Wine review — Secret Stone, Pirie, Lark Hill & Tapanappa

Secret Stone Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007 $18–$21
Pirie ‘South’ Tasmania Pinot Noir 2007 $25

The pinot minefield exists wherever the variety grows – from Burgundy to Oregon to New Zealand to Australia. Because it’s difficult and expensive to grow and make, its starting price is higher and the failures, near misses and almost-made-its can blow your budget. Today’s pinot offering, a random tasting of available samples, is representative. At the ‘budget’ end the Foster’s owned Secret Stone gives fair value. It’s a drink-now wine with bright, pale, colour; clean, fresh aroma and mid-weight, brisk varietal pinot palate. In the bigger Pirie ‘South’ you get riper fruit depth and a more solid structure without losing pinot character.

Pirie ‘Estate’ Tasmania Pinot Noir 2006 $38.90
Bay of Fires Tasmania Pinot Noir 2007 $38–$40

Pinot carries a big tannin load that’s not always apparent on first sip, because it’s generally so soft. But sometimes the tannin hits first, as it does in Andrew Pirie’s wine. Then the fruit makes its impression – before the tannins bite again, throwing this fairly big pinot slightly off balance (to my taste) – a small blemish that may disappear over time. Fran Austin’s Bay of Fires has what might euphemistically be called a ‘funky’ character. This could, in fact, be a trace of a sulphide compound or just an earthy pinot flavour – only the lab can tell for sure. That quibble aside, it’s a deep, silky, complex and enjoyable pinot. She’ll perfect this style before long, I suspect.

Lark Hill Canberra District Pinot Noir 2006 $35
Tapanappa Foggy Hill Vineyard Fleurieu Peninsula Pinot Noir 2007 $50

After a couple of tough years up on the Lake George escarpment, Lark Hill pinot makes a strong comeback with the 2006 vintage, the first under full biodynamic management. It’s very bright, fresh wine – subtly perfumed, with a palate that builds with each sip, the fruit framed by savoury tannins and carried on an acidic spine. It’s to be released in late winter says winemaker Chris Carpenter. It’s a leap of faith from there to Brian Croser’s first wine from a vineyard planted in 2003 on a cold, foggy 350-metre peak of the Fleurieu Peninsula. This is promising pinot from one of Australia’s most significant wine figures. But Brian, could we please have another few months in barrel next vintage?

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2008