Spotlight on New World Pinot Noir: Grosset Pinot Noir 2005
Australia is not a land known for Pinot Noir. Notwithstanding its current market woes, with people turning away from its innocuous ‘critter’ wines in ever increasing droves, Australia just never built a reputation for this storied grape. Not that it didn’t try to. It’s just that Australian Pinot Noir never really produces wines so easy to consume as its jammy shirazes. There have been growers bucking this trend though, especially in the regions surrounding Melbourne, such as the Yarra Valley, which tends to be a lot cooler than the rest of Southern Australia. Also, Australia has quite strict quarantine provisions that, unlike New Zealand and Oregon, have prevented the newest Dijon clones from being planted. If Australia opens its borders, the potential for Pinot Noir will likely dramatically increase.
The Grosset Pinot Noir is actually from a region lesser known for its Pinot Noirs and more for its Sauvignon Blancs, the Adelaide Hills. Located in South Australia, just north of the McLaren Vale, the Adelaide Hills is a very sparsely planted region compared to Australia’s major regions. It is also right on the edge of the city of Adelaide, and so the region is being encroached upon by expanding suburbs. The region’s very high elevation and relative proximity to the ocean ensure a consistently cool and misty environment, which is fairly ideal for Pinot Noir, and also provides a stark contrast to nearby McLaren Vale, which is very dry and hot. The high altitude (400m above sea level) and very cool nights tends to produce wines with sharp acidity; but, I would add that in the right hands red wines from this region retain a freshness that eludes so many Australian wines, particularly those that we tend to find on our continent.
While Grosset is famous for its Clare Valley Rieslings, which are surely some of the best in Australia, this Pinot Noir is not made from estate fruit, but from fruit purchased from vineyards in the Adelaide Hills. That doesn’t seem to impact the quality of this wine negatively in any way however, and the master hand of Jeff Grosset is very evident here. Distinct in Australia, Jeff Grosset has always believed in making wines with a sense of place. While the rest of the industry was busy blending grapes from across the country to produce their innocuous shiraz and cabernet blends, Grosset remained true to his passion for producing ‘terroir’ driven wines that still spoke of Australia, but did so with more character than normal. I think it is thanks to people like Jeff Grosset that Australia has the stuffing to weather its current export crisis and reemerge as a region with distinct terroirs, passions, and diversity. When I attended a tasting of Victoria wines last year to help support victims of the bush fires, I experienced a plethora of cooler climate wines that were all doing different things and beating a completely different drum than what most people have come to associate with Australia. And, as I have discovered over the years, there are wines like this from all over Australia, if we are only lucky enough to find them, and have an importer choose to bring them on to this continent for us. We are on the cusp of a huge transformation in the Australian wine industry, and I think it will be for the better.
I wish I could have found some information on the site and soil conditions for this Pinot Noir, but alas could not. I would very much appreciate if anyone can leave some of this information in the comments as I (and I’m sure many readers) would love to know. The nose on this was spicy, earthy and leafy but with good richness and concentration to the cherry and strawberry fruit notes. In other words, the nose was classic richly styled Pinot Noir – but with grace. The palate had good fruit, but far less up front and concentrated than I was expecting. This allowed the other flavours to come through – earth, spice, and a tart crispness that kept this very fresh. I would actually never have guessed this was from Australia and personally found the wine to be absolutely outstanding – by far the best I’ve had from Aussie-land. I think the little bit of age on this bottle helped it to integrate and present itself perfectly when I opened it.
This wine starkly contrasts with my other favourite wine of this series – the Sojourn Pinot from Sonoma – instead focusing on fruit freshness, a clean palate, and bright robust spicyness. This is a true cool-climate New World Pinot Noir and is worth seeking out if you have the chance. I would not hesitate spending this much on the wine again.
$70 at Marquis