People often ask me how I got into the business of wine. This is what I tell them:
I once went along to a Ballarat Wine Show, where several wine master classes were feature events. Ian Pym from Mt Coghill winery spoke for an hour about the history of wine in Australia and Appellation Ballarat. Winemaker John Harris and Craig Mitchell from Mitchell Harris Wines & Mount Avoca ran a packed out session entitled Winemaking 101. At 1pm there was a Pinot Noir Master Class and I was the sole attendee in the 40-seat classroom.
Via the curriculum, I learnt
- approx 10% of Ballarat Pinot Noir grapes go into making Yellowglen bubbly
- there are two main soil types in Ballarat, Quartz Clay & Volcanic Ash
- the widest planted Piniot Noir grapes come from the NV6 clone
- the majority of current vines were planted in the 1980's & 1990's
- Ballarat is considered a Cool Climate wine growing region
I was treated to tastings of
- Wightwick 2005 Pinot Noir, planted 1996 in Quartz, very light wine, fruit not foremost, brick/garnet
- Nintingool 2008 Pinot Noir, planted 1998 in Quartz, grippy tannins, spicy, purple
- Sinclairs of Scotsman 2007 Pinot Noir, planted 1997 in Volcanic, quite young, simple, plumless
- Myola 2007 Pinot Noir, planted 1994 in Volcanic, fruit driven, no oak taste, plummy, medium grip
- Mt Coghill 2008 Pinot Noir, planted 1995, less than 1 tonne per acre, weighty, rich flavours
- Cavalier 2001 Pinot Noir, planted 1977, 100% new Hungarian oak, well decanted, herbs, prunes, raisins
I was invited to taste any of the Ballarat wines that had been submitted for judging. White, Red, Pink, Bubbly, Fortified, Experimental.. all adorned with the scores they had been given the night before. The Mount Avoca Frizzante (Sauvignon Blanc) was fun, playful and very refreshing. I tried as many Pinots as I could find amongst the two, heavily-laden trestle tables.
I met a (kinda shy) long time, seasoned wine maker who told me about the devastating effects of the recent glut of good fruit. Several years of perfect weather conditions had led to an abundance in supply. The usual marketing message were not reaching the desired audiences. Sales reps were doing the same old job they had always done and bottles of Pinot Noir were still sitting on shelves.
The cost of shipping to wine liquidators was prohibitive to the prices the wine would sell for. The costs of emptying and re-using the glass bottles was more trouble than worth. Storage facilities were either too costly or unavailable. So pallets of bottled Pinot were BULLDOZED. As a wine lover, a patriotic Australian and a marketer- this news was INSANE to me. "All part of farming", I heard.
Yes, Ballarat Pinot Noir does not get discussed in a #PinotSmackDown debate. No, it is not a similar wine to Central Otago, Tasmania, Mornington Peninsula, Sonoma or Burgundy made wines with the same grape. Is Ballarat Pinot tasty? Yes. Does Ballarat Pinot offer value? Yes. Should it be pulped because not enough consumers know about it? No.
Now I seek out to learn and discover about ALL wines made around the world. I believe there is a time for EVERY wine. I don't expect others to be as adventuresome as me, but I do encourage every wine drinker I meet to try new things, drink what they love and sometimes, at least, step away from the grocery store and buy something other than supermarket wine.