Pinot noir to pine for – perhaps the world’s finest grape

11 Apr

The Wine Wanderers have been lying low for a few weeks working our way through an awful lot of the pinot noir we first learned to love when we were living in California.

This grape is notoriously difficult to cultivate, but they make some lovely bottles over there, which is why pinot got a special mention in the wine country road movie Sideways.

Enjoying well-deserved product placement in that film – perhaps it was a spontaneous mention not even sponsored – was a bottle of Fiddlehead, one of many fine pinots you can find in the unlikely “Lompoc Ghetto” – as Oz Clarke explained to me at a tasting, it’s a row of wine-makers’ warehouses hidden behind the Home Depot in Lompoc.

My $40 bottle of Fiddlehead, made by Kathy Joseph, who gave up medicine to make wine, was greatly enjoyed, but I haven’t found trace of it in the UK. We do, however, have plenty of pinot to go at, though it ranges from the good to the bad and ugly, and price is no guarantee of quality.

To deal with Burgundy first, the region which made its name on pinot noir often deals out the greatest disappointments. This may not be to do with the wine-making so much as the fact red Burgundy seems to require so much bottle-ageing, it can be simply unaffordable to find a really great drop. Not true back in the day, when the Wanderers enjoyed many a bottle of Cotes de Beaune and, on occasion, Nuits St Georges we simply couldn’t afford to touch now.

Happily, some great pinot is coming out of the New World, and one of the most sublime is the Willing Participant sold by Waitrose for just £10.99. It has the heady aroma which makes you expect an enormously powerful wine, but it turns out to be surprisingly light and elegant on the palate. A gorgeous drop.

We have a couple more to taste from Waitrose at this price point which look promising, but we hated their Chapel Hill pinot from Hungary. Even at £6,99, it was horrid.  To be honest, pinot noir is not worth tasting unless it has that absolutely heady, voluptuous aroma which gives you the same feeling as falling in love before you even get it in your mouth.

New Zealand has a reputation for pinot, but we felt very let down by t Dog Point we tasted – no character at all. By contrast, Goose Bay was absolutely sublime, and we also enjoyed a powerful 2006 pinot noir from Yarden in Israel. You’re more likely to find the 2007 in the shops now, but it has very similar berryish characteristics.

And finally – who knew the Tuscans and Croatians also made pinot noir?   At the incredibly lovely Villa San Michele in Fiesole, above Florence,  I enjoyed the most sublime pinot nero 2007 from Coldaia, Agricola Fortuna, last week.  And last night in Croatia a beautiful 2008 from Krauthaker.   To die for, like all the best pinot noir.

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3 Responses to “Pinot noir to pine for – perhaps the world’s finest grape”

  1. arrancat April 11, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    Reblogged this on Arrancat's Blog and commented:
    Living in Georgia the Caucasus, I have to admit that wine is one of the things I miss the most – ironic given that it was my love of wine which initially brought me to Georgia. Don’t get me wrong, I love Georgian wine. But there are days when I crave other grapes like shiraz, pinot noir, voignier, muscat, carmenere…..grapes that you just can’t get here. Gone are my days of a bottle of rioja with my dinner, or a fine ice wine with desert, and its hardly as if you can just ask your friends back in Britain, to pop a bottle in the post!! I hope that one day, Georgian wines will be on everyone’s wine list, and so too, that I can pop into any shop in Georgia and buy wines from around the world. Until that day, I’ll just have to enjoy blogs like this one instead.

    • thewinewanderers April 22, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

      You do have gorgeous wines in Georgia, which I was lucky enough to try on my first trip to the country last year. They are starting to come
      into the UK now, and I will be blogging about them soon. Meanwhile, I have a bottle of Pheasant’s Tears in my wine rack I’m waiting to bring
      out with something which deserves such an elegant white – watch this space!

      • arrancat April 23, 2012 at 6:34 am #

        Pheasants Tears is a fantastic vineyard in so many ways, Georgia has some gorgeous wines for sure:)

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