Light and luscious

This article first appeared in Cellar Press, 2009
Tyson Stelzer

Australia is rediscovering pinot noir, and there’s never been a better time to do it. Dubbed “the heartbreak grape,” winemakers the world over are besotted with its charms, but it’s the hardest grape to get right. Recently, Australian and New Zealand makers have been getting it more right than ever, and there are world-class examples on our shelves, from sub-$20 quaffers to sublime super-premiums.

At its glorious best, pinot noir has a bouquet reminiscent of wild strawberries, rose petals and red cherries, with a black cherry flavoured palate. Its silky structure and fine tannins make it seductive in its youth while, with age, it takes on nuances of forest undergrowth and mushrooms. Regions on top form right now are the Adelaide Hills, Tasmania, Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Martinborough, Central Otago and Marlborough.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the most celebrated red grape in the world, but it finds itself somewhat out of fashion among Australian consumers right now. The upshot is that better fruit finds its way into lower labels, so there are plenty of bargains to be discovered.

Cabernet is the backbone of sturdy reds with deep colours, blackcurrant flavours and structured tannins. All but the very coolest regions in Australia have a decent go at it, but it’s in Coonawarra and Margaret River that it finds its finest expression. Cabernet is the most noble and age-worth of all varieties. Long live the king!