Pinot Noir—why it’s so misunderstood + 9 of our favourites

From bright ruby with glittering red berry flavours to deep crimson glowering with savoury and spice, Pinot Noir is an amazingly diverse wine. Here are nine across the spectrum well worth exploring.

International Pinot Noir Day - Pinot Noir Wine

Probably one of the most misunderstood wine varieties, Pinot Noir loves to run its own race. Even to the point where drinking it from two different shaped glasses with change the taste of the same Pinot Noir completely.

We learnt this trick a few years ago.

It made us wonder how many bottles of good Pinot we hadn’t done justice to just from using the wrong stemware.

And it’s not just us hapless consumers that have trouble with Pinot Noir. As our friend and brilliant wine-maker Lisa McGuigan puts it:

“Pinot Noir is an outstanding performer if you can make it behave, both in the vineyard and at the winery.”

But when you can bend this headstrong grape to your will (and you have the right glass of course), you’re rewarded with one of—if not the most delicious multifaceted wine whose complex flavour profile belies its medium body.

And if you have the patience and willpower, it’ll pay you back many times over if you can leave it be for a decade or so.

Beyond its own life, Pinot Noir continues to do great things.

Check out our review of this American single malt whiskey from Westward Distillery has been aged for over two years in ex-Pinot Noir barrels, bringing a whole new depth of flavours to the whiskey.

And these three Australian craft spirits we’ve written about are all feeling the influence of Pinot Noir in a variety of way too.

But back to the heart of the matter, here are nine of our favourite Pinot Noirs you should check out:

1. Lisa McGuigan Platinum Collection Pinot Noir (2015) – Wrattonbully, SA

On the richer, bolder side of the Pinot Noir line, this wine shows Lisa’s dexterity and skill with such a tricky variety. Rich, silky and intense, this is a wonderful example of Pinot’s savoury side.

Grapes were left whole but de-stemmed to ferment for 20 days before pressing and maturing in old French oak for nine months. But I get the feeling there’s more to it than that!

Buy Lisa McGuigan Platinum Collection Pinot Noir here.

International Pinot Noir Day - Pinot Noir Wine - De Beaurepaire Perceval Pinot Noir

2. De Beaurepaire Perceval Pinot Noir (2019) – Rylstone, NSW

Medium bodied with rich cherry, rhubarb, raspberry, strawberry and earthiness—as well as hints of vanilla from the oak, this wine is very much in the style of the Burgundy you’ll find in France.

The De Beaurepaire family’s Burgundian heritage and the vineyard’s terroir that’s as close central-eastern France as possible, this is exactly their aim. This wine spends 12 months in French oak, 30% of which is in new barrels.

Buy De Beaurepaire Perceval Pinot Noir here.

3. Holm Oak Pinot Noir Estate Grown (2021) – Tamar Valley, TAS

This cool-climate wine has touches of strawberry and plenty of dark cherry on the nose that lead to even more cherry and complex spice on the palate. Juicy, silky textures with a lovely long finish and good structure suggest plenty of cellaring potential—Bec Duffy, Holm Oak’s owner-winemaker—suggests at least 10 years.

This Pinot is made from de-stemmed estate-grown grapes in the Tamar Valley that are matured in French oak—1/4 in new, 3/4 in one-to-four-year-old casks—for 10 months.

Buy Holm Oak Pinot Noir here.

International Pinot Noir Day - Pinot Noir Wine - Holm Oak Protege and Single Vineyard Pinot Noir

4. Holm Oak Pinot Noir Protege (2022) – Tamar Valley, TAS

Quite different to Holm Oak’s savoury spicy single vineyard Pinot that we’ve already mentioned, the Protege is made with Pinot Noir’s soft fruit notes in mind. It’s also the lightest in body of these wines.

Grapes are fermented with their skins on for 10 days using yeast that purposefully brings out fruit-forward aromatics. The wine’s then matured in tanks so there’s no oak to the red.

The focus of this Pinot is very much on being light and bright, and the perfect everyday wine. Having said that, it’s still bold enough to stand up to strong-flavoured food like game meat and blue cheese, so it’s no shrinking violet either.

Buy Holm Oak Protege Pinot Noir here.

5. Ghost Rock Wines’ Climat Pinot Noir ( 2020) – Cradle Coast, TAS

This organic single-vineyard iteration from a beautiful little Tasmanian winery shows how much range Pinots have. Light floral aromas and a clear bright colour show quite the opposite to what lies within this wine.

Impressively intense spice, pepper, tobacco and leather leap out at you from the first sip followed by a juicy acidity and creamy mouthfeel. The finish doesn’t hang around too long, but that just makes you want to take another taste.

Grapes for this wine are grown organically on a small two-hectare block that’s managed vine-to-vine for the best organic practices and to ensure the grapes are in perfect condition at harvest.

Buy Ghost Rock’s Climat Pinot Noir here.

International Pinot Noir Day - Pinot Noir Wine - Ghost Rock Climat and Tamar Ridge Reserve

6. Tamar Ridge Reserve Pinot Noir (2019) – Tamar Valley, TAS

The cooler climates and stonier terroir in Tasmania really do suit Pinot Noir, and Tamar Ridge’s Reserve Pinot is a great example of that. Dark berries and plums, spice and a savoury structure to the wine create a wonderful balance with a lovely long finish.

This complex wine isn’t a yearly thing though, with Tamar Ridge only releasing their reserve range on exceptional vintages, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for these in particular.

Buy Tamar Ridge Pinot Noir Reserve here.

7. Howard Park Flint Rock Pinot Noir (2020) – Great Southern, WA

From Australia’s biggest wine region, this Pinot is a great example of the varietal: somehow simultaneously delicate and robust, with a soft silkiness and plenty of that signature dark cherry.

Grapes from two separate subregions—Porongurup and Mount Barker, the country’s oldest subregion—bring levels of spice and flint respectively to a wine that’s genuinely satisfying.

Buy Howard Park Flint Rock Pinot Noir here.

International Pinot Noir Day - Pinot Noir Wine - Petaluma Pinot Noir & Howard Park Flint Rock Pinot Noir

8. Petaluma Pinot Noir (2021) – Central Otago, NZ

New Zealand in general and Central Otago in particular is well known for producing superb Pinot Noir. This wine shows vibrancy, dark berry aromas and a light cherry lift before a silky smooth mid-palate and a fine refreshing tannin finish.

Petaluma selects grapes from several exceptional vineyard sites that are fermented in stainless steel, with 25% going into new French oak.

Buy Petaluma Pinot Noir here.

9. Tempus Two Pewter Range Pinot Chardonnay (2013) – Adelaide Hills, SA

You might think this is cheating, but ignoring sparkling wine would be a mistake. Much of the bubbly we drink has at least a touch of Pinot Noir, and that element has a profound impact on the wine.

Made from premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes from Adelaide Hills that’s aged for 48 months on lees, this sparkling exhibits fresh white peach and delicate strawberry aromas along with elegant crisp acidity and soft creamy complex finish.

This is a museum release (I struggle with cellaring wine myself) but it shows just how well Pinot—and Chardonnay for that matter—can age.

International Pinot Noir Day - Pinot Noir Wine - Tempus Two Pewter Pinot Chardonnay sparkling

If you enjoyed this story, you should check out some of our other wine reviews here.

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