Mac Forbes Pinot Noir Yarra Valley 2019, $45
What's The Deal? If I told you a decade ago that Australia was going to become a hotbed of low-intervention, low-alcohol wines, you'd rightly think I might have had one glass too many of 16.5% Shiraz. But that's exactly what happened: a small group of passionate winemakers (including the sadly departed Taras Ochota of Ochota Barrels) eschewed the "more is more" attitude that had brought Oz fame and fortune (and more fortune), and instead began to make wine in much more hands-off manner than was the norm.
Mac Forbes was one of the pioneers of this group: young, personable, dialled-into the soil and a search for terroir, but with right-proper winemaking chops as well. He's a bit of a cult figure in Australia, and the type of producer that might never pop on your radar at all here in Canada. We're lucky that Peter Marshall of importer Sur Lie—a big supporter of the "new" Australia—secures small allotments of these wines.
What's in the Bottle? This is Forbes' entry level Pinot, although it's still very much handmade in relatively small quantities. (Even at the cellar door in the Yarra Valley this is a $33 bottle of wine, so entry-level isn't exactly the right term). It's a fascinating take on Pinot: utterly lacking the richness associated with the California Pinot trend, this wine embraces the cool climate with a vengeance.
It also has a purity of fruit that sets it apart from classic Burgundian options. The wine checks all the hallmarks of low-intervention: wild yeast, no fining and no filtration, but it steadfastly refuses to be of a type. It's incredibly juicy, but it also embraces a touch of greenness that gives it some ballast and gravitas—if someone asked what does "crunchy" mean in a wine, I'd grab for this bottle as an example.
There's no new oak (or anything really) to hide behind here, so there's a real sense of a pure delivery of fruit, earth and spice here that can be disconcerting for someone who's used to a more manufactured wine. But it's not a statement wine, and doesn't seem to be doctrinaire in its approach to anything other than seeking its own path to deliciousness.
Should I buy? Well this is tricky. This wine is quite pricey, but I don't think you can replicate what it offers for under $70. It's also a bit of a secret society wine—once you try it, you'll see it pop-up in cool, thoughtful spots (Brooklyn, Camden, etcetera) when we can travel the globe again. That being said, if your taste skews towards a something like Cambria Pinot from California (no judgment, it's a very tasty, polished wine), you're going to wonder why you're paying more for what will appear to be less. This is a contemplative exercise of a wine, so if you're up for that and the horizons it might open, then have at 'er. It's available at Kits Wine Cellar in Vancouver.