When I first started drinking Pinot Noir in Victoria (about 18 years ago), there were really only two big ones on the market – Coldstream Hills, and Scotchman’s Hill. I learned a very valuable lesson then. Pinot Noir grows better on hills. Eventually, I would get around to discovering Pinot from other parts of the world, and would always be drawn back to Burgundy, where the position of the vineyard on the hill roughly translates to price – the higher you go, the higher you go, so to speak. There’s a photo of me somewhere (film – showing my age, I’m afraid), that has me at a tender age of 21, holding the most expensive bottle of wine I had bought up to that stage – a 1959 Vosne Romanee. I am standing at a Romanee cross in the middle of autumn vines, smiling like a loon, and vowing that one day I would return, climb higher up the hill, and get myself some of that true-blue DRC magic. (I did, and I will again)
Interestingly enough, if you know the area around Scotchman’s Hill (Bellarine), you’d wonder what they believe actually constitutes a hill…
I’m not going to go into Pinot Noir in any great depth – it would take all day, and I would probably have to hit the cellar for some inspiration and investigation at some point. There’s a perfect starter’s guide here. But in a nutshell, Pinot Noir is a bitch. It’s hard to grow, harder to make, hard to cellar, but when you get it right, she’s so beautiful you could put her on the cover of Vogue. Not only that, you get what you pay for. You go cheap, you get cheap. There are no bargains in the under $20 market (apart from the one-in-a-million happy accident), and if you don’t want to spend much, she’s probably going to be a bit stringy, sour, and wearing cheap perfume. But I suppose some nights, she’s exactly the kind of girl you need.
Swan Bay is Scotchman’s Hill’s entry-level Pinot. They now have 7 different ones, ranging through New Zealand, and up to the $60 Cornelius. This one is deep ruby in colour. Lovely eucalyptus sappy nose with a struck match. A little cherry on the nose, but not enough. Palate soft up front with touches of sweet oak, green apple and rhubarb. Finish lean and a little short. Good cheapie, reasonable value.
Drink now or for 3-5 years
80AED (plus tax) from MMI stores (This one tasted by the glass at The Ivy, for their wine and cheese nights)