While the Oscars are all about acknowledging the shining stars of the silver screen, and Eurovision is about discovering the world’s next big pop sensation, we think it’s high time someone paid tribute to the rock stars that make the finest Australian Pinot Noir.
In our attempt to track down the country’s finest wine geniuses we started with Australia’s definitive wine bible, James Halliday’s 2017 Wine Companion and the same names just kept coming up.
With at least one Pinot Noir awarded 96 points or above in 2017, our top 5 winemakers have shown that they can consistently make outstanding wines of premium standard.
So, who are these rock stars and what’s the key to making the best Australian Pinot Noir?
Introducing, Dan Buckle from Circe Wines. He says it’s all about location, tenacity, the willingness to make mistakes along the way, a sense of humour to combat the frustration… plus loads of cash!
Michael Dhillon from Bindi Wines, says it takes fabulous fruit, which can only come from choosing the perfect site and carefully tending it.
Jim Chatto of Chatto says a great site, experience, patience and a little intuition is the key.
“As a winemaker, you need to know when to act, and when to just keep your hands in your pockets and let it happen,” he said. “This is the hardest thing to learn.”
For Steve Flamsteed of Giant Steps it’s a mix of just about everything, from the weather, to your picking crew, to carefully approaching destemming.
And the final of our five superstars is Pete Caldwell from Dalrymple Vineyards, who needs no introduction to our Pinotphiles!
Now it’s time to get to know these winemakers a little more…
DAN BUCKLE – CIRCE WINES
What’s the first bottle of Pinot Noir you ever made?
Circe 2010 Mornington Peninsula was the first bottle I made from vineyard to glass, I’m hugely proud of that one. I’d been part of other Pinots before, but this was the first time I managed all of the viticulture as well as the winemaking.
My wine rule is… Better an empty cellar and great memories, than a full cellar of old, tired wine. Life is for living, wine is for drinking, not looking at.
My wine hero is… James Halliday. Unquestionably. He lit the spark in me for Pinot Noir, he set the standard for humility, passion and perseverance with good humour in wine tasting and winemaking.
Stranded on a desert island what three items would you need? I’d need a Learjet to get home, of course. Otherwise, assuming hot weather, you’d need a fridge and some Riesling…maybe a comfy hammock and unbreakable glassware (my ultimate dream). And a pipeline to the Cavon de Bacchus in Nuits St Georges to top up the Pinot supply. (Oops a few more than three items).
MICHAEL DHILLON – BINDI WINE GROWERS
What’s the first bottle of Pinot Noir you ever made?
I was involved with making the 1992 Bindi Pinot Noir and I was fully responsible from 1998 onwards.
Never drink Pinot Noir with friends without… Making sure it’s a really exciting producer, regardless of vintage.
Never go to a winery without… Requesting that most of the visit is spent out in the vineyard.
If you could have one wish come true what would it be?
In relation to wine, that we improve the way we farm every year in order to produce more beautiful wine. In relation to life, that we all improve our understanding and care for those around us.
JIM CHATTO – CHATTO
What is the first bottle of Pinot Noir you ever made? 1999 Rosevears Estate, Tamar Valley, Tasmania. This was the first wine I was solely responsible for. I still have a few bottles; it’s ageing beautifully (pure luck I reckon).
The first thing I do when I get to the winery each morning is…. Coffee! And smile to myself about how lucky I am to be doing something I love.
Never drink Pinot Noir with friends without… Laughter. Pinot is fun, it’s for enjoyment and enhances moments with friends.
If you could have one wish come true what would it be? That endless packet of Tim Tams. No, seriously: to live the lifestyle the wine industry promises but seldom delivers. I feel like I’m almost there. Besides health and happiness for my family, my dream is to sustainably make a world class (and unique) Pinot Noir from our little vineyard in Tasmania. Not much really.
PETE CALDWELL – DALRYMPLE
What is the first bottle of Pinot Noir you ever made? 1990 Pinot Noir at Te Kairanga Wines, Martinborough, New Zealand.
My wine rule is… Buy one good bottle, not three average bottles (if you can).
My wine hero is… Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon. I worked with Jean-Baptiste in my early days of winemaking, when I was about 18. He was a French winemaker who came to Tasmania to start Jansz Tasmania. It was my first encounter with a talented overseas winemaker and he definitely inspired me.
If you were stranded on an island, what are the three items you would need? A companion, a bottle of 99 Jacques Prieur Musigny and a corkscrew.
STEVE FLAMSTEED – GIANT STEPS
What is the first bottle of Pinot Noir you made?
The first bottle of Pinot I was involved in was at Pipers Brook in 1993 – crazy year, lots of rain… it is all a haze in my memory but I think it was pretty decent.
The first thing I do when I get to the winery each morning is… Make coffee on our 45-year-old Rancilio espresso machine.
Never drink Pinot Noir with friends… Without some form of duck.
Never go to a winery without… A spare pair of socks.