Back to Black: Australia’s best Pinot Noirs of 2018

Posted on May 1, 2019

Last year was the one that Tasmania regained Australia’s pinot noir crown.

After being pipped for the throne in 2017 by the Mornington Peninsula the island state resumed its primacy ahead of labels from the Yarra Valley. Mornington Peninsula labels fell to third spot in 2018 although, technically speaking, all the big regions were pipped by smaller showings from western Victoria. Those results have been discounted for the purposes of this analysis because of their smaller sample sizes.

That Tasmania resumed its position at the head of the queue should come as no surprise given the black grape’s dominance of the Apple Isle’s production. Pinot noir accounts for 44 per cent of Tasmania’s wine crush. That compares with chardonnay which is the island’s second-biggest variety with just over one quarter of the crush.

That’s not as much as Mornington Peninsula, where pinot accounts for just over half of that tiny region’s output (Tasmania’s total crush is more than three times bigger). But it’s more than double  the mere 19 per cent share that pinot noir claims of production in the Adelaide Hills – also a noted producer of the black grape.

Pinot noir’s dominance in Mornington and Tasmania is reflected in the grape’s price – or perhaps it’s the other way around. Whereas it fetched just $1193 per tonne  in the Adelaide Hills in 2018, producers paid more than $3000/tonne for Tasmanian and Mornington fruit. Even in the Yarra Valley – just up the road from Mornington – pinot could only command $2000/tonne.

The price differences possibly indicate the fruit’s most likely use as much as its quality. At $3000/tonne producers would most likely to prefer reserving the grape for a bottle of still red priced at $50 than the more complicated process of producing Australian sparkling that generally trades well below that level. Still, there’s no doubting Tasmania’s dominance of the Australia’s sparkling segment and, given that even larger selling labels tend to blend twice as much pinot as chardonnay, it’s fair to assume only the choicest black grapes escape that fate.

Of course, the biggest question for local pinot noir drinkers is whether to prefer NZ or Australian. If the wine shows in both countries are any guide, NZ pinots generally rate higher than Australian examples by as much as two points. However, this is largely influenced by the Kiwis’ preference for a coarser marking system that often only awards bronze, silver or gold medals. Once adjusting for this bias, the two are pretty much on par.

This is borne out by Boutique Winemakers Show which judges exhibits from both countries. At that show, Australian pinot labels tended to slightly out-point their kiwi competitors. A Tasmanian label which entered two NZ-based shows also received higher scores from those shows than from the eight Australian shows it also entered.

So which to choose? Interestingly for a variety that usually prizes the influence of “terroir” over winemaking skills a multi-regional wine took second place in our list of Australia’s 50 top pinot noirs. Our list is compiled from the 2856 pinot noir entries at Australasian wine shows in 2018. This includes the 2019 Tasmanian wine show which occurs in January and therefore only judges wines from the previous year’s vintage.

As with any other variety, though, price is no reliable indicator of quality. Pinot noir is generally more expensive than other wines but the top 10 in our list range from $20 to $70. Our exclusive rankings of 2018’s top 50 best pinot noirs is as follows:

1 Bay of Fires Pinot Noir 2017
2 Hardys HRB Pinot Noir 2017
3 Seppelt Drumborg Pinot Noir 2017
4 Montalto Single Vineyard “Tuerong Block” Pinot Noir 2017
5 Bream Creek Reserve Pinot Noir 2016
6 Bream Creek Pinot Noir 2016
7 Montalto “Estate” Pinot Noir 2017
8 Montalto Single Vineyard “Red Hill Block” Pinot Noir 2017
9 De Bortoli Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017
10 Montalto “Pennon Hill” Pinot Noir 2017
11 Home Hill Kelly’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2017
12 Montalto Single Vineyard “Merricks Block” Pinot Noir 2017
13 Seppelt Drumborg Pinot Noir 2016
14 Seville Pinot Noir 2017
15 Home Hill “Estate” Pinot Noir 2017
16 Eddystone Point Pinot Noir 2017
17 Mike Press Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2017
18 Giant Steps Applejack Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017
19 Coldstream Hills Deer Farm Pinot Noir 2017
20 Devil’s Corner Resolution Pinot Noir 2017
21 Bream Creek Reserve Pinot Noir 2017
22 Giant Steps Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2017
23 Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir 2017
24 Castle Rock Pinot Noir 2017
25 Handpicked Collection Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2016
26 Pooles Rock Premiere Pinot Noir 2017
27 Yarra Yering Pinot Noir 2017
28 Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2017
29 Crittenden Estate The Zumma Pinot Noir 2017
30 Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017
31 Artisan Tasmania Pinot Noir 2017
32 Coldstream Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2017
33 Oakdene Single Vineyard Peta’s Pinot Noir 2017
34 Bream Creek Pinot Noir 2017
35 Clyde Park “Estate” Pinot Noir 2017
36 Crittenden Estate Cri de Coeur Pinot Noir 2016
37 Handpicked Wombat Creek Pinot Noir 2017
38 d’Arenberg The Feral Fox Pinot Noir 2016
39 Montalto Single Vineyard “Main Ridge Block” Pinot Noir 2017
40 Shadowfax Little Hampton Pinot Noir 2017
41 Jacob’s Creek Classic Pinot Noir 2018
42 Handpicked Collection Tasmania Pinot Noir 2017
43 Greenstone “Estate” Pinot Noir 2017
44 Tertini Tasmania Pinot Noir 2017
45 Santolin Yarra Valley ‘Gruyere’ Pinot Noir 2017
46 Frogmore Creek Pinot Noir 2017
47 Oakridge Vineyard Series Willowlake Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017
48 Paringa “Estate” Pinot Noir 2017
49 Handpicked Capella Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017
50 McWilliam’s McW 660 Reserve Tumbarumba Pinot Noir 2017

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