Picardy Pinot Noir 1999 Pemberton, Western Australia

27 Jan 2003 by JR

Those of us who love fine red burgundy are always on the lookout for new recruits to that short list of places which can produce Pinot Noir with some real character and delicacy - which is why I am particularly intrigued by this wine.

It's made by the Pannell family, Bill and Sandra and their son Dan and his wife Jodie (other son, Burgundy-trained Steve Pannell, is Hardy's head winemaker in South Australia). Bill Pannell has a long history of winemaking and wine enthusiasm in both Western Australia and Burgundy, having established the exceptional Moss Wood in Margaret River in 1969 (pre-history for WA) and the Smithbrook vineyard there subsequently. He was once part of the Australian syndicate that invested in Volnay's Domaine de la Pousse d'Or and, perhaps most intriguingly, identified the potential of Pemberton, south-east of Margaret River, and much cooler and wetter being much further inland.

He was determined to plant Burgundian clones of the Burgundian varieties he planned for this vineyard in Pemberton, named after the (non-wine-producing) French region of Picardy because someone pointed out how many top French wines have names beginning with P (really). This admirable decision slowed things down considerably thanks to Australia's suspicious attitude towards things (and persons) non-Australian, but gosh you can taste that this wine was made from vines that owe their being to the Côte d'Or. I think it's a great value bottle, being truly interesting and elegant - and fruity - but without any trace of beetroot (the besetting sin of so many New Zealand Pinots) or syrupiness (ditto in California).

I initially tasted it between some white wines and some much heftier reds and was captivated. Going back to it after the bigger, bolder reds made it look rather pinched, but the next day (and, amazingly, the one after that) this Pinot was still singing confidently away. Just be sure not to swamp it with any other red grape variety. Looking back at my notes of a fascinating 2001 visit to the neo-Burgundian villa that the Pannells have built by their unirrigated Pemberton vineyard, I see I was particularly impressed by this vintage of their Pinot Noir - much more delicate than its predecessor. Their other red varieties didn't shine nearly as forcefully (the area may be just too cool for Bordeaux varieties and Shiraz) but their Chardonnay can be stunning.

Picardy Chardonnay 2001 is also well worth seeking out. At about the same price as this Pinot Noir, it has real complexity and staying power, and deserves decanting.

WineSearcher cites retail stockists in Australia, the UK, the US and Singapore at widely varying prices. In the UK these wines are £14 - £15. The Pinot is listed by Gordons of Bolton, Goyt Wines of Whaley Bridge, Luckins, RC & RH Palmer of Bridport, Philglas & Swiggot of London SW11 and Noel Young of Trumpington. The Chardonnay should be available from Kendalls of Manchester and RC & RH Palmer.

In Australia, potential buyers can contact the winery directly (tel 08 9776 0036, fax 08 9776 0245, email picardy@wn.com.au, web

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