Sunday, November 6, 2011

Face-Off - 1998 Tarrawarra Pinot Noir (Yarra Valley)

Introduction (Red): The ageability of Australian Pinot Noir is something that continues to impress me, and I think it’s only a story that’s going to build as an increasing number of our Pinots sail into their second and even third decades.

My first experience with aged Tarrawarra Pinot Noir was the 2001, which I had earlier in the year at a Tarrawarra dinner hosted in Sydney, and in amongst some fantastic competition it was my wine of the night. It was a seductive Pinot right in the groove with plenty of years in front of it.

Red: The 1998 is perhaps not quite at the level of the 2001, but is still a very good wine and drinking very well at 13 years of age. Funnily enough it reminded me a bit of aged Hunter Shiraz, or put another way, it reminded me that aged Hunter Shiraz starts to look like Pinot.

A lovely aged nose of cherry, pot pourri, caramel oak, and leather. It still has some lovely fruit on the front palate, but then very quickly moves to more secondary notes including earth, tobacco, and sour cherry. It’s finishes with good length and there’s still some fine tannin in support. It’s eminently drinkable and fantastic with food. It could be cellared for a few more years, but I think it’s more or less at its aged peak now.

Brown: I echo Red's comments about the 2001 Tarrawarra Pinot - it was a standout wine on the night of the tasting. Given our mutual enthusiasm for that wine, I was interested to see how the 1998 compared.

Bottle variation may have been at play with my sample, but I did not pick up the same level of fruit on the palate. The nose of the wine I tasted was quite complex, and a definite strength: Primary fruit had given way to somewhat aged characteristics, including wild mushroom, moist earth/soil, forest floor, with a subtle liqueur cherry scent.
On the front palate and to a lesser extent, the mid palate, there was some nice black cherry, all spice, leather and earthiness. The back palate was a bit disjointed, with slightly astringent acidity and possibly alcohol heat at the finish.

Given how alluring the nose of this wine was, I would suggest for this particular bottle it may have been at its peak a few years earlier when the fruit would be more prominent/ in balance at the finish. Still, it settled down with more air, and was a solid wine.

Closing Comments (Brown)  It is promising that Tarrawarra wine maker Clare Halloran managed to produce a Pinot that has survived 13 years (when many of its vintage/era could have fallen over after 4 years). The quality of the 2001 Tarrawarra adds further weight to the opening introduction from Red about the increasing age-worthiness of Australian Pinot. While I would be surprised to see an Australian Pinot emphatically reach its 30th year, I find it increasingly difficult to rule it out based on this teenager from 1998.

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