Vastly different Pinot Noir wines, from a single vineyard
Whisson Lake is located on the Mount Carey hillside, within the Piccadilly Valley wine sub-region of the Adelaide Hills. At more than 600m above sea level, the steep east-facing slopes of Mount Carey dominate the Piccadilly Valley, just as the hill at Corton dominates the vineyards of Burgundy in France.
Our wines go beyond single-vineyard. We’ve divided our small Piccadilly Valley hill into a series of carefully selected single sections, sometimes little more than a few vine rows, from which each wine is sourced. Because planted in the right place, Pinot Noir is something of a magnifying glass, boosting subtle terroir differences.
Lower Altitude Vineyard — 525m-560m
Monopole — 'The Old Garden'
Warm north-east-facing slope, richer soil.
Our Monopole label denotes our most premium Pinot Noir wines. This vineyard was previously an orchard and was referred to by farmers as 'The Garden'. Thus the name of the Monopole wine made from these rows.
Middle-Range Altitude Vineyard — 540m-565m
Easterly exposition but sheltered by trees to south; a hot block sitting directly in front of our homestead.
This one-of-a-kind wine is inspired by Italy's Amarone dry reds, traditionally made from grapes picked ripe then left to dry on straw mats, concentrating the remaining sugars and flavours.
Because this part of our vineyard is a suntrap, we can allow our Pinot Noir grapes to dehydrate on the vine, concentrating the remaining juice. This wine can only be made in warmer years and needs a lot of bottle time to develop. The resulting wine pairs exceptionally well with blue vein cheese and places a well-deserved focus on one of the most extreme subsections of our vineyard.
High-Altitude Vineyard —560m-615m
Exceptionally well-drained and exposed to the best of the morning and early afternoon sunlight.
Pinot Noir from this part of the vineyard has fine but definite structure and pure uplifted fruit.
Monopole — 'The Pink Rows'
A significant degree of easterly orientation in the slope.
Our Monopole label denotes our most premium Pinot Noir wines. Very low yields from unirrigated 25-year-old Pinot Noir vines gives wines of concentration, structure, and the ability to age for 15+ years. It is fruit from these areas of the vineyard that are the powerhouse and inimitable signature of Whisson Lake Pinot Noir.
Le Gris de Noir
Ten shady rows on the slightly south-facing slope right behind our homestead; always ripens later.
This no-skin-contact white Pinot Noir is a light peachy copper colour – which is why we named it Le Gris de Noir: the grey wine from the black Pinot grape.
This part of the vineyard is shaded by the hillside each afternoon, protecting the grapes from the sun at its hottest and yielding Pinot Noir fruit with high acidity and billowing floral and musk aromatics. We actually can’t make this wine in warmer years. Le Gris de Noir ages brilliantly and, according to Max Allen in 2011, was one of the best wines he tried all year.
La Storia Rosa
The warmer bottom half of our hillside.
Warmer daytime temperatures, cooler nights and richer soils create a wine that is lean, very structured and naturally more feminine in style. The nose is perfumed and ethereal and the palate richer and less tannic than our White Label Pinot Noir. While this wine is pretty and attractive in its youth, it also cellars very well.
Cool and steep vineyard, perfect for Pinot
As well as the altitude, our vineyard has other unusual environmental factors. The very steep slopes are difficult and dangerous to work on, but they fall to the east and so face the vines into the morning sun, away from the burning afternoon sun. This is very important for Pinot Noir.
Mt Carey is at the head of a long gully, which runs south and funnels cold southerlies up to our vineyard, making it even colder still.
The hill is a ridge that runs north-south and, unusually for the Piccadilly Valley, sits not on sandstone or shale, but on schist and gneiss. Millennia ago, the rock strata tilted, leaving layers that the vines send their roots down into, chasing water in mid-summer. The soils that have developed from these ancient rocks have good water-holding capacity and are well-drained yet with very low nutrient levels.
This hillside also has several small gullies in it, which results in a range of slightly different aspects, altitudes and exposures to the southerlies.
During the late 2000s, we began to notice differences in colour, character and acid between certain parts of the vineyard that repeated in subsequent seasons. These differences are becoming more pronounced as the vines enter old age. This is what we are now focussing on exploring.