The day has been spent sorting out a spreadsheet for all the terms in the OCW for France. Lots of cutting and pasting, but at least now I have an idea as to how long a section takes to organize. I’m about a quarter done with that sort of work, but with luck I should be able to do the other three relatively quickly.
Once that is done, I’ll pull out all the entries that relate to specific regions and grape varieties. Many of the terms we need to know are just a matter of general knowledge, but for regions, we should be able to locate it geographically, describe its climate, soil type, grape varieties grown, how the vines are trellised, what style of wines are made their, and if there are any specific winemaking techniques employed there (among other things). For grapes, the bare basics of colour, acidity, typical body, skin thickness, yields, and when it ripens should all be memorized, along with areas of the world in which it is grown and what type of wine it produces. Those things will all be listed in a spreadsheet and then put onto flash cards for memorization as I work through each section.
So tonight’s wine is a Pinot Noir from the Adelaide Hills, and for practice, here’s what I know about each. Pinot Noir is a red, thin skinned grape with high acidity, a lightweight body, and typically low yields if dry grown. It ripens relatively early, and tends to suit cooler climates and limestone-clay soils. It’s best known as the prestige red grape of Burgundy (where it can command amazingly high prices), though grown all over the world where the climate and soil are favourable. In France, it’s also grown in Champagne (though we’re done with our sparkling section so I am allowed to not know that anymore) as well as in the Loire, in Sancerre in particular. It’s known as Pinot Nero in Italy, Blauburgunder in Austria, and Spätburgunder in Germany, but also grown and well regarded in New Zealand (Central Otago especially so), Australia (Tasmania, Mornington, and the Adelaide Hills spring to mind), parts of California (more study needed to call out where) and Oregon in the USA, Argentina (Patagonia) and Chile (Colchagua Valley at the coastal end).
The Adelaide Hills constitute a wine region in South Australia just east of Adelaide. It’s a cool climate (for Australia) region, based primarily on its altitude with loamy sands soil. It has two subregions, Piccadilly Valley and Lenswood. Sauvignon Blanc is a favoured grape variety, though Chardonnay and Pinot Noir both do well and are used in sparkling as well as still wines. Cool climate style Shiraz is also grown. Notable larger producers include Shaw + Smith and Nepenthe, while the Pinot Noir I’m drinking now is from a highly regarded but much small producer, Ashton Hills.
The Ashton Hills Piccadilly Valley Pinot Noir 2008 is drinking very nicely. The winemaker, Stephen George, produces three Pinots and this is the entry level, with the Estate and the Reserve being the next steps up respectively. It’s full of fruit, herbs and spice, and while I would expect it has room to improve with time, I have no problem drinking it now. And again, here’s a student level assessment.
It’s clear and bright, with a medium garnet colour. It does leave some legs when you swirl it, but more of a thin film that breaks up slowly.
The nose is clean with medium plus intensity which is developing. I get aromas of red cherry, raspberry, sweet spice, fresh green herbs, and a hint of licorice.
Dry, with medium-plus acidity, medium alcohol, medium-minus body, and medium-plus flavour intensity and medium-minus tannins. Flavours match the nose with red cherry, licorice, some tart cranberry, sweet spice, and a bit of pencil lead. The finish is medium with cherry and sage.
This is a very good quality wine – the intensity of the acidity and flavour (both medium plus) are well balanced, and the range of flavours give it full marks for complexity. The length was only a medium, but it was a clean finish leaving me ready for the next sip.
It is very typical of Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir, though I’m not enough of an expert to have been able to place it there specifically if it had been served blind. It runs around $25.00 a bottle which seems about right, and I look forward to reporting on how it compares to the Estate and the Reserve Pinot Noirs at some future date.
Readiness to drink - I think further development will occur over the next five years, with some of the fresh fruit perhaps being replaced by more spice and secondary characteristics.