When the Bass & Flinders team on the Mornington Peninsula set about creating its second release of Heartbreak Pinot Gin, they soon realised this year was going to be a huge challenge.

With the inaugural release of the Pinot Gin selling out in less than one-third of the time originally predicted, it was clear they consumer demand for the gin was high. The gin was truly reflective of consumer demands and trends 12 months ago with hyper-locality being a huge force in the wake of closed borders.

Bass & Flinders Distillery’s Director and Head Distiller Holly Klintworth was so happy with the demand for the product, she decided to exponentially increase production in 2022. However, like the fickle grape synonymous with its gin namesake, it wasn’t going to be smooth sailing.

Some of the replies she got grape growers when asking about the availability of Pinot Noir grapes, included: “I suggest you change to a Cabernet-based product!! Ain’t no Pinot anywhere,” plus “Pinot, no it’s almost wine and no gin person can have it,” and the incredible “I do know where some is, I last saw it at the base of the rainbow, it even had this amazing purple glow…”.

Pinot Noir accounted for around 32 per cent of the top five grape varietals used in 2021, but with consumer demand growing, so did the difficulty in sourcing grapes. In addition some premium cool-climate areas saw over 60 per cent drops in production, it was a huge challenge.

“The inaugural release of our gin was an eye-opener for us, consumers loved the gin for both their own enjoyment and for gifting; bars loved it for on-premise mixing, cocktails and classic spirit mixers; and major retailers enjoyed local products flying off the shelf. So, we decided to up the ante in 2022 – and this is where the challenge begins,” said Holly.

So with Pinot Noir crops down, the team were forced to scale things back to one-third of the initially forecasted quantities.

Dan Calvert, Production Manager at Bass and Flinders, once again helped helm the process; the former winemaker had devoted his professional life to the production of award-winning wines for almost two decades prior to joining the distiller. Dan entered the wine industry in 2000 at Mornington-based winery T’Gallant, graduating in Wine Science from Charles Sturt University, working with Quealy and also producing his own gold-medal winning Pinot Noir wine in 2017.

“Pinot is climatically grown best on the fringe of where quality grape growing should be possible. Growers face constant uphill battles every season grappling with too much sun, not enough heat, forever racing the change of seasons for phenolic and sugar ripeness before the leaves fall off, or worse, all is lost to bunch rot,” said Dan.

But that’s only half the story. Once in the winery Pinot Noir. is the most honest of all wines.

“Finesse and grace are its strengths, leaving zero tolerance for mistakes, allowing them to be laid bare for all to see. Examining a glass of Pinot is like examining the region, the terroir, the grower, and the maker all at once. Only those that truly understand can be proactive, not reactive, and consistently produce excellence. But even the best can be left pulling at their hair or shouting their joy one moment to the next while remaining blindly devoted. This is why Pinot Noir is known as the ‘Heartbreak Grape’,” he said.

This season, Dan says the fruit harvest will show a higher acid line, “Small cropping, cool climate, intense flavour, vibrant and lifted notes mean the seasonal flavour profile difference will be composed by juniper and other botanicals to achieve optimum balance.”

Despite the smaller than initially anticipated haul, Holly was hugely relieved to be able to increase production for this unique Gin. “It’s part and parcel of what we do, and whilst we are sad it’s once again a very limited product, we are pleased to have been able to put something forward that we’re exceptionally proud of, and that reflects the nature of the 2022 harvest – and it was a small harvest; thus, it’s a passionate Peninsula Pinot Gin in heart and spirit,” Holly said.

“This vintages colour is vibrant ruby with purple hues due to cooler conditions which generally means higher acids and further towards the red spectrum, a signature tip-of-the-hat to Mornington Peninsula’s premier grape variety Pinot Noir, which we sourced from Tuerong Plains.”

The second-ever limited release 2022 Heartbreak Pinot Noir Gin, is dedicated to those who love to sip and savour a glass of Pinot Noir but don’t want to commit to opening a whole bottle, not finishing it, and then throwing the residual away. Specifically designed to be paired with dishes traditionally matched with Pinot Noir, this Gin is best served alongside a hearty protein such as Lamb or Duck, or for vegetarians – Mushroom based dishes.

Holly and Dan described the process as a challenge, as they fortified their own Mornington-sourced Pinot in order to produce a bright and drinkable Pinot Noir Gin.

“Post destemming our Pinot Noir, we cold soaked the freshly crushed grape must, allowing a wild ferment to slowly strike, thus increasing the pinosity of flavour and aroma. By transfiguring flavonoids present in the skins this process allows a gentle extraction of Pinot’s signature tannins and burgundy pigments,” explained Dan.

Holly added: “The small parcel of fruit was then hand pressed and fortified with juniper spirit ceasing fermentation without the use of preservatives to create the Gin, allowing us to meet our three key pillars; flavour, texture and aroma.

“Angelica root and pepperberry seamlessly meld the Pinot Noir ferment into the gin world. Other botanical highlights include herbal notes from rosemary and sage which bridge the gap between pinot noir and fine dining. French oak, cocoa nibs and strawberry gum round out the palate and accentuate the bright strawberry, raspberry, violet and lavender notes traditionally affiliated with Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir.

“On the palate, sweet spice carried by our eau-de-vie grape based spirit distilled on-site sweeps through opening up into brooding dark Pinot Noir fruits finishing pleasantly textural and savoury with juniper, herbal and oak nuances. Think fresh, floral and fruity.”

Heartbreak Gin has an ABV of 38 per cent, and is presented in a 700ml bottle priced at $88 RRP and is available from the Bass & Flinders Distillery.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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