How This Aussie Winery Is Creating Pinot Noir That Rivals Burgundy Reds

We have all heard of wine regions that are said to produce Pinot Noir as good as those from its original home in Burgundy, but Australia doesn’t get its fair share of the praise on the Pinot front. That may be because there is not a lot of it there, accounting for around 3 percent of the country’s vinous output, but those in the know are aware that Australian Pinot Noir is an underappreciated national treasure.

Despite the relative obscurity of the red grape from Burgundy in Australia, several wine growing areas there vie for the title of best Pinot Noir. One producer in Gippsland, a little-known region that’s a couple of hours from Melbourne by car, has raised the bar and is producing Burgundy-worthy bottles, raising its own profile and that of its neighbors. With 30 acres of vineyards, Bass Phillip has been producing Burgundy-style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Gippsland since 1979, and the new releases from 2021 are on par with the finest bottles from Gevrey-Chambertin or Nuits-Saints-Georges. While this may be partly because it is the first vintage made by Jean-Marie Fourrier, who made his mark in his native Burgundy and then in Oregon prior to joining Bass Phillip as director of winemaking, the winery has been on a steady course towards perfection since its inception.

More from Robb Report

Producing around 35,000 bottles per year, Bass Phillip’s silty clay loam and sandy loam soils allow Fourrier allow to “dry farm,” so the vines have to dig deep to access ground water. This area in eastern Victoria receives a little less rainfall on average than Burgundy (33.8 inches vs 35.4) and is also just slightly warmer on average, two conditions that aid in ripeness and help to avoid mold and other pests.

Jean-Marie Fourrier
Jean-Marie Fourrier

Fourrier points out that the soils are the biggest difference between the wines he makes at Bass Phillip and in Burgundy, because varied nutrients will cause a different flavor profile. In both locations, he aims for “balance, purity, and silkiness” in wines that are built to age but can also be enjoyed when they are young. A low-intervention winemaker, he believes in limiting “human influence as much as possible to reflect the identity of where the wines come from.” He says that he tries “to understand the environment where the vines are growing to naturally achieve a wine with a good phenolic maturity with the right texture of tannins and aromatics,” adding, “I like to say, the more you are a biologist the less you need to be an enologist.”

Fourrier’s top-of-the line Bass Phillip 2021 Reserve Pinot Noir retails for $1,150, several steps up from his entry level “Since 1979” Pinot at $75 or those of his neighbors like William Downie or Patrick Sullivan, which are also priced in the $75 range. Selected from the best vineyard block, it was aged for 14 months in lightly toasted, extra tight-grained oak. It offers an alluring bouquet of raspberry, cocoa powder, and clove with soft touches of cedar block and sage. It is pure velvet on the palate, with flavors of black cherry, baking spices, vanilla bean, and a lingering touch of earthiness in the drawn-out finish. Try it alongside your favorite pour from the Côtes de Nuits, and see if your wine snob friends—we all have them—can tell the difference.

Culinary Masters 2024
Don’t miss the food event of the year. Register for Robb Report’s Culinary Masters now. Or, for more information on Robb Report experiences, visit RR1.

Best of Robb Report

Sign up for Robb Report's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.