This may come as no surprise to people but I really like Pinot Noir. Like a lot.
It is the grape variety that excites me the most and, frankly, disappoints me the most for when it is good, it is mind-blowing but when it’s bad, it’s … well … just expensive.
But one bad experience doesn’t make you throw your hands up in frustration and move on to another grape or style. You constantly head back again, and again, and again to chase that Pinot rush.
It also tends to be a variety that you discover a little further down the road on your wine journey and rarely ever will it be the first wine you ever taste. For me, it was very much like that. Trying to get your head around styles, nuances and impact site and maker have is so significant. But you know that already, don’t you.
I’ve worked as a sommelier for most of my career and helping people understand what kind of wine they were after, not what I wanted them to like, is a philosophy at the core of hospitality and one I still adhere to today.
I learned about wine from going to as many tastings as I could and listen to panel after panel of (generally) older men tell me what I didn’t or should know. It was how you were taught at that time; masterclass by masterclass.
Somewhat frustrated by this, in 2012 I ran the first Pinot Palooza with little more than a rough idea of wanting a festival full of incredible wines and producers to celebrate the diversity of the variety with examples, primarily, being from the new world.
Yeah, a wine party.
There was nor has ever has been mention of ‘5 star’ ratings or ’95 points’ in any of our wine lists or comms as a deliberate attempt to democratise people’s opinion on what they were tasting. In short, get out of the way and let them decide.
So the only thing we asked is for them to pick their favourite producer on the day for I whole heartedly believe if someone can figure out what they like, understand why and then tell somebody this, they are three quarters of the way there. The rest, you can read a book or sit in a masterclass.
Pinot Palooza has always been about getting some of the best producers of the new world to come together in collaboration, not competition, to celebrate everything about this great grape. It has also allowed guests to taste, discover, and better understand the multitude of wines styles, producers and regions they like so the next time they’re in a wine store or restaurant, there is at least a base line for them to start a conversation.
As a result, we’ve been able to see trends unfold and preferences shift from year to year and 2019 was no exception.
PINOT PALOOZA BY THE NUMBERS
In 2019, Pinot Palooza visited twelve cities and five countries and attracted over 15,000 attendees on event days. Overall, there were 515 different examples of Pinot Noir on tasting throughout the tour by 209 producers in 34 regions and 8 countries. Epic.
Out of the total number of producers, 75% received votes. This is awesome as it shows that diversity of style within a single variety is a good thing. Everyone has a different opinion on what makes great Pinot Noir and that is the point, is it not?
60% of our audience are women and 60% under the age of 35 with the percentage of women increasing to 65% in the aforementioned age group. The future isn’t female by the way, it’s now!
Further to this, the average RRP price of a bottle of Pinot Noir was $45 with each person who joined on the day spending at least $57 on wine. What was that about Millennials not spending money on wine again … *cough*.
What this data does give us though, is a snap shot in time of trends, personal preferences and more. Sure, this may only from event days but these results are based on more votes from a Morgan Gallup poll.
So who took the big prize this year?
THE TOP 10
Listed below is a bloody solid list of Pinot Noir producers represented. Bravo to all!
- Craggy Range (Martinborough, NZ)
- Akarua (Central Otago, NZ)
- Moondarra (Gippsland, Vic)
- Charteris (Central Otago, NZ)
- Dog Point (Marlborough, NZ)
- Ashton Hills (Adelaide Hills, SA)
- Henschke (Adelaide Hills, SA)
- Burn Cottage (Central Otago, NZ)
- Pegasus Bay (North Canterbury, NZ)
- Ghost Rock (Tasmania)
And what region came out of top from the 34 that were represented on the day?
The Adelaide Hills.
For those more traditional Pinot Noir drinkers this may come as a surprise but not to us; we’ve seen this coming. Last year alone 4 out of the Top 10 wineries were all from the Adelaide Hills and the overall quality and diversity of wines from there has been on a rapid rise. Not only that, they ‘turn up’ and put on a good show.
The Hills were closely followed by (in order) Central Otago, Yarra Valley, Tasmania and then, encouragingly, Gippsland. Again, showing a broad range of styles climate and wine personalities.
One question does come to mind. Are the more familiar Pinot Noir regions resting on their traditional market share laurels?
What is true is there is an incredibly motivated, younger, wine audience who have never before been more interested about what they imbibe. Not only are they seeking new styles, producers and personalities, they’re wanting to know more and more about how it’s made, what goes into it and, arguably the most important, the environmental impact.
I say that again, the environmental impact.
But that’s a conversation for another time.
BY DAN SIMS
CEO / Founder REVEL (and Pinot Palooza)
This article first appear in
THE AWARDS NIGHT
On Thursday December 5th, 2019, we held our first ever PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARDS NIGHT at our very own REVEL HQ to not only count down the TOP 10, but announce the city, country and regional winners.
Thanks to our good mates at Maidenii, Starward Whisky, SAMPLE Brew, city winning wineries we did not go thirsty nor did we go hungry thanks to Milawa Cheese and Meat Smith.
Yes, this was also an excuse for a Christmas party so thank you to who joined us. And especially our most dearest of friends, Peter ‘Marcho’ Marchant for hosting the night.