When I first discovered the Great Southern wine region, it was promoted to me as one producing exceptional Rieslings - which is true. At the same time, I have the impression that this Riesling positioning is driven by the intention of having a grape varietal that distinguishes the region from others. In other words, an added marketing dimension.
As I further my exploration of the region, I grew to particularly enjoy the Pinot Noir. The cool climate conditions favor the development of a stunning but difficult grape. Furthermore, the micro-terroir environments in each sub-region and the varied winemaking styles contribute to an endless process of amazement. Although the fresh, elegant commonality of Great Southern wines remain, every Pinot is unabashed in showing you its unique identity. Your palate just never gets bored with every single Pinot tasted.
It was therefore a wonderful opportunity to put together and taste 6 Pinots from some of the very best estates of the Great Southern wine region. Of course, everyone's opinion can be different and wines can change its character over time. But here are my personal observations from the tasting. The wines are written in the order in which they are tasted.
LA VIOLETTA Ye-Ye Rouge 2017
Incredibly vibrant at heart with cheerful floral and red fruit characters that were sung on the nose and where the same song flows melodically through to the palate. The Ye-Ye Rouge is like a teenager that is full of life, rebellious and into alternative music. Shiraz and Pinot Meunier are also at play here, adding a mix of spice and savory that I picked up more clearly on the palate. Tannins and body of the wine are light, even by Pinot standards.
Yes, this is a funky drink but do not be mistaken. You can pick up a methodical approach to the winemaking and a product that is nuanced and full of intentions.
PLANTAGENET 'Normand' Pinot Noir 2017
Sourced from one of the oldest plots in the Great Southern, I excitedly bought a bottle of the 2017 'Normand' Pinot Noir when it was just released during my visit to Plantagenet cellardoor in April this year.
The wine is immediately distinguished with a unique medicinal, herbal accent on the nose and on the palate. The raspberry fruits I picked up comes across as more sombre. These two character flavor profiles combine for an unforgettable impression. Oak influences add to a serious wine for a serious drinker.
GALAFREY Pinot Noir 2016
A 42-year-old dry grown vineyard producing intense fruits, coupled with Kim Tyrer's approach to prolonged skin contact for maximal extraction, yields quite a breathtaking result.
The light(er) colour creates the false impression of a wine that is featherweight among giants. But you're quickly taken aback by a complex aroma that articulates plum, red fruits, leathery, flora and spice characters. You pick up nuance upon nuance the more you savor the aroma. The gentle body of the wine opens up to a surprisingly wide breadth of fruit-driven characters as well. The tannins and acids are articulated in a more meaningful way on the palate, playing a bigger role to the experience of the wine in comparison to the others.
WIGNALLS Pinot Noir 2017
I met Wignalls proprietor, Rob, just a few days earlier during his trip through Singapore. It was a wonderful opportunity to experience wines from a vineyard located in the sub-region of Albany.
Really glad that Wignalls Pinot Noir adds diversity to our tasting and representation to Albany. The colour is deeper and I picked up raisins on the nose which is rather unique! Also, the raspberries and cherry profiles are bright and cheerful and an oak-ish character later reveals itself with great delight as well. There is a tinge of sweetness in the wine that is certainly intriguing.
CASTLE ROCK Pinot Noir 2016
Castle Rock estate is located on the northeastern slopes of the Porongurup mountain range. The views at the vineyard is text-book picturesque. The Sterling mountain range rises majestically in the horizon, whilst you sit in the heart of one of the most biodiverse hot spot in the whole world, surrounded by a vibrant floral forest and a beautiful vineyard lawn.
I picked up the 2016 Pinot Noir early in the year, and actually right after my descent from Castle Rock peak. This Pinot turns out to be astonishingly world-class. The aroma is a delectable concoction of berries, oak and herbs. The palate is medium-bodied but weighty. There is a certain distinction whereby the wine articulates to you a very precise flavour profile that is deep and earthy, consistent from aroma through to the finish. It is simple and pure. It is also somehow complex yet not confusing. The experience is rather memorable.
It also reminds me of aged wines whereby secondary flavors appear, replacing young, fruit-driven styles. Yet, this is a 2016 vintage and there is already a certain class and stature being asserted by the wine.
ROCKCLIFFE Single Site Pinot Noir 2015
I've enjoyed the Single Site Pinot Noir before and every experience has been consistently profound. The 2015 vintage was undoubtedly top-notch and all the more cherished when compared to many vintages during which the difficult weather impacts the quality and volume of fruit harvested.
The deep red colour has a certain swagger to it, setting itself apart from typical Pinots and daring you to explore its depth of flavors and complexity. The nose is deep, very deep. It draws you in initially with fruit but later evolves into an alluring maze of earthy and herbal notes. The palate has a velvety texture to it whilst the serious tannins, when tasted young, have now eased comfortably into place. At this point, the wine is practically showing off. The finish is long and deep with tentacles that refuse to let go.