Tasmania, the island to the south of Australia, is not a region that is "top of mind" for most winos. Probably none, as it represents just 0.5% of Australian wine production. It is a "cool climate" region, with the northernmost part of the island at latitude 41 degrees south (Burgundy is at 47 degress north), and it shows in the wines. It would be simplistic, however, to characterize this island as one wine region given the diversity of terroirs, but I will not be exploring that diversity tonight, instead focusing on one grape from a single winemaker.
Tonight I had the rare opportunity to try, blinded, three different price points of the same grape from the same winery:
2003 Piper's Brook Pinot Noir Reserve
2004 Piper's Brook Pinot Noir Estate
2005 Ninth Island Pinot Noir
Two out of three tasters rated the CHEAPEST of the three the best. Pale ruby red in the glass, the Ninth Island Pinot Noir started with musky cooked fruit, later showing strawberry, truffle, cloves and very meaty aromas on the nose. Drinking very well right now, it was rich and elegant, with nice strawberry fruit. Interesting, but not complex. Its easy going nature had most of us thinking it was the eldest of the flight. Great now, or could spend some time in the cellar. Given the price, this is an absolute steal (but there are only five bottles left in the city of Montreal).
Price: C$20 (LCBO) - SAQ price is 2$ more...
The Reserve wine of Piper's Brook is pricey, but only mid-priced in the alternate universe of Pinot Noir. Bright ruby red, it started with strong creme brulee and floral notes, supported by strawberries, mushrooms, mint, and tobacco - haunting, heavenly, and continuously changing. On the palate this was bracingly tart and acidic at first, but softened beautifully over the evening, later showing crisp strawberries with nice acidity, ample tannins, and substantial length. It was this evolution that ultimately made it my favourite, and this was the only one of the three that absolutely demands more time in the cellar.
Price: C$49 (SAQ)
The mid-priced Piper's Brook Estate was the least favourite for all of us - not a bad wine, but facing tough competition. Pale ruby red, it showed a nice nose of roses and strawberries, some earthiness, but rather simple. On the palate it was crisp, structured, and again rather simple. I thought it was the least expensive of the lot, given the lack of complexity. It should be noted that the same vintage of the Ninth Island also scored lower - perhaps 2004 was a challenging vintage for Tassie Pinot?
Price: C$31 (SAQ)
No, I do not tire of Pinot Noir and ribs - all three wines paired very nicely with ribs in black bean sauce.
Overall, Piper's Brook Estate is making some great Pinot Noir, in a more crisp, focused, Burgundian style (note the low alcohol content vs. other New World Pinots). These were great wines, but the bang for the buck resides with the Ninth Island, a wine frequently blogged on this site (1,2,3) AFTER the main event Pinot has been finished - I may have to rethink that.
PS - Perhaps Brooklynguy's quest for inexpensive Burgundy should take a detour to Tasmania?