Having gained one of 11 gold medals in db’s Pinot Noir Masters competition, Wild Ridge winemaker Craig McAllister reveals his ideal places for the grape, and his favourite producer.
Craig McAllister joined Jackson Family Wines as harvest enologist during the 2007 harvest at La Crema. From 2011, he was given the additional responsibility of winemaker for Wild Ridge Pinot
What factors in your view make a Pinot Noir great?
First and foremost is balance. If fruit, acids, and tannins are balanced, then the foundations of a great wine are set. After that is terroir, I think that Pinot Noir is a wine that speaks of where it is grown.
What regions of the world have the potential to produce high quality Pinot Noir?
Burgundy aside, New Zealand, Oregon, and California are the forerunners. In California we may see more focus on extreme parts of established appellations such as the Sonoma Coast. Recently I tasted a handful of very good Pinot Noirs from British Columbia. We should also keep an eye on Chile.
How has your own approach to getting the best from Pinot Noir changed over the years?
I have become more patient. The fruit characteristics of each vineyard are unique. Allowing individuality to emerge is paramount, rather than trying to force the wine into a regional style.
What sort of evolution in the style and popularity of Pinot Noir are you currently seeing in California?
California has an appellation for every day of the week, and an educated public with diverse tastes. There is seemingly a niche for every style of winemaking. Winemakers here have the freedom to be creative and push boundaries in the search for differentiation. I think it is hard to define a current style or trend, as for every delicate and elegant Pinot Noir there is a more concentrated and structured variant. Sweet red wines are very popular at the moment so it’s not surprising that there are one or two sweeter Pinot Noirs among them.
What is it about Pinot Noir that means it has such global appeal?
Pinot Noir is evocative, it fosters discussion and stirs debate. Throughout the world, there are multiple expressions of Pinot Noir, each with the potential to be a jaw-dropping and memorable wine.
Is there a winemaker or wine whose expression of Pinot Noir inspires you?
Matthew Donaldson from Pegasus Bay in Waipara, New Zealand. His Pinot Noirs in the late 1990’s piqued my interest in a winemaking career. Pegasus Bay was then, and continues to be, a benchmark New Zealand Pinot Noir producer.
This interview as conducted by the drinks business shortly after it concluded the Global Pinot Noir Masters 2013, in which Wild Ridge was awarded one of just 11 gold medals for its Pinot Noir from the 2011 vintage. Presided over by a panel of Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers, each Pinot Noir was assessed by style and price rather than being judged by country. The full results from the competition can be viewed here, and for more information on the Pinot Masters, click here.
Craig McAllister graduated with a bachelor of science in viticulture and enology from Lincoln University in New Zealand. He worked multiple harvests in New Zealand and Australia before joining Jackson Family Wines as harvest enologist during the 2007 harvest at La Crema.
In 2009, after harvests in Chile and Cyprus, Craig returned to La Crema as enologist and was subsequently promoted to assistant winemaker in 2011. With the vintage of 2011, he was given the additional responsibility and position as winemaker for the production of Wild Ridge Pinot Noir from Jackson Family vineyards in Annapolis.