One of the interesting things about pinot noir, and all good wine for that matter, is the wide diversity of people and places that contribute to its variety. How many of us have ever looked longingly at a treasured bottle of pinot and wondered aloud about its shadowy origin? Certainly, countless villages, farms and fields the world over are host to the spectacle of harvest. Few are lucky enough to survey this expanse in the flesh, so most, like me, must resign themselves to colored pictures in oversized wine books and glossy magazines. But this too has its pleasure for here lives the intersection of ignorance and curiosity. I’ll explain. I’ve been to Napa Valley on a few occasions and prior to my first visit I excitedly turned the pages of more than a few guidebooks extolling the greatness of her many wineries, restaurants and wines; I was ignorant AND curious about her pleasures. Now, all the wiser for our introduction, I have little curiosity in her fineries. I don’t look at Napa Valley guidebooks much anymore.
I’ve never been to Tasmania, however, so for me there are so many possibilities. Tasmania seems isolated and extreme, a ruggedly beautiful place home to few people and even fewer good roads. Not isolated in the “you can’t get there from here” sense, but in a more dogmatic sort of way. The sort of place where islanders might have a “locals only” type of handshake known only to those native born. That way, store clerks would quickly realize when they’re confronted by some stupid foreigner of ill-breeding. Maybe in Tasmania outstretching your hand is even a dangerous thing to do, akin to saying something really insulting about an American city’s football team to some local fans in a bar. It just might get you a black eye and a cold, hard bunk back to mainland Australia aboard a dingy cargo ship. Basically, a strong dose of knowledge closes the door on certain possibilities, and when you’ve never been to a place almost anything seems likely.
In color, Ninth Island Pinot Noir was strawberry-red, brilliantly clear and showed medium concentration. This Australian pinot noir was decidedly red in fruit character, offering tart flavors of raspberries and cranberries, and was deepened aromatically by subtle scents of acacia, menthol and orange peel. Never lacking for acidity, this cool-climate pinot noir was chalky in texture, slightly tannic and somewhat astringent in its short finish. Happily absent, however, were big oak, high alcohol and flabby texture. Although this is not silky, dense or nuanced wine, Ninth Island is true and straightforward pinot noir perfectly suited to the dinner table.
Yet, for nearly $20.00 a bottle shouldn’t more complete and satisfying wine be expected? With so many good pinots crowding the shelves in this price range, from Oregon and Burgundy alike, it’s hard NOT to stumble upon more interesting and exciting wine. Plainly stated: simply being food-friendly isn’t good enough for pinot at this price-point! It’s the under $15 tier that poses a real challenge for pinotphiles seeking hard-to-find values, and it’s where this bottle of wine would be in more suitable digs. There, Ninth Island Pinot Noir would enjoy real star-status and be better positioned to hitch a ride home for a decent weeknight meal. As priced: not recommended.