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Chardonnay is now safe to drink

It's that time of the year for me when days and nights are occupied with either tasting wine or writing tasting notes.

04 Jul 2010

By Jeremy Oliver

It’s that time of the year for me when days and nights are occupied with either tasting wine or writing tasting notes. I even end up talking in tasting note style to friends and acquaintances: “Saw Portugal kick seven last night – silky teamwork and finishing, solid team structure in the middle of the park and a lingering impression they might go further in the World Cup. 18.5 out of 20.”

One of the wines I always look forward to tasting is Giaconda’s pinot noir. Its latest release from 2008 is largely sourced from the Yarra Valley, topped up by some local Beechworth material. I was the first writer to rave about this wine in the late 1980s. But recently, its owner and winemaker, Rick Kinzbrunner, conceded that Beechworth’s now significantly warmer climate was just too hot for this grape. The best of the lot was from 1992 – a stellar wine that I always use as the winery’s benchmark. Whenever I think of the 1992 vintage of Giaconda Pinot Noir, my thoughts always turn to Len Evans and a particular situation I baited him into.

Quite some years ago, the English Burgundy specialist, Anthony Hanson, was in Australia. I wanted to interview him for a story I was writing about the state of the art of Australian pinot noir, and I knew he was having lunch with wine ambassador Len Evans at Catalina Restaurant, Sydney. So I called Evans requesting a brief audience with Hanson at a time after their lunch, perhaps when they were drinking coffee.

“That is the cheapest effort I have ever experienced in all my entire life by anyone trying to invite himself to lunch!” barked Evans, to which I tried to inform him that no such thing had been on my mind.

“I refute that charge absolutely,” I said, trying my level best to sound offended. “You can’t do that to me. All I want is a moment of your coffee.”

“Unbelievable! How much front do you have?” barked Evans again, working himself up into a Welsh crescendo. “Your price of admission to lunch with me and Anthony Hanson at Catalina is a bottle of great Australian wine.”

“Excellent. I shall bring a Giaconda Pinot Noir 1992.”

“That’s not a great Australian wine,” snapped Evans. “That’s an interesting Australian wine. A great Australian wine is an old Grange from a great vintage, a mature Penfolds Special Bin Number red, or perhaps a great year of a mature Henschke single vineyard red.”

So I rang my friend John Newton from Vintage Cellars, procured from him what proved to be an outstanding bottle of 1967 Penfolds Bin 7 and arrived at Catalina, with my Giaconda in the other pocket.

We began with champagne, Grand Marque, and far too many of them. My Bin 7 looked stupendous, but by then I was in decline. My Giaconda looked wonderful too. Hanson loved it; Evans tried desperately not to, finally pronouncing that it tasted too plummy to resemble top-drawer Burgundy. By then, it didn’t matter. Nothing really mattered at all to me apart from getting to my 3.30pm appointment with a Sydney-based financial honcho who had expressed an interest in buying monogrammed copies of my book.

Evans said he’d take care of that. It was bucketing rain, so Evans piled me into his chauffeur-driven limo, and in the midst of a torrent that could truly be described as biblical, dumped me in the middle of Sydney without a clue as to where I was or where I was going. I got there eventually, somehow, dripping water from every pore and doubtless breathing like a distillery, only to discover that my financier associate was singly determined to vent his distaste at having to secure his new vintage of Giaconda by buying it over the Internet.

“It’s a blatant form of prostitution,” he spat out at me, “which is something I simply can’t condone!” It was then that I reminded my appointee that he was the major shareholder in one of Sydney’s most profitable houses of ill repute.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is precisely what goes through my mind in about a millisecond immediately after my first sip of any new Giaconda pinot noir. And still some people wonder why others make such a fuss over pinot noir!

Wine of the Month: Giaconda Pinot Noir 2008

Subdued and slow to emerge, with a meaty, musky bouquet whose slightly spirity perfume of red berries and plums, rose petals and fresh cedar/vanilla oak reveal nuances of citrus fruits, autumn leaves and meaty, stalky undertones. Supported by a fine, firmish chassis, it’s moderately long, with marginally green-edged fruits that steadily reveal more sweetness and richness, before finishing with notes of ripe figs.

Published: 04 Jul 2010