Finding Australia’s Top Pinot - 2001

By Franz Scheurer


What: Looking for Australia’s top pinot noir

Where: Claude’s Restaurant, 10 Oxford St, Woollahra

Who:  Panel of judges:

John Atwill
Peter Bourne
John Cunnington
Mathew Evans
Huon Hooke
Rory Keohan
Max Lake
Charles Leong
Jon Osbieston

Sharon Wild
Tim Pak Poy

Host: Australian Gourmet Pages

Why: Because it’s fun!

The Finalist Wines:   

Ashton Hills, Reserve, 1997
Bass Phillip, Reserve, 1998

Bindi, 1999

Coldstream Hill, Reserve, 1997

Diamond Valley, Close Planted, 1999

Domaine A, 1997

Giaconda, 1999

Mount Mary, 1999
Nicholson River, 1996

Paringa Estate, 1999
Providence, 1997

Stonier’s, Reserve, 1997

Format: Judged with and without food


          Rare breed suckling pig

          Pineapple fish

          Mock Duck

          Quince Ice Cream


No other grape variety polarises opinions as much as Pinot Noir. One man’s poison is another man’s bliss. Where exactly lies the border between desirable barnyard and saddle aromas and a stinky wine? Do we strive for fruit or body? Does Australia have a unique Pinot Noir style, and. if so, what is it? These and other esoteric questions were discussed at length last night when the panel sampled and judged twelve Australian Pinots, pre-selected by the Australian Gourmet Pages. Twelve masked bottles, twelve glasses and they were off and sniffing, sloshing, slurping, spitting and scoring. It took no more than 40 minutes for all the judges to score the wines without food and after the scores were tallied, the clear winner was:

Bass Phillip Reserve, followed by Paringa Estate, then Diamond Valley Close Planted and Coldstream Hills Reserve.

New tasting sheets, a refill of the same twelve wines and service of the suckling pig, and they were off and tasting again. Tim Pak Poy and his team at Claude’s prepared a fantastic main course of a suckling pig from old genetic stock, roasted with sesame, peanuts and fragrant wine, served with buttered witlof, a raw asparagus salad and black beans. As expected, the food lifted the pinots from great to extraordinary and the perceptions for each wine changed. It took longer to score the same wines with food and, although a lot more enjoyable, it also seemed a lot harder to many of the judges. At the end of the main course, after tallying the scores, the clear winner was:

Paringa Estate, followed by Bass Phillip Reserve, then Giaconda and Diamond Valley Close Planted.

The official part of the evening ended at this stage and everyone was served the entrée of Pineapple Murray Cod with crisp chestnut, tomato, ginger and sauterne. This dish made the pinots of Mount Mary and Domain A stand out, and although an unusual combination, the dish went well with the wines. We finished the dinner with a vegetarian course, the Mock Duck, consisting of zucchini flowers, citrus zest, mushroom, toasted sprouts and braised radish wrapped in rice pastry. This dish must rank amongst the best dishes I have ever tasted!. Almost everyone brought a “special” bottle along and the pinot orgy continued far into the night, finally brought to an end by the inspired dessert of quince ice cream. Needless to say that every single bottle of wine was superb and did Australia proud.


Congratulations to Bass Phillip and Paringa Estate for emerging as the Australian Gourmet Pages best Australian Pinot Noirs.


Thanks a lot to all the judges who gave us their time and lent us their palates and a special thank you to Tim Pak Poy and his team for the wonderful food they created.