Bass Phillip New Release 2017 Pinot Noirs

Tasting through the new release 2017 Pinot Noirs from Bass Phillip has been both fascinating and immensely gratifying. Having known Phillip Jones for some 30 plus years, he was instrumental in my formative years as a Sommelier in Melbourne, exposing me to so many great wines and training my palate in the intricacies of Burgundy and the Rhone Valley, our obsession at the time (and still is). When I think back to those days of Thomas, Thomas & Wilden and cohorts, all the vertical tastings and wine dinners with Table 8 at Maria Walter’s and Paysan, when Henri Jayer and Armand Rousseau Burgundies were relatively affordable, Jones would always say, “Great pinot noir is all about texture…”. This is indelible in my mind and so evident in the precision texture of the 2017 Bass Phillip Pinot Noirs. There is no question Jones is making ‘great’ pinot noir, moreover could teach the Burgundians a thing or two.

It has been 40 years since planting his first vines and it would be fair to say that evolution and accumulative knowledge over these past four decades, Jones has mastered and finessed every facet and detail of viticulture and winemaking at Bass Phillip. We know he is an individualist and perfectionist, but these wines transcend perfection to the sublime.  

My tasting notes hardly do justice to the intricacies and extraordinary balance of these wines, rather a snapshot of my impressions in their youth and reference point as they develop over the years. Of the many attributes there is a consistency of vibrant and concentrated red fruits suggesting that 2017 was an excellent vintage, but vine age and seriously low yields clearly a contributing factor. There is also a thread dark earthiness and an infused minerality, the terroir articulated in both bouquet and palate. All the wines have such incredible power and tension the belies the elegance of silky-smooth textures, indeed the “Premium” an iron fist in a velvet glove.

Bass Phillip “Crown Prince” Pinot Noir 2017

Ambrosial bouquet of bright red cherry, Kirsch-like fragrance, raspberry and pomegranate with hints of clove and cinnamon spiciness, subtle dried herbs amongst a background of cold granite mineral earthiness. Medium-bodied, nicely textured and gentle with a measured plushness and vibrancy of crunchy intense red berry fruits lifted by crisp acidity all engulfing the palate with a wonderful energy as it races across the palate, excellent line and length with persistent fruit and lingering tanginess, dark silky tannins with hints of oolong tea and bark, quite steely and on the farewell with an indelible long finish, a real mouthful of pinot, dangerously drinkable now but will continue to evolve for 5 years or more.

Bass Phillip “Estate” Pinot Noir 2017

Concentrated intense raspberry, red cherry, red currant, rose petal, breaths out to show deeper red berry and blueberry compote notes, builds in complexity with dried herbs, dry grass-summer field nuances, background of spiciness and warmth to the bouquet. Lashings of red cherry coat the mouth, velvety soft layered and creamy palate with an exuberance of red berry fruits glides across the palate, beautifully balanced, harmonious, energized by crisp, tangy acidity and ripe fine-grained tannins, framed with a dark earthiness and granite-like minerality lingers amongst tangy red fruits. Concentrated, dense and full-bodied, picking up more weight and texture as it breaths out, invigorating mouth-staining vibrant acidity and spiciness on the farewell with hints of dark chocolate, great length. With all its charm, balance and youthful energy, a most gratifying drink now but really deserves time in the cellar, at least 5 years if you can keep your hands off it.

Bass Phillip “Premium” Pinot Noir 2017

Penetrating nose packed with red cherry and raspberry, builds to reveal a deeper rich sweet mix of darker red and black berry fruits, background notes of violets, juniper berry, lavender and aniseed youthfulness. There’s a subtle meaty gaminess and earthy forest floor, the bouquet becoming denser and concentrated as the wine breaths with hints of five spice, ground clove and wet bluestone minerality, one can already sense the coiled power in the wine. Fruit laden palate entry, voluminous, layered texture with incredible concentration and purity of saturating sweet red and black berry fruits oscillating between tangy, steely acidity and warming spiciness. Hint of green olive and herbal complexity, subtle charred woods and earthy, fine grained tannins firming up the farewell with a lingering savouriness and mineral earthiness. One can see the synergies with the ‘Estate’ pinot noir, but there’s an extra level of weight and texture in the ‘Premium’, seriously structured core with incredible concentration and yet wonderfully balanced with tension and poise. After 3 hours of breathing, evolving to a monumental wine, indeed the most profound and concentrated Australian pinot noir I have had in memory. Whilst it really needs a few years in bottle, I would try one now for sheer pleasure and a reference point, but make sure you put some in the cellar for 5 to 10 years.  

Bass Phillip “Reserve” Pinot Noir 2017

Opulent essence-like perfume of dark cherry and poached red plums, violet florals, sweeter notes of red fruits and blueberry compote amongst a hedonistic melange of dried herbs, sage, lavender, dried mushroom, Autumn forest floor, iron-basalt and dark-earthy minerality with hints of dark chocolate from toasty oak. Mouth-filling rich, creamy layers of red berry fruits, viscous, slippery plush texture, beautifully elegant with silky tannins, this caressing plushness kept in check by underlying brooding power and tension with a brace of fresh acidity and warming spiciness, the purity of the succulent sweet fruit lingering long amongst a beguiling minerally earthiness. Tried alongside as the ‘Premium’ as impressive as it is with its coiled energy, structure and complexity, the ‘Reserve’ has yet another dimension of weight and lavish texture, oozing class and so harmonious with its precision balance, purity and supreme elegance. This is greatpinot noir, unparalleled in Australia and would hold its own amongst the highest echelons of Burgundy. The ultimate expression of a very special vineyard and the genius and perfectionism of winemaker Phillip Jones. This is very seductive now but should really be put in the cellar for as long as you can, it will last decades.

Bass Phillip “Backyard BIN 17K” Pinot Noir 2017

Inviting raspberry and red cherry perfume amongst savoury notes of air-dried meats, subtle herbal scents of rosemary and aniseed, breathing out there’s deep-seated smoky Indian spices and pronounced, flinty-iron fillings minerality, and a whiff of coffee grinds and chocolate suggest toasty oak. Bursting with intense raspberry on the front palate, building in energy and weight with plush red berry fruits oscillating sweet and sour to an intense tanginess and super-concentrated juicy, crunchy raspberry, cool steely acidity and red currant crispness to the farewell amongst a dark earthy minerality. This is seriously concentrated with fine yet assertive tannins, I sense a much tighter structure with a deep core of tension, complexity, savouriness and infused minerality. This was the last of five pinots tasted and after the “Reserve’, to which I realized it would have been more in sync to try after the “Crown Prince”, the fruit from the ‘Backyard being from very closely planted vines. It was good though to see a different profile to Estate Vineyard wines, these densely planted vines showing impressive energy, concentration and purity. Given it is much more tightly bound, I would give this 2 years or more before broaching and should evolve over 5 to 10 years.   

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Bass Phillip – 2016 Vintage Review


Bass Phillip’s vineyards at Leongatha South in Gippsland are close-planted and low yielding with some of the vines now approaching 40 years of age. This combination of factors has enabled winemaker Phillip Jones to produce vibrant, concentrated and balanced wines even in cool wet years such as 2011. In a good vintage such as 2016, the wines are outstanding.


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