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2012 Michael Hall Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills
Englishman Michael Hall’s first career was as a jewellery valuation expert to the top auction houses, but his passion for all his adult life has been wine. After graduating with top honours in Wine Science from Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, and after stints learning the ropes at various top wine estates in Australia and Europe, Michael recently set up his own winery in the Barossa Valley.
His sole objective is to make wines which reflect their individual terroir, and to this end he sources fruit from carefully chosen plots throughout the best wine-producing regions of South Australia to produce small-volume, highly individual wines which are very expressive of their origins. Michael’s stated aim is to make wines which will be “loved by some rather than liked by all”.
The response and critical acclaim has been remarkable. James Halliday and Nick Stock, Australia’s foremost wine critics, have consistently awarded marks in the high 90s.
Moreover, it’s clear that Michael Hall's wines are outstanding representations of the trend, rapidly gathering pace in Australia, and much in favour with us, to champion specific sub-districts and terroirs which are capable of producing wines of exceptional personality, a welcome antidote to the bland , mass-produced offerings which dominate our supermarket shelves.
Pinot Noir is probably the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, wine grape in the world. However when it is successful, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to man. This thin-skinned grape which grows in small, tight bunches performs well on well-drained, deepish limestone based subsoils as are found on Burgundy's Côte d'Or.
Pinot Noir is more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping - concentration and varietal character disappear rapidly if yields are excessive and yields as little as 25hl/ha are the norm for some climats of the Côte d`Or.
Because of the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines are lighter in colour, body and tannins. However the best wines have grip, complexity and an intensity of fruit seldom found in wine from other grapes. Young Pinot Noir can smell almost sweet, redolent with freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. When mature, the best wines develop a sensuous, silky mouth feel with the fruit flavours deepening and gamey "sous-bois" nuances emerging.
The best examples are still found in Burgundy, although Pinot Noir`s key role in Champagne should not be forgotten. It is grown throughout the world with notable success in the Carneros and Russian River Valley districts of California, and the Martinborough and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.
Adelaide Hills, this up-and-coming South Australian region, may only be half an hour's drive from the city of Adelaide, spanning a 75km by 20km zone, but the change in topography is dramatic, the hot, dusty streets giving way to an elevated maze of verdant, twisting valleys of the Mount Lofty Ranges, offering varying aspects at between 350 and 700 metres.
Naturally, such a cool environment favours early ripening varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Soils are predominantly low, fertile grey loam. The total area is approximately 500 hectares, with a disproportionate number of single wineries. However high land prices deter all but the die-hards.
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