Before I start this column I should probably announce that I’m an unashamed fan of Pinot Noir. And I’m not alone in my love for the variety; it’s one of the most highly prized wines in the world, certain labels are among some of the most highly priced wines in the world too.
There is just something about it. The best styles of Pinot Noir can often be found from wines that are grown in cool climates. Pinot is a grape that ripens early, which allows it to be grown in some of the coolest grape growing regions in the world. The wines are generally light coloured and highly fragrant showing cherries, violets and spice, perhaps even a touch of earth. When aged they transform into these beautifully intense wines that show gamey, leather and mushroom characters. Great examples of Pinot become more of a caress in the mouth more than a full bodied mouth grenade of flavour and tannins.
Pinot Noir is one of France’s oldest grape varieties. Dating back to the 1st century when it was planted by Cistercian monks, many of whose monasteries still stand today. Its historical home is in Burgundy, France particularly Côte-d’Or, which unsurprisingly, is why it’s known as red Burgundy (white Burgundy is what we call Chardonnay). Pinot noir is also used in the production of Champagne and sparkling wine (generally with the addition of Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier). However the amount of Pinot Noir that is grown in Australia pales in comparison to Shiraz or Cabinet Sauvignon, in fact it only represents about one percent of the total wine made in Oz. Despite this it remains a wine that has a great reputation in the wine market.
In the vineyard Pinot Noir is notoriously hard to grow, its sensitive to wind and frost, soil types and pruning techniques. Its thin skin makes it susceptible to splitting, rotting, and fungal diseases. In the winery it is sensitive to different styles of fermentation, different yeast strains and is one of the grapes that are reflective of its place of origin and vineyard with different regions, even neighbouring vineyards sometimes producing very different wines.
But for winemakers who do manage to get the best fruit out of their vines, their difficulties are only just starting. Because Pinot Noir is so fickle, even though you have great fruit it can still be incredibly hard to make great quality wine. There are many different types of the Pinot Noir grape, each with its own particular character, and the relationship between the type of grape and regional differences, can make creating great Pinot very difficult.
However, it’s also what allows great Pinot Noir to be produced. With great fruit and great winemaking, you can appreciate all the subtleties and complexities that make Pinot Noir one of the world’s most respected varieties.
5 Under $20
Ninth Island Pinot Noir 2014 – hailing from Tassie is this great dinner table red, its got enough going on to keep most pinot lovers happy. Its not trend setting or exciting, but it ticks away quite well. Cherries, plums and redcurrants combine dried herbs and a light meaty note. Can be found for $15 in store.
Yering Station Little Yering Pinot Noir 2014 – Pinot is one of the grapes that the Yarra does well, and this one has a bit of complexity in there too. Black cherry and spice, and a touch of smoke, a great fine and silky yet savoury lengthy finish to it. About $17.
Punt Road Emperor’s Prize Pinot Noir 2014 – Another Yarra Pinot that’s great value for money. Ripe cherry, spice and stalks on the tongue and the palate along with aromas of a wet rainforest floor. Another one that has enough complexity to keep going back to try, about $15.
De Bortoli Villages Pinot Noir 2015 – I’ve said it before, but this has been a great addition to the De Bortoli line-up. This is still really young, but the quality is right up there. Spice, cherry and a little smokiness, hard to find something to complain about really at this price point. $18 roughly.
Mike Press Pinot Noir 2014 – the entire Mike Press range are only available from a few places online, which allows the price to be kept down. The 2014 is probably the best Pinot released from the Adelaide hills winery to date, its fruit driven with some earthy notes, with a nutty/biscuity finish. $17 online.