Date 21 April 2020 By Nick Butler
When I was first introduced to my now father-in-law, Charlie Burford, my involvement in the wine industry broke down a few early barriers.
While our mutual love of rugby, and immense love and respect for his daughter were handy things to have in common, the promise of ready access to some very decent wines care of my role as a sales rep with Winestock in NSW did my chance of acceptance no harm.
The early releases of Ben Glaezter’s Amon-Ra and Wayne Dutschke’s delicious Lyndoch (Barossa) shirazes were revered on the back verandah, as were many vintages of Tim Adams’ sensational Aberfeldy crafted from shiraz vines a lazy 5-iron from Wendouree’s fabled Clare Valley site.
When I first attempted to add pinot noir to the table, in an effort to add some subtlety and longevity to the conversation, I was told I could sit in the corner and drink it myself. Apparently, no pinot ever made had enough flavour to make the grade at the table of knowledge. Admittedly, it was a Martinborough pinot noir from Te Kairanga that I had in my hand – a wine built around savoury, earthy charm, rather than high-octane, ripe-berried fruit craved by the palates waiting on said verandah. Challenge accepted.
A month later, when the brains trust had reconvened on the leafy wine-drinking platform, and my indiscretion had been forgotten, I opened a bottle of 2004 Paringa Estate Pinot Noir – poured it inside the house, delivering healthy serves in the goblet of choice, a Riedel’s shiraz glass.
Charlie and his close mates were asked to guess which region this young shiraz came from. While there was robust debate over whether it was Heathcote or Great Western (at least they had the right state), there was no suggestion it wasn’t shiraz. After an hour of universal praise and haphazard use of superlatives celebrating the wine, I revealed the empty pinot bottle.
Paringa Estate Pinot Noir has enjoyed unrivalled wine show success since its inception, with winemaker Lindsay McCall showing rare intuition with the variety from his very first vintage. These are wines that tend to speak loudly in the show setting, as they’re packed with flavour and the best oak that money can buy. The latent power and early appeal of the marque is what allowed me to put together PinotGate on that fateful day some 15 years ago.
My most memorable Paringa pinot experiences, however, have come when time has been given the chance to soften edges; where primary brashness fades to earthy, savoury notes – in essence, where its pinosity is given its voice.
I spoke with Lindsay McCall last month and was relieved to find that the retired school-teacher hadn’t lost any of his directness or passion. You always know where you stand with Lindsay. We discussed a retrospective expose on his most important wine, and a case arrived very shortly after.
In line with the “no fuss” approach Lindsay applies to most things, the mix of wines he sent were not manipulated into a quasi-fashion parade, with 10 vintages of any single wine, there are going to be some more challenging releases.
The 2007 Estate Pinot Noir was a juggernaut, taking four trophies for best pinot noir in reputed Shows in 2008 and 2009. Quite remarkably, and considering it was from a very dry vintage, in the midst of all of its leathery, savoury charm it still carries lifted fresh red-berry fruits and firm acidity.
If you’re lucky enough to be sitting on a few bottles, there’s no rush to open them. Kudos to the wine judges who consistently recognised the character and potential in this release.
From another hot and dry year, the 2008 Paringa Pinot Noir shows more signs of vine stress, with sweet-and-sour aromatics and less structure when sipped. Again, quite amazingly, there is a lovely seam of red-berry fruit through it that seems to be a unique trait of the very steep, north-facing vineyard.
The first swirl in the glass of the 2009 vintage and the coolness and elegance of this wine is evident. Another wine that boasts a long and proud list of trophies and gold medals, this is calm and composed and could have been bottled last week. A terrific pinot noir – fragrant and complex, with stalky sinew and soft, supple flesh.
I’m sure most bottles have already been enjoyed, though it’s hard to see it look any better than it does right now. It has close to a decade of life left in it. The first wine I’ve tried from this Estate that signifies a change in style and supreme confidence in its fruit.
Cue the most astonishing wine of the brace – the 2010. Without looking at it through the lens of a back-vintage, it is an ethereal and hauntingly elegant wine, with lifted wild strawberries, bunch-spice and perfectly balanced, oak-derived structure. It’s the finest pinot I’ve tried in the past 12 months.
Book-ended by the comparatively lighter and more tautly structured 2012 and 2014 releases, I was impressed by the richness and balance of the 2013 Paringa Pinot Noir – a wine that’s more advanced than the 2010, though oak inputs and winemaking match its higher alcohol and it’s drinking beautifully right now. A wine that reflects Lindsay McCall’s ability to adjust when required.
The 2015 wine, much like the 2012 and 2014, has loads of treble notes built around cranberry freshness and raspberries, without a thumping bass line. In comparison, the aromatically wild, bunchy, distinctly umami 2016 Paringa Pinot Noir sways into a beautifully ripe, red-fruited palate with perfect ripeness and balance. The majesty of the variety in all of its subtle, and not-so-subtle variations.
Finally, the newly released 2017 Paringa Estate Pinot Noir – a wine that captures the evolution of the marque. No more than medium-weight in the glass, modern pinot aromatics of bunch-derived spice, aniseed and lifted red fruits. It’s sapid and still ripe – the art of balancing flesh and structure mastered in its approachability.
There is no way I could have poured this wine to a rabble of shiraz lovers, expecting them to be deceived. This is a classic young pinot, unadulterated.
As for my father-in-law, Charlie, he now drinks more pinot noir than he does shiraz. While he may not have dragged his merry band of mates from the table of knowledge with him, it’s a pleasure to be able to share a bottle or two with him, over a subtler and longer conversation on that same back verandah.
The Real Review Nick Butler Vertical Tasting Scores and Reviews
2017 Estate Pinot Noir It’s no more than medium-weight in the glass, though loaded with aromatic punch: bunch and oak-spice, red licorice, wild strawberries wrapped in cloves. It carries more than enough fruit-weight and charm, sapid and ripe, raspberries front and centre. A beautiful pinot noir 96 Points
2016 Estate Pinot Noir Fresh as a daisy, bright crimson-red colour. Loads of perfume: bunchy spice, mushroom, umami, wild strawberries. High-toned red cherries drive the palate – pure and pristine. Not a classic Paringa; a little unbridled, though full of charm and modern 95 Points
2015 Estate Pinot Noir Translucent cherry-red colour. Ripe cranberries, raspberries and cinnamon. I love the nose – agile and uncluttered. Loads of red-berry energy here, loads of treble, looking for bass. Still a beautiful pinot. 93 Points
2014 Estate Pinot Noir Bright cherry-red colour. Could have been bottled yesterday. Black cherries, raspberries, cinnamon and oak-char; this is primary and very much in play. Tannins are distinctly chalky, acidity bright and crunchy. Flesh just not enough to cope with the framework 91 Points
2013 Estate Pinot Noir Cherry-red colour in the glass, still youthful and bright. I could swirl this thing for hours without sipping – raspberries and wild strawberries wrapped in aniseed and oak-toast. Ripeness has this advanced ahead of others. Secondary notes of leather and hoisin just kicking in. Drink over the next couple of years 95 Points
2012 Estate Pinot Noir Another bright wine, crimson colour with clear edges. More lifted red fruit aromatics in this than its predecessors – high-toned raspberries and toffee apple. Bunch-spice too. It’s sapid without any true bass notes. Red cherries and cranberries. A lighter take on Paringa pinot. 91 Points
2010 Estate Pinot Noir Still bright crimson-red colour, only just medium-weight in the glass. Wild strawberries, cinnamon, bunch-spice and thyme. This is astonishingly good. Fresh and lithe, linear and fleshy, hard to reconcile. Acidity is crunchy red berry fresh; latent savoury pinosity seemingly endless. Just masterful 98 Points
2009 Estate Pinot Noir Dark cherry-red colour with crimson edges. Looks just-bottled. A lovely, alluring, stalky nose; loads of red rose perfume and red licorice lift. Could smell this for days. A wonderful wine of freshness and pinosity, cooler and calmer than the previous two vintages. At 11-years-young it hasn’t come close to losing its primary charm. Amazing 96 Points
2008 Estate Pinot Noir Pale ruby-red colour with clear edges. Sweet and sour aromatics, ripe red berries with a citrus rind seam through it. Lighter in alcohol than the 2007, though feels more blown-out. Stewed rhubarb and mushrooms. Unsubtle, but still wonderfully fresh for a 12-year-old pinot from a hot year 93 Points
2007 Estate Pinot Noir Retaining energy and bright crimson hue. Secondary, earthy and leathery aromas precede wild strawberries and rhubarb. There’s a skinsy, phenolic grip to it – chalky and firm. Oak tannin has etched itself into its DNA. Red cherry brightness and acidity still very fresh. Astonishing wine from a drought vintage 94 Points