Pricey Pinot: Head South for Pinot Noir’s Best Buys
Writing about Australia’s most expensive wine variety at a time when the world wallows in its darkest moments seems almost disrespectful if not entirely irrelevant.
Wine writers and fans of the black grape wax lyrical about the qualities of pinot noir. It drinks well when young, adds beguiling complexity with age and assaults the nose with perhaps the most loaded bouquet in viniculture. Experts rave about supple tannins and bright fruit but, most of all, about pinot’s ability to transmit its terroir like few other grapes.
But it’s expensive. The grape known for its fickleness as much as its organoleptic qualities (look it up) easily commands the highest price premium at the vineyard. Australian pinot trades on average at $1027/tonne – a 31 per cent premium over other red grapes.
But it gets even worse for local lovers of Burgundy’s flagship fruit. That premium includes all the lower quality pinot grapes that go into sparkling and Australia’s fastest growing but much cheaper wine segment – rose.
Pinot grown in the grape’s premier Australian regions weigh in at closer to $2249 (Yarra Valley) to $3291 (Mornington Peninsula). In other words, the real premium paid for a bin of pinot noir is closer to a multiple of three or four when compared with lesser red grapes.
All this explains why our usual list ranking Australia’s top 50 pinot noirs yields an average bottle price of $44. Which is a helluva lot to pay considering a bottle of premium Australian wine is defined as costing $15. And which is also why we return to Vinloco’s mission to search for value with renewed zeal.
The simple rule when looking for the best pinot buys in Australia is to buy Tasmanian.
The Tasmanian labels ranked in our top 50 list this year weren’t the cheapest. But they were the best by far.
The Apple Isle accounted for the first five of the top 10 pinot exhibits at Australian wine shows last year and nine of the top 20. Extending out to the top 50, the 15 Tasmanian pinots were nearly double the number of the next best region – Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.
Tasmania’s victory over Victoria (although the two states were even when Yarra Valley exhibits were added to Mornington Peninsula entries) follows on from its ascendance in 2018. It also reflects the grape’s overwhelming dominance of the island state’s red wine grape cultivation (90 per cent).
Tasmania’s outperformance on quality means that the $47 average price for their top wine show entries easily outranks their more expensive Victorian counterparts on value. Although Mornington Pensinsula entries received a higher average score the very slight difference (less than a point) was nowhere enough to justify the 25 per cent average price premium.
But if you want real value in pinot noir, buy kiwi.
The top 20 NZ pinot noirs sell on average for A$32. That’s one-third cheaper than Tasmanian wines and even more when compared with the top 20 Australian pinot noirs. That gap more than compensates for the single point that separates the New Zealand wines from their West Island counterparts.
Interestingly NZ enjoyed its huge price advantage even though pinot noir wine grapes sold there for NZ$3285/tonne last year – about the same as Australia’s most highly priced region on a currency-adjusted basis.
With this in mind, we depart from our usual approach to list to show the top 50 pinot noirs shown last year wines ranked by value. We have also included ranked wine show scores with NZ pinots separated from Australian wines to account for systematic differences in their wine show award scales.
Our best picks:
NZ: Delta Pinot Noir 2017 and the Thornbury Central Otago Pinot Noir 2018
Tasmania: Bream Creek Estate Pinot Noir 2018 and Eddystone Point Pinot Noir 2018
Other: Hardy’s HRB Pinot Noir 2018 and De Bortoli Riorret Lusatia Park Pinot Noir 2018
Here’s the list after compiling the 2870 scores of the 1353 separate pinot noir labels presented to Australian and NZ wine shows last year:
|Rank by value||Label||Origin||Price ($A)||Rank by score|
|1||Aldi Stores The Tudor Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2018||Yarra Valley||$13||AU Rank: 31|
|2||Dee Vine Nericon Pinot Noir 2018||NSW||$17||AU Rank: 15|
|3||Wicks Pinot Noir 2018||Adelaide Hills||$21||AU Rank: 27|
|4||Leefield Station Pinot Noir 2018||NZ||$22||NZ Rank: 13|
|5||42 Degrees South Pinot Noir 2018||Tasmania||$24||AU Rank: 50|
|6||Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir 2018||Victoria||$23||AU Rank: 45|
|7||McWilliam’s 660 Reserve Tumbarumba Pinot Noir 2018||NSW||$24||AU Rank: 41|
|8||Delta Pinot Noir 2017||NZ||$24||NZ Rank: 1|
|9||Wild Grace Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017||NZ||$26||NZ Rank: 10|
|10||Akarua Rua Pinot Noir 2018||NZ||$25||NZ Rank: 11|
|11||Scarpantoni McLaren Vale Pinot Noir 2018||SA||$25||AU Rank: 37|
|12||Thornbury Central Otago Pinot Noir 2018||NZ||$28||NZ Rank: 6|
|13||Paringa “Estate” Pinot Noir 2018||Mornington Peninsula||$27||AU Rank: 46|
|14||Spy Valley Handpicked Southern Valleys Pinot Noir 2016||NZ||$28||NZ Rank: 5|
|15||Shadowfax Macedon Ranges Pinot Noir 2018||Victoria||$30||AU Rank: 48|
|16||Tamar Ridge “Estate” Pinot Noir 2017||Tasmania||$29||AU Rank: 16|
|17||Tamburlaine Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018||NSW||$28||AU Rank: 35|
|18||Wither Hills Single Vineyard Taylor River Pinot Noir 2016||NZ||$29||NZ Rank: 4|
|19||Eddystone Point Pinot Noir 2018||Tasmania||$30||AU Rank: 7|
|20||Shaky Bridge Pioneer Pinot Noir 2018||NZ||$30||NZ Rank: 14|
|20||Te Kairanga Runholder Pinot Noir 2018||NZ||$30||NZ Rank: 15|
|22||The King’s Wrath Pinot Noir 2017||NZ||$30||NZ Rank: 8|
|23||Nepenthe Pinnacle Good Doctor Pinot Noir 2017||Adelaide Hills||$30||AU Rank: 47|
|24||Sidewood Pinot Noir 2018||Adelaide Hills||$32||AU Rank: 12|
|25||Hardys HRB Pinot Noir 2018||Multi-regional Australia||$35||AU Rank: 6|
|26||Montalto “Pennon Hill” Pinot Noir 2018||Mornington Peninsula||$34||AU Rank: 11|
|27||Devil’s Corner Resolution Pinot Noir 2017||Tasmania||$35||AU Rank: 20|
|28||Pipers Brook Pinot Noir 2018||Tasmania||$35||AU Rank: 18|
|29||Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017||NZ||$36||NZ Rank: 2|
|30||Heirloom Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2018||Adelaide Hills||$36||AU Rank: 39|
|31||Wild Earth Pinot Noir 2017||NZ||$39||NZ Rank: 9|
|32||Handpicked Collection Tasmania Pinot Noir 2018||Tasmania||$40||AU Rank: 49|
|33||De Bortoli Riorret Lusatia Park Pinot Noir 2018||Yarra Valley||$40||AU Rank: 13|
|34||Bream Creek Pinot Noir 2018||Tasmania||$40||AU Rank: 1|
|35||Larry Cherubino Laissez Faire Porongurup Pinot Noir 2018||WA||$39||AU Rank: 33|
|36||Ceres Composition Pinot Noir 2017||NZ||$40||NZ Rank: 12|
|37||Sidewood Abel Pinot Noir 2018||Adelaide Hills||$40||AU Rank: 22|
|38||Santolin Gladysdale Pinot Noir 2017||Yarra Valley||$42||AU Rank: 17|
|39||Eight Ranges Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018||NZ||$45||NZ Rank: 7|
|40||De Bortoli Lusatia Pinot Noir 2017||Yarra Valley||$45||AU Rank: 43|
|41||Santolin Gruyere Pinot Noir 2017||Yarra Valley||$45||AU Rank: 25|
|42||Montalto “Estate” Pinot Noir 2018||Mornington Peninsula||$50||AU Rank: 9|
|43||Home Hill “Estate” Pinot Noir 2018||Tasmania||$50||AU Rank: 4|
|44||Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2017||NZ||$50||NZ Rank: 3|
|45||Bay of Fires Pinot Noir 2018||Tasmania||$50||AU Rank: 23|
|46||Devil’s Corner Mt Amos Pinot Noir 2017||Tasmania||$52||AU Rank: 3|
|47||Shadowfax Little Hampton Pinot Noir 2018||Victoria||$55||AU Rank: 40|
|48||Pooley Butcher’s Hill Pinot Noir 2018||Tasmania||$54||AU Rank: 28|
|49||Colmar Block 3 Pinot Noir 2018||NSW||$56||AU Rank: 29|
|50||Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018||Mornington Peninsula||$60||AU Rank: 42|
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