To begin with a confession: I love pinot noir. In recent years it has become my favourite grape variety. When I discovered an Australian winemaker at the Shanghai wine festival earlier this year focusing on pinot noir I was intrigued. And I was not disappointed.
The wines of Mac Forbes are a revelation – so different from the blockbuster reds and heavily oaked whites of many Australian vineyards. Forbes’ pinot noirs are subtle, elegant and lovely. His chardonnay reminds me of quality chablis from Burgundy in France and his riesling are spicy and aromatic like wines from Alsace.
First a little history: Forbes returned to the Yarra Valley in Victoria late in 2004 after several years in Europe making wine. His “dream” was his own label, based on a commitment to healthy vines and quality fruit. He focused on making a range of single vineyard wines that capture the essence of the sub-regions in the state of Victoria. He and his team manage or work with 10 vineyards across the Yarra Valley and Strathbogie Ranges regions.
These include eight sites in the Yarra Valley that grow pinot noir, chardonnay, syrah and Bordeaux blend grapes. Rieslings in both dry and off dry styles are grown in the Strathbogie Ranges.
The pinot noirs are the major revelation. One of my favourites was the 2008 Yarra Valley. It is made from the NV6 clone and is quite light in colour, with a nose of strawberry and savoury spices. The flavours lingered in my mouth like a fond memory from childhood. It is a lovely wine that can be consumed soon but would reward a half decade of cellaring.
Another highlight was the 2008 Gruyere pinot noir. Gruyere is the name of the small town where the grapes come from, and not the cheese. As with the previous wine, the colour is pale but the flavours intense. It has wonderful mouthfeel and profound length.
Forbes explained that the grapes are picked relatively early to avoid overly ripe wines. Yet the quality of the grapes mean that the wine offers intense flavours at the strawberry end of the taste spectrum.
The secret is in the terroir, where the wines are grown. “The cooler sites produce the best wines,” Forbes noted.
The 2010 Woori Yallock chardonnay is another beautiful wine with fine lemon-tinged acidity and a minerality and flintiness reminiscent of chablis from Burgundy. I loved the slightly funky nose that sings of difference. Regular readers will know I love riesling, and Mac Forbes has created a formidable wine for his 2010 vintage using grapes from the island state of Tasmania in Australia’s deep south.
The high acidity is typical of Tasmania, as is the range of marvelous flavours. This wine offered spicy notes with a sub-theme of lime and citrus. This is a wine to be enjoyed with seafood, especially fresh oysters.
Australia’s Gourmet Wine Magazine chose Mac Forbes as one of eight finalists for their 2011 winemaker of the year award. After tasting his array of fine wines, it is easy to see why. All wines can be purchased online at http://www.macforbes.com/.
* “Flavors that linger like a fond childhood memory” in China Daily, 30 July 2011, page 12. Find a link here.