Within minutes, the nose—the bouquet, if you will, had turned candied sugar, the kind of aromas found in Pinots decades older. This didn’t bode well for the wine as the “burnt sugar” or caramelized notes on the outer reaches of the bouquet usually indicate a wine in Autumnal stages or at very least, slouching towards Winter, in this case, its very own Winter of Discontent.
In the next 20 minutes, this Pinot from Eastern Peake seemed to head further away from the shore. The fruit was there, but it tired quickly, going a bit flaccid at the finish, vacillating like an hesitant, unconsummated proposition. I purposefully diverted my attentions and a few minutes later, the wine seemed resurgent.
Henry Miller was said to have called Hope a form of ‘spiritual clap’. He apparently said it meant part of you was dead. But then, Henry’s glass was half-empty most of the time, wasn’t it? I for one am nothing if not a champion of hope and the occasional lost cause. In fact, a therapist once informed me I was hopelessly addicted to hope. She may have been right. I nonetheless have a difficult time giving up on something, someone, or a worthy idea. I also know that anyone who takes up the making of Pinot Noir on its own terms is wired a little differently, a different kind of sentient being; an adventurous one, quite possibly suffering from a case of spiritual clap. If making wine is not for the timid, then tackling Pinot Noir is arguably for the foolhardy. Some would contend it is an endeavour not entirely unlike charging up a rocky slope wearing tennis rackets for shoes. Therefore, “failure” to make a great Pinot should be assessed in the context of intention, skill and integrity, offset with whatever luck or weather misfortunes the Gods decided to bestow on their plot of land that particular year.
And so it was that I took another sip of the Eastern Peake, hoping to be able to write, “Wait, this wine might not be done yet…” a case of the not-quite-vanquished hero coming back in the third act. As it turns out, however, the wine was done with me: thin, acidic, and watery in the finish. Like having to sit through dinner with someone, you’ve just broken up with. Two tastes later the bill arrived: finito la musica.
Tim White in his 2009 review wrote that this was “fabulous stuff…that will age at least five years…”
Alas, not this particular bottle.
NEW TO WINE?
Most wines are made to be consumed early but there are those that are made to keep and drink later. The “keeper” wines often undergo stages in their development; they surge, only to retreat and close up. A wine might be great upon first tasting, and a couple of years later that same wine will not seem very good at all—only to turn another corner five years later. Not entirely like lovable kids that seem “lost” as touchy teenagers…who then blossom into charming and capable adults. In those stages, venturing to determine a wine’s specific qualities or potential character is not entirely unlike attempting to discern specific foliage through the steamy haze of mossy banks. They seem to be in a state of torpor, a hibernate cave from whence they will [hopefully] emerge again. Many do.
Old wines—40 years and older—often undergo the same twist and turns upon first opening. They must be allowed to recompose themselves in the decanter. A good amount of airing becomes a kind of resuscitation process, where the wine regains its “land legs” as it were. On more than a few occasions I have tasted old wines that seemed over-the-hill upon first pour, only to taste an hour later and attest to their seemingly wondrous resuscitation. Magical stuff, this wine thing. It’s why I’m still hooked.
Except of course, the wines that never do bounce back, the ones hampered by flawed winemaking or congenital vineyard or vintage weaknesses. These wines fade and cash in their chips prematurely, leaving you—if you’re lucky—only with the scent as a token of its never-attained ambitions.
EASTERN PEAKE Intrinsic Pinot Noir 2006 Winemakers: Owen & Norm Latta
Region: Coghills Creek, Ballarat, Victoria
The Ballarat Wine Region, along with the east side of Mt Macedon are the only two inland cold climates in Australia. Tasmania and Mornington are Maritime.
Vineyard: Located 25 Km NW of Ballarat. Elevation 430 metres.
The vineyard is exclusively planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. The soil is a clay loam basalt overlying a subsoil of clay and fine ironstone. With a total production of around 900 cases a year (when nature allows in this coolest of cool climate regions) Eastern Peake is still very much boutique in scale. Yet, it is the largest winery in the Ballarat wine region.
Wine: 3.5 ha non irrigated, planted in 1983, 1989 and 1994, 3×1.5 grid, clones MV6 and Moorillon (ex Bests original planting 1850’s) Average Harvest Date – Anzac Day
(—Excerpted from the winery’s information sheet)