drastically and there any number of tools available to winemakers in ensuring varietal aroma and flavour along with the silky texture associated with Pinot Noir, they still need fruit at a reasonable price. So where should you look to find these bargains?
Regions such as the Adelaide Hills and Yarra Valley have seen thousands of hectares of Pinot Noir planted. There certainly aren’t thousands of hectares of ‘grand cru’ quality soil to plant Pinot Noir. Yet boatloads of money, time and effort have gone in to planting the grape across these regions to capture the premium price that having these regions on the label can garner.
The demand simply hasn’t been there though, pushing prices for grapes down below cost for some growers.
The response has either been to strip out vineyard costs and/ or to increase yields in order to reduce the price of the fruit per tonne. While growers decide whether to stick it out, change their plantings or shut up shop, there can be some great value bargains around.
There are also the growers who just know how to make good wines.
They have a feel for how a wine should look at each stage of its evolution from grape to wine and importantly how it should look once in the bottle and the techniques required to achieve that.
Hoddles Creek are an estate that certainly knows how to make good wines year-in and year-out, they also manage to do it whilst offering some of the best value in the country. Perched in the cool Yarra Valley subregion of Hoddles Creek, they produce three tiers of wine.
Their ‘entry-level’ Wickhams Road ($19) wines sit just under $20 and offer a glimpse at the regional differences of Pinot Noir.
They produce a Pinot from Gippsland, Mornington and Yarra Valley which is a rare thing to see regionally distinct examples of the same grape from a producer, and for them to each taste like the region they are grown in.
The Yarra Valley example from 2018 is delicious and ready to go, made for earlier drinking, it is more fruitforward than the higher tiers with bright juicy dark berries, very fine savoury tannins with just enough spice and earth for some complexity. Length and persistence of flavour punch well above its price point.