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Does Australian Pinot Noir Cellar?

In the early days of making Pinot Noir in earnest in Australia (not that long ago really) many wines were either incredibly simple, or pushed to extremes in an attempt to emulate the great benchmarks of Burgundy. Wines were handled and worked to suggest layers of complexity and detail at a very young age. There were some very enjoyable examples, but there were also a lot that were caricatures, wines with little soul that tended to collapse in a heap after a few years.

Winemakers produce Pinot in quite a different way today; the premature expression of more secondary flavours has been abandoned, but the necessity for a wine to show its cards early on is still important. Australian winemakers nuance clonal mixes, fermentation techniques and oak selections (coopers, forest origin, barrel sizes, toast levels and ages) all in the aim of making better wine, but also as part of the necessity of presenting complexity and harmony in a wine’s infancy. And this is pretty sensible considering so many bottles of high-quality young Pinot Noir are consumed in restaurants within the first year after release. In addition, most samples are submitted to wine critics well before a wine is released, and in some cases are assessed six months before they even hit the shelves. But even with the importance of this accessibility, there is a growing emphasis on making Pinot that significantly improves when cellared, building character and detail over time – sometimes even at the expense of wowing the crowds (and critics) on release.

In short, Pinot Noir in this country has taken a big step forward; a wealth of producers now have vines of meaningful maturity, and a long enough survey to channel them into wines of real and sustained substance. These wines range from the deceptively simple, with finer profiles and more fruit-pure impressions, to ones with apparent density and more solemnly compressed power. These extremes are, at their best, a reflection of site, and the product of a producer’s experience with their land and wine. And although there are very few high-quality Australian Pinots in the market that will not have a degree of accessibility in youth, there is a reserve in many of them that is reflective of a growing confidence that these wines will age, and age in a substantially rewarding way.

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