Popular Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir consumption continues to increase at a rapid rate in Australia, only being outpaced by the high-flying Prosecco and Rosé.
Which is impressive given the latter two are coming off lower bases and do not tend to have the premium pricing that Pinot Noir demands.
Geelong still doesn’t get mentioned as often as it should in the conversation around great Australian Pinot Noir despite being one region with plantings dating back in to the 1970s and boasting some of the absolute best producers in the country.
Nevertheless, it is a double-edged sword – while many other regions are starting to run short on stock given a challenging run of vintages, we have many options at our disposal from 2018 and 2019 that are drinking beautifully with the benefit of just a little bottle age and good-to-great vintage conditions.
2020 was a challenging vintage, not just for the obvious reasons. The conditions during flowering were less than ideal and the result was some severe yield reductions particularly for Pinot Noir which was as much as 50 per cent down, not as bad as some other regions affected by fire, but still a big hit. The wines can be light and brisk, but don’t expect them to be around for long.
2018 came on the back of 2017, being one of the coolest and longest vintages in recent times, which was a blessing as the rainfall during 2017 helped to improve stores of water in the soil and the dams of growers. Yields were healthy thanks to good conditions during budburst and flowering before dry conditions set in, requiring full use of those water stores to keep the fruit healthy and stress free.
The wines are elegant and well balanced, as they begin to take on some age such as the People Madly Stomping ($25) from Marcus Hill, on the Bellarine Peninsula they are drinking beautifully now. Classic red cherry and strawberry fruits are supported by game and undergrowth complexity of bottle age which is starting to show itself too and present a mellow, integrated wine with dried herb, spice, and a sappy quality the lends freshness and focus.
2019 was a tale of two halves. The first saw a vintage humming along as ‘normally’ as you could expect while potential yields were slightly off. The second half saw very dry conditions prevail with some nasty little heat spikes which saw vintage hurry on through within about four weeks or so. Those who could manage their vines through the early heat spikes without any adverse effects saw some fantastic wines result with quite vibrant primary fruit and assertive but fine structures.
Marking the final release from 2019 for Mermerus ($28), their Pinot Noir is just as strong as the Chardonnay and Shiraz. Medium weight, ripe fruit flavours of red and dark cherry, raspberry along with subtle floral notes and some spice coming through from oak while the typical underlying earthy nature of Geelong Pinot is subtle but adds another layer to the wine. The structure is assertive and while there is plenty of development to come, this has a finesse to it that makes it lovely drinking now.