Excellent value wines shown in purple.

Highly Recommended ★★★★

Balgownie Estate Pinot Noir

2013 Balgownie Black Label Pinot Noir A very fragrant pinot showing complex herbal notes, probably derived from stems. The palate is powerful yet elegant, with excellent length and balance and a silky feel. This wine is drinking beautifully. ($25.00)

2012 Home Hill Estate Pinot Noir This is the style of pinot we’ve come to expect from Huon Valley producer Home Hill. It shows intense, ripe, dark cherry aromas and flavours backed by well handled French oak. The freshness and structure suggest that short term cellaring would be the right option. ($36.00)

2013 Seville Estate Pinot Noir A pinot with plenty of spicy red berry aroma and flavour. The sheer vibrancy of this wine is very impressive, and the fruit carries the oak with aplomb. Although the oak shows at the moment, it will integrate over the next few years. ($36.00)

2013 Home Hill Kelly’s Reserve Pinot Noir Take the Estate wine and add more of everything. This is a powerful, classy pinot noir that should be cellared. ($55.00)

Recommended ★★★

2013 Balgownie Estate Pinot Noir Good perfumed varietal fruit with a hint of stalk. The palate has good length but is quite firm on the finish. ($45.00)

2013 Dawson & James Tasmania Pinot Noir Taut, tight and backward, but very fresh. The oak comes to the fore at this early stage. (Not yet available)

2013 Seville Estate The Barber Pinot Noir An attractive young pinot with decent weight of varietal fruit, although it’s just a little simple. ($24.00)

2013 Home Hill Estate Pinot Noir A vibrant dark cherry pinot with a herbal edge. On the simple side. ($36.00)

2013 Squitchy Lane Yarra Valley Pinot Noir Has plenty of bright plummy fruit but the oak is a little too obvious. ($35.00)

2013 Koppamurra Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir A little reductive on the nose, but it shows impressive dark cherry-plum fruit. Needs time. ($25.00)

2013 Cannibal Creek Gippsland Pinot Noir Bright cherry fruit with good French oak integration. Slightly lean finish. ($32.00)

2012 Ocean Eight Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir An attractive floral/red fruits style. Has weight, but needs more structure. ($50.00)

Only a dozen pinots made the cut, but they’re a strong group. As expected, all hail from cool regions, namely the Yarra Valley, Huon Valley, Derwent Valley, Adelaide Hills, Gippsland and the Mornington Peninsula.

Great progress has been made with pinot noir in Australia over the past two decades, and the twelve wines above demonstrate just what a good position we’re in.

2013 Tapanappa Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay

This isn’t the Tiers, but it’s very good nonetheless. The intense white peach varietal aroma and flavour merges beautifully with touches of hazelnut and butter. The palate brings it all together in a creamy, structured way. ($39.00) ★★★★


Every year at the Small Vigneron Awards the judges are treated to an international tasting. All the wines are poured “blind” and scored by all thirteen judges. This year it was pinot noir.

Unfortunately a few key wines like Ata Rangi and Bass Philip Premium were lost in transit by the freight company, but it was still a fascinating tasting that demonstrated pinot noir is the most sensual of all grape varieties.

The order of preference below is determined first by the median score, with ties split according to the mean score.

Outstanding ★★★★★

Cristom Valley Pinot Noir

2010 Cristom Willamette Valley Sommers Reserve Pinot Noir This is one of the wines that shows that Burgundy doesn’t have the high quality end of the pinot noir market to itself any more. The vibrant red berry perfume carries a hint of dried herbs, and the palate is long and exceptionally fine in terms of tannins. Although it’s a delightful drink now, it will become even better as the years pass by. ($79.00)

2010 Charmes-Chambertin (Armand Rousseau) Another brilliant wine from one of Burgundy’s finest producers. As one of the judges put it, Unbelievable! This is as good as it gets.” Maybe, but it is a truly elegant wine that initially appears light, and then unfolds, revealing perfumed complexity and a positively velvety mouthfeel. (No longer available)

2010 Moorooduc Estate Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir This is a very complex pinot noir with some stems influence. The varietal aroma and flavour carry the funky, herbal stalk input well, and it mingles with potpourri, red berries and many other sensory delights. Very much a pinot-lover’s pinot. (Available in half-bottle for $15.95)

2010 Coldstream Hills Reserve Pinot Noir The Coldstream Hills Reserve seldom fails to feature in tastings such as these. It’s very complex, showing hints of charcuterie, toasty oak and coffee to support the strong cherry varietal fruit. It’s a very plush wine that will reward cellaring. ($91.00)

2010 Curly Flat Pinot Noir This fine, elegant pinot offers fragrant raspberry and florals with a suggestion of whole bunch. This is a bright, expressive, beautifully balanced wine with the length and structure to reward cellaring. ($47.50)

2010 Clos Des Lambrays A delightfully fragrant Morey-St-Denis wine with a spicy, slightly peppery touch to the cherry varietal bouquet. This wine breathed up significantly in the Riedel glass during the 90 minutes of judging and was at its silky, complex best right at the end. (Purchased at auction in the USA – $200.00)

2010 Domaine Serene Evanstad Reserve Pinot Noir The nose is appealingly fragrant, and the palate delivers vibrant red berry fruit within a firm but balanced structure. The finish is particularly long. (Purchased at auction in the USA – $60.00)

2010 Clos de Tart This property is the neighbour of Clos des Lambrays in Morey-St-Denis. It offers ripe raspberry and dark cherry aromas and very intense varietal flavour backed up by firm, fine tannins and well-handled new oak. This is classic cellaring burgundy. ($462.00)

Highly Recommended ★★★★

2010 Yering Station Reserve Pinot Noir This wine had a polarising effect on the panel. Its supporters pointed to richness of flavour, complex briary notes and appropriately firm structure. One thing for sure – it doesn’t lack flavour or interest. ($80.00)

2010 J. Rochioli River Block Pinot Noir There’s plenty of bright colour and flavour here in a wine that doesn’t take a backward step. It’s fresh, and packed with ripe raspberry fruitiness plus a hint of forest floor character. It’s mouth-filling, but doesn’t go too far in that direction. (Purchased at auction in the USA – $75.00)

2010 Bell Hill Pinot Noir This Canterbury (NZ) based producer has created quite a stir with a succession of excellent pinot noirs. This one is quite substantial, with a decent lick of new oak. The fruit intensity and structure demand cellaring. ($150.00)

2010 Elk Cove Vineyards Five Mountain Pinot Noir A very fragrant pinot with an appealing spicy complexity. A fine, firm structure enwraps the delicious varietal flavour. ($71.25)

2010 Beaux Frères Willamette Valley Pinot Noir The bouquet is very much in the “pretty” category – fragrant and floral. There’s a touch of new oak, and the palate is persistent and fine. This wine is beginning to drink well, but will also benefit from a few years in the cellar. ($106.00)

Recommended ★★★

2010 Mt Difficulty Pipeclay Terrace Central Otago Pinot Noir This is a BIG pinot noir. The colour is purple and the nose and palate are more like cool-area syrah, including the tannins. ($80.00)

2010 Ashton Hills Reserve Pinot Noir Very complex due to stems, but it’s starting to show obvious signs of development. Drink it now if you enjoy the style, but don’t cellar. ($63.65)

2010 Rippon Tinker’s Field Central Otago Pinot Noir And we thought the Mt Difficulty was big and tough. This wine is too syrah-like. OK if you like that sort of thing. ($130.00)

Acceptable ★

2010 Chambertin (Domaine Tortochot) The horsey brett intrudes too much, and the finish is astringent. ($239.00)

2010 Echezeaux (Domaine Arnoux Lachaux) Clovey medicine cabinet brett savages the once beautiful fruit. (Purchased at auction in the USA – $275.00)

** So much for international wine “experts”. The last two wines were very well reviewed. Let this be a warning to all.

Last year there were ill-informed comments flying around the social media suggesting that the dominance of Australian chardonnays in the international tasting was no more than a home town decision. The clowns making the comments failed to understand that 1. Most of the very experienced panel felt that Burgundy produced the best chardonnay in the world and 2. That Australia actually has the wines to challenge Burgundy.

The same naysayers should take a look at this year’s results. Not only did wines from three different continents strongly contest top spot, but the styles differed markedly. Some whole-bunch wines did well, as did those with little or no stems influence.

The wines from the USA fared very well, almost as well as they did in the International Syrah Tasting a few years ago, encouraging us to take a more detailed look at US pinots in the future.