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Friday 19 October 2018

Matching your own wine against the best in the world

You take a whole lot of risk when you match your wine against some of the finest in the world in a blind tasting in front of wine lovers, winemakers and the media.

There is always the chance that your wine could be completely overshadowed; with your guests much preferring its rivals.

It is a risk that the team from Stoniers Wines on the Mornington Peninsula have been taking for several years with their annual SIPNOT tasting (not be confused with greasy shock-rock band Slipknot).

SIPNOT, the Stonier International Pinot Noir Tasting has been held in Sydney, London and Hong Kong over the past two decades and was this week back in its spiritual home of Melbourne.

A large audience tasted 12 pinot noirs blind and a panel of experts, including Stonier chief winemaker Mike Symons and James Halliday, led the discussion along with Burgundy aficionado Philip Rich who potificated with erudition before asking for comments from the assembled tasters.

We sniffed and swirled and sipped wines from France, the US, New Zealand and Australia (the Mornington Peninsula, Gippsland and the Macedon Ranges but none, surprisingly, from the Yarra or Tasmania) and tried to make sense of what we enjoyed and what was what.

The northern hemisphere bottles were from 2015, the southern hemisphere wines from 2016.

What we found was a considerable blurring - ever more evident - of the lines; the bigger wines at these tastings used to be from Central Otago, the more ethereal offerings from Burgundy. Winemaking, it seemed, on this night anyway, is trumping terroir.

The wines ranged in price from $700 for an Olivier Bernstein Clos de la Roche Morey-Saint -Denis Grand Cru, and $450 for an on-trend and ripe Sylvain Cathiard Aux Thorey Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru, to $55 for the Stonier 2016 Merron's Vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula and just $40 for the Charteris Pinot Noir from Central Otago.

Seldom has the value offered by Australia and New Zealand producers been so starkly illustrated.

My favourite trio (my taste generally being towards paler pinots) were the elegant J. Christoper Sandra Adele Pinot Noir ($100) from Oregon; the outstandingly aromatic and soft Stonier wine and the balanced but juicy Bergstrom Silice Pinot Noir ($125) from Oregon.

Never before in my life have I favoured US wines in a blind tasting; and my choices were far from representing the mainstream. I found the Garagiste 2016 Terre de Feu (another Mornington offering), the second-best-value behind the Stonier.

Symons said the wines were chosen to provide "an interesting mix of pinot styles from around the globe". They did their job admirably, sparking interest and conversation in equal measure.

Bravo Stonier Wines; it's well worth checking out a bottle of their Merron's Vineyard, which looker even better the following day when tasted a couple of degrees cooler.

# The writer was a guest of Stonier Wines

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