Pinot poles apart

Today I am reporting on two 2009 Pinot Noirs. They could hardly come from more different places; one is from the Mosel Valley in Germany and the other from the Adelaide Hills in Australia.

However, in some ways they share a character, in that the makers of both grow the Pinot at the limits of its range within their respective countries.

Tapanappa, run by the highly regarded winemaker Brian Croser, is grown right at the South of Australia on the Fleurieu Peninsula in the Foggy Hill Vineyard – that name tells you a lot about the qualities of that site. In the mornings of summer and autumn the cool climate there induces this fog and that is why Brian Croser chose that area to plant his vineyard.

Spater-Veit grow Pinot Noir right in the heart of Riesling land in the middle Mosel. Some people might view it as a heinous crime, but the Pinot I am reporting on here was grown in the vineyards of Piesport (hence the ‘P’ in its name), prime Riesling territory! Riesling can be grown in distinctly cool locations. Can Pinot manage greatness here? (I admit I am cheating slightly because 2009 was quite a warm vintage in the Mosel, but it is still a relatively cool location compared to where most Pinot is grown.)

So, unusual locations for Pinot Noir, on opposite sides of the world. Let us hope it thrives in both! Time to pop some bottles!

Spater-Veit Spatburgunder P 2009Spatburgunder P 2009, Spater-Veit

Delicious, lasciviously pleasurable characteristics on the nose. Real development into broad, mature, tertiary aromas. As soon as I started smelling this my body got covered in goose bumps! (I am told it is quite rare for one to develop goose bumps in response to aesthetic experiences, happens to me all the time!)

The nose is a beautiful set of mature fruit aromas intermingled with a pleasingly restrained earthiness. What is perhaps a tad weird is that there is an aroma of fresh cantaloupe melon. This sounds peculiar, but it works well with the strawberry and cherry fruit on the nose. There are hints of something floral on the nose too. Good. I like that.

It sounds an unusual set of aromas, but I assure you it is beautiful, tempting, restrained and all showing in a terribly winsome manner! There is plenty of room in the world for opulent and overt Pinot Noir; I prefer it to beckon to you subtly and whisper into your ear that, if you sniff carefully, it will show you a wonderful peacock’s tail. Such class and style is only brought to you from fine vintages in fine vineyards transformed by fine hands. This is the Platonic ideal of a minimalist Pinot Noir.

At such a Northerly location for Pinot Noir one might expect frightening acidity. Not from these vineyards in this vintage. The acidity is there, but as a subtle, background tease for the tertiary fruity, floral characteristics.

Ageing has allowed this wine to grow quite some breadth and a degree of power, but it is all in perfect harmony with a precise flow of aromas and textures tickling your palate into ever higher levels of pleasure. I really did not believe this wine would be so involute, so lovely, so staggeringly fine.

The tannin and acidity work well together to give a structure that delivers all the restrained but incredibly pleasurable flavours to every area of your palate. Slurp, swill and chew it around, boys and girls, there are just so many levels of happiness to extract from this little charmer.

I must comment specifically on how deeply satisfying the earthiness is. It is a source of richness and complexity on this generally restrained palate. The only times I have smelled and tasted earthy flavours like this has been on extremely serious Cote-de-Nuits reds of superlative quality.

This earthy complexity, power and refinement, together with the lovely fruit and floral flavours could trick me into thinking this was a nec plus ultra Clos-Saint-Denis Grand Cru. Few of my chums in Morey-Saint-Denis have made many of such ethereal scent and sculpted beauty as this wine.

The length of the finish is wonderful, with a grip from tannin and terroir that makes all the soft, mature fruit and floral aromas leap into spritely life and demand you swallow more and more. I am a bit surprised this seems a bit more limestone-y than stale-y, but fuck that shit, this is divine Pinot of nigh-unlimited delight both viscerally and intellectually.

I gave my only other bottle of this to my mother to help celebrate a significant birthday – I hope she enjoyed the stunning, effulgent beauty of this coruscatingly vivacious Pinot. The Editor and I were deeply moved as we sipped our way through our bottle. There is so much going on with it, but it never overwhelmed. The acidity, tannin, earth, fruit, flowers, melon, depth, tannin, power, were all in a complex harmony of dreamy happiness.


Tapanappa Foggy Hill Vineyard 2009Pinot Noir Foggy Hill Vineyard 2009, Tapanappa

I have been wanting to try Tapanappa for bloody years. Brian Croser is a great figure in the Australian wine scene – he made one of the first proper cool-climate Chardonnays in Australia at his ex-winery Petaluma. I never really cared for his Cabernet nor his Merlot, because they were often somewhat boozy fruit bombs. However, given the quality of his Chardonnay (and his sparkling wine), I thought he would make very good cool climate Pinot Noir if he turned his hand to it.

Croser started making Pinot at Tapanappa and I am very grateful to the person who sent me this (they wish to remain anonymous) because its price is a bit of a stretch for my wallet these days. I am told the 2009 was a dry but fairly standard type of vintage for the Foggy Hill Vineyard. I am terribly excited to try some finally!

Oh dear.

The nose of this is as green as a Chinon from a cold and wet vintage. The fruit, what diminutive fruit there is, is equally uninspiring.

I have given it a really vigorous shake in my glass to try and coax some slightly nicer aromas out of it, but there are none there apparently. I would be pissed off as hell if I had dropped the required sponds to get this and found it like this: a limp, insipid nose of greenness and only vague hints of unripe fruit. When I sniff this lacklustre concoction, I know it is going to be bleeding acidic.

It is so acidic it hurts my tongue as I chew it around. When I swallow this, it will make my stomach, and therefore me, suffer. Yes, drinking this is nothing but punishment. This acidity is far too harsh and totally out of balance.

Out of balance with what? Well, there is no real fruit of any character worth mentioning, certainly nothing that would make a Pinot lover smile. There are very tough, harsh tannins from the unripe Pinot Noir, that seem massively over-extracted to me. The woody tannins are just punishing with no hint of integration into the painful but dreary characteristics of the essentially nasty palate.

There is no finish to speak of; this cannot be right, surely? I will give it a shake in the bottle and come back to re-taste in a few hours.

Bugger me, it is even worse now. This is just boring and unpleasant. Avoid.