PINOT NOIR PETER DREDGE
Both Patrick and I studied oenology with ‘Dredgy’, and Pat also went to school with him. In fact, he once flushed Pat’s head down the toilet, probably because Pat was being a bit of a turd, and that’s what you do with turds. I’m reasonably sure this story is true. Now all grown up (but still into superheroes and wearing long sleeve t-shirts underneath short sleeve t-shirts and a penchant for nudity) and very well accomplished, Dredgy has become somewhat of a savant with respect to Tasmanian Pinot Noir. He cut his teeth with sparkling wine production at Hardy’s which is certainly the most exigent and precise form of winemaking - a particularly acute attention to detail is needed. Dredgy now makes wine for the esteemed Meadowbank estate and his own label Dr Edge amongst others. Dredgy has been national finalist in Young Gun of Wine 2017 and winner of the people’s choice award, and in 2020 he was a national finalist in Gourmet Traveller’s Winemaker of the Year.
There is a lot of very average Pinot Noir in the market because it’s really difficult to make particularly when you leave Burgundy, France. I wanted Dredgy to make us a Pinot Noir because I like his understanding of the grape in the Australian context. It’s a vastly differently behaving cultivar here compared to its parent region of Burgundy, and it needs a different approach rather than blind simulation of the Burgundian techniques. I love his delicate and sensitive handling of the grape. Pinot Noir in this country is often handled exhaustively in an effort to make what are believed to be more structured and fuller bodied wines that the consumer might understand more easily. The folly here is that the wines often then become dry and tough quickly after release (eg 2-5 years), and when the delicate aromatics fall away we are only left with woody aromas and rather fatigued fruit flavours. Ideally Australian Pinot should be consumed in its youth like an aromatic white wine perhaps or like a Beaujolais style red wine. This needn’t mean the wine is unsophisticated or lowly and that is of course the challenge.
Here we have an exuberant mid weight Pinot Noir with juicy fruits and fresh and cheery aromatics that are simply that of the fruit itself and its own complexities, not of adjunct and gross oenological manipulation. The wine has relatively low alcohol (12.5%) so the full aromatic cheer is on display, the tannins are pithy and mouth watering and the acid piques the palate like we experience in a good white wine. The wine hasn’t been laboured in oak maturation and is bottled in its youth to preserve every cent of it’s primary aromatic expression and fruit sweetness. This is a sensitive Australian rendering of Pinot Noir rather than an ambitiously fraught exercise in Francophilia. Bravo Peter Dredge.
A few weeks ago, Pat and I spoke to Dredgey on the phone:
TBR: Question number one, as you know Jancis Robinson is a uniquely tight but probably fair wine critic, she recently said in an article, which was titled “A Pinot Noir Switcheroo" that it’s time to abandon any lingering prejudice against Pinot Noir grown outside of Burgundy. What are your thoughts on that?
PD: I think that’s an incredibly noble gesture to suggest that Burgundy maybe isn’t the best place to make Pinot Noir in the world. I would dare say that the best Pinot Noirs I’ve ever tried have been out of Burgundy undoubtedly. That’s not to say that other areas that I’ve worked in, such as the Willamette Valley in Oregon or Tasmania, aren’t up there with world quality Pinot Noir.
That’s beautiful of Jancis to say that there are some incredible wines all over the place and that the bar that people have been aspiring to get to is Burgundy, but they’ve got a couple of hundred years of a heard start on Australia. I think it’s a beautiful expression and I would dare say that there would be plenty of wines globally, particularly in Oregon and Australia (that’s me being prejudiced). When it gets down to it, I don’t know.
PJ: Peter, you and I met a long time ago. I think on the first meeting you flushed my head down the toilet which I definitely deserved, and made me think a lot more about my language and how I treat my elders. Peter, over 4 years at university together, how often did we play table tennis?
PD: Ummm, we played a lot. We also played a lot of X-Men vs Street Fighter in the cafeteria.
PJ: Out of those 4 years, I reckon we played Table Tennis an average of once a day, we missed a few lectures. How many times did I beat you at table tennis?
PD: Ummmm never.
PJ: Yes, never. Not once. It’s so demoralising that the man that flushed my head down the toilet also beat me in table tennis every *beep* day. Anyway, who’s your favourite super hero and why?
PD: Jesus, good question. Theres so many.
PJ: Peter has a lot of T-shirts with superheroes on them.
PD: Im gonna go with, and it sounds corny, Wolverine pre-Hugh Jackman. I used to read them as a kid.
PJ: When Peter says “kid” he means a 25 year old man.
PD: We used to watch X-Men before university, as you’ll recall Patrick to throw you under the bus. That was good as a bit of relaxation during those stressful exam periods. I would go with Wolverine out of sheer aggression, might and force. Again, Hugh Jackman did a pretty good job of it, but he had some pretty crappy spin offs. I’m not the biggest Hugh Jackman fan, especially after “The Greatest Showman”
PJ: He’s also not scary, Wolverine’s an ANIMAL you know?
PD: Yeah, in the comics Wolverine was smoking cigars, he was an asshole. It sounds unoriginal these days but hey, early 90s Wolverine was the man.
TBR: So you’ve made a lot of Pinot now, I think obviously Australia has developed a lot in its understanding and prowess. So philosophically speaking, how do you feel Australian Pinot, maybe even Tasmanian Pinot should be treated as far as the winemaking perspective goes?
PD: You know, us three finished studying Oenology (winemaking) twenty years ago now which is scary in its own right, and we had a very technical and classical upbringing in to the winemaking world back then, and we were encouraged to look at wine at a molecular level at the time.
In the 20 years I’ve spent since then working my way into a senior winemaking position for larger companies and now running my own little winery as well as making wines for others, I’ve found that when it comes to Pinot Noirs, which is probably the most transparent grape variety there is by way of elegance and finesse. If you try and overhand or do too much to this grape, I sometimes worry that you’re gonna ruin it with overuse of French oak, extraction or trying to get it too ripe and create alcohol to turn it into a heavier red wine. It’s not a heavy red wine, it’s a very elegant and a very temperamental grape. I’ve discovered in the last 13 years that I’ve been specialising in it, that the more you can leave it alone, the more pure the expression is from Pinot Noir. Tasmania, I should also mention, is pretty neat by way of climate down here and its strange, I don’t want to scare people off with technical talk but the UV down here is so high that your skin burns. Patrick you’d burn in an instant, and what that does in a nutshell is creates very good tannin and very good colours not only in Pinot Noir but in all grapes. Tasmanian Pinot Noir compared to the rest of Australia, has incredibly vibrant colour and the tannin is incredibly high because of this UV. So to then turn around and try and extract a lot of colour and flavour and make a big brooding pinot noir, I don’t think its necessary. It takes a lot of will power.
PJ:Dinner party, your place, eight people are coming, dead or alive. who do you invite, what do you cook? what do you drink?
PD: Eight people dead or alive… I would have to come off the gut and say Jimi Hendrix. We probably wouldn’t eat at all and we’d probably reconvene around 9 hours later.
PJ: Ok… how about the other seven?
PD: DJ Shadow, the gang from massive attack, that takes us to 5, so there’d be a lot of music etc.
PJ: No food so far?
PD: No food! I’m still thinking about who to invite.
I’d get Hugh Jackman there and tell him about how he fucked up Wolverine. I’d probably get Sam Johnson (Pat’s brother) as well.
PJ: So you’ve got about 17 people so far - still no women or food, just the lads.
PD: There were female members of Massive Attack! Who else would I get there? I think Natalie Portman…
PJ: I think she’d be a good conversationalist.
PD: I guess I’ve kept it to pop culture, no politics or religion. But what would I serve? Obviously we’d be drinking Pinot Noir, if we’re staging this conversation to a degree, but I think I actually prefer to drink white wines so there’d be a hell of a lot of German riesling, some small grower champagne offered aswell. We’d finish with some brandy, I wouldn’t suggest scotch or whiskey or anything like that. Being a bit French with this offering. Food wise I would suggest we’d be based down here in Tasmania so Id start to go local and stage the dinner in winter so that the oysters were on point.
PJ: I think Tricky (of Massive Attack) is a vegan… Do you have a vegan option??
PD: No problem, him and Jimi Hendrix would be off in Lala land denying anything but Champagne I reckon.
TBR: I have my own notes on the wine you made, there’s heaps I love, its the first in the series of what id call “High intensity but mid to lighter weight reds”. Which I think are really important parts of the cellar and I love this ones intensity. It’s fresh, it’s fleshy and it’s just so youthful and energetic. Just give us a brief tasting note in your perspective.
PD: You know as per the last 20 years every time we’ve tried wine together, you’ve managed to eloquently describe the wines a hell of a lot better than me. So I’ll go with your tasting notes (laughs). We had a great time, if you recall, we sent you a heap of samples from the Derwent valley, down south near Hobart and the Tamar valley where its a bit warmer, the east coat where we rely on volcanic soils. We blended up this beautiful Pinot Noir from mostly the east coast and down south from a little project I work with called Meadowbank. When you look at the two wines separately, one was incredibly deft, aromatic and very pretty where as the energy from the east coast wine where it comes from this volcanic soil, and again i’m sounding a bit wankery here, but the soil does have an influence. Just the sheer energy, tannin and acidity of the east coat really provided cut and depth to the wine.
So I think I did a pretty good job of taking two wines which had individual qualities, one ethereal and pretty, the other one a little more structured and showing more depth. I think we combined them quite beautifully to give us a high energy Pinot Noir.
I must say this as well, my first harvest in Tasmania was 2010. And 2021, 2017 and maybe 2012 were the three best harvests in 13 or 14 years. So you’ve got that going for you as well.