FOOD & DRINK: Sample the pleasures of Pinot Noir
Of all the French grape varieties that have migrated round the world Pinot Noir, producing those wonderful and expensive Burgundy wines of the Cote d’Or, has been the most difficult to copy.
Growers in the New World and elsewhere have tried to copy the conditions.
Burgundy is cool and wet, has spring frosts and often hailstorms and has limestone soils.
Trying to copy these proved difficult in the New World but at long last growers have got the hang of it.
Pinot Noir grapes have very thin skins and less tannins so the wines can be drunk much earlier than say top Cabernet Sauvignons which can take many years to be ready to drink.
There are probably two styles of Pinot – the first deeply coloured, ripely scented, full of red fruit and the other much lighter and earthier, turning gamey after a few years.
There are now some very good ones from western USA, New Zealand, Germany and New Zealand.
Below are just a few good alternatives from round the world that are readily available.
From Germany – they may be called Spätburgunder:
Palataia Pinot Noir 2017, Gerd Stepps and Matthias Gaul, Pfalz. Germany 13.5pc (M&S £11.50) Aromas of ripe summer berries, red berry fruit with some gamey flavours.
Martia Wassmer 2016, Markgräflerland Spätburgunder 13.5pc (The Wine Society £14.90) Lovely gamey, cigar box and truffles.
Hans Baer Pinot Noir 2016, Weinkellerei Hechtsheim, Pfalz, Germany 13pc (Tesco £7) Flavours of sweet cherry, raspberry and some savoury notes. Try with duck or pork.
From the Americas, California and Oregon State:
Edna Valley Pinot Noir 2016, South Central Coast AVA, California 14pc (Majestic £15.99, £13.99 Mixed 6) This is fairly unique as Edna Valley gets cool ocean breezes which stops the grapes ripening in many years. This wine has fine tannins, notes of rose petal and cola with a background of cherry fruit.
Higher up the west coast is Monterey: Noble Vines 667 Pinot Noir 2016, Monterey 14.5pc (£14.99 Waitrose) This Pinot clone originally came from Burgundy’s Cotes d’Or. Flavours of ripe cherry, juicy plum and some soft, toasty oak. Goes brilliantly with pork or lamb.
Sandiford Road Pinot Noir 2016, California 13.5pc (Waitrose £8.99) With a small amount of Petit Verdot and Shiraz. Ripe raspberry and cherry, creamy vanilla, soft tannins.
Above San Francisco near the Napa Valley is Carneros which gets cool breezes and fog from the Pacific and San Pablo Bay. One of my favourite Pinots is Saintsbury Pinot Noir 2012 (Majestic £26 mixed six £23). Ripe red fruit on the nose, there’s some spice, tobacco, mocha, nice tannins, balanced and delicious. Nearby is Sonoma which has a cooler climate and higher rainfall than most of California giving more elegant Pinots:
Folie a Deux 2017, 14pc ( Waitrose £19.99) is a really elegant example with its bramble fruit and hints of coffee ad spice.
Driving up out of California through Grant’s Pass into Oregon I remember it for the hundreds of miles of forest, some great caves to explore and a rugged coastline.
The wineries in the two valleys of Umpqua and Willamette produce some lovely Pinots. Oregon Pinot Noir doesn’t always appeal to California wine enthusiasts who enjoy big, fruity wines.
Oregon red wines are subtle, with high acidity that don’t always explode with lusty fruit.
Here are two good ones readily available:
Underwood Pinot Noir 2016, Umpqua Valley, Oregon 13.5pc (£14 M&S) This is splendid Oregon Pinot Noir at a bargain price by Oregon standards. Smooth with soft tannins and flavours of pomegranate and soft fruits. Balanced and elegant it makes a superb accompaniment to aromatic spiced foods or dishes of game or lean meat.
Lemelson Theas Selection Willamette Valley, Oregon 2015 (The Wine Society £21) Elegant and complex, this lovely wine has a nose of red currant, raspberry and spice, with some forest berry notes developing on the palate alongside finegrained tannins and bright acidity. A really good example of what Oregon Pinot Noir can achieve.
Over to Australia, Tasmania to be precise:
Cold, isolated and beautiful, the pristine natural environment of Tasmania gives the opportunity to craft some wonderful Chardonnay and Pinot Noir:
Artisan Tasmanian Pinot Noir 2016, Winemaker Glenn James 14pc (Aldi £16.99) Clean and fragrant, elegant, perfumed sour cherry with some spice. Good strawberry fruits and depth of flavours, develops dark fruit complexity in mouth.
Devils Corner Tasmanian Pinot Noir 2017, 13pc (The Wine Society £14.95) Made by Tamar Ridge, is a great introduction to the style, bursting with tart red berry and cranberry flavours, fine tannins, spice and a refreshing finish. Mouthwatering and fresh in style, this slips down easily!
On to New Zealand, and the middle of South Island, to Central Otago:
It is the only part of New Zealand with a Mediterranean climate. It is one of the new areas for fine Pinot Noir:
Tesco Finest Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017, Villa Maria. Winemaker Nick Picone 13.5pc (£13) Subtle and smooth, elegant juicy red aromas and long velvety finish.
The Society’s Exhibition Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017, 13pc (The Wine Society £18) Deep ruby in colour, this New Zealand Pinot bursts from the glass with an expressive cherry and clove perfume. Youthful firm tannins, the hallmark of Central Otago’s cold night-time growing conditions, hold plenty of concentrated dark berry and cherry fruit flavours, with a touch of cedar and spice on the finish.
Finally Chile has some very good Pinots from the cooler valleys such as Casablanca:
Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir 2015, Adolo Hertado, El Triangulo Estate, Casablanca Valley, Chile (Morrisons £14, Tesco £16) Real finesse, cherry, raspberry, plum, an intense sweet palate and long, soft finish. Lovely with meat, poultry, duck and mature cheese.
Morrisons The Best Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santo Thomas Vineyard, Aconcague Region, Chile (£10) Aged in French oak. Delicious, complex strawberry scented, smooth and mellow.
Co-op Irresistible Casablanca Valley Pinot Noir 2016, 13.5pc (£8) Flavours of mocha, black cherries, some spice and slight oak background.
The fashion in reds locally seems to be Merlot, Shiraz and Malbec. It’s time to give Pinot Noir a try.