New Zealand,
USA or Australia?

 

A great vineyard, although of huge importance, isn’t enough to make great wine. A single grape variety provides indisputable proof of that.

Pinot Noir, undoubtedly the most notoriously temperamental grape variety of all, it has often proved difficult to grow and became a cause of grief for many winemakers and too often a source of disappointment for us, consumers. The thin-skinned fruit ripens too quickly in a hot climate or can fail to ripen at all when it is a little too cold, resulting in the lack of lush fruit and alluring perfume in the final embodiment. Moreover, the tightly packed clusters make it highly prone to rotting. However, once successful, it is able to produce some of the finest wines in the world, rewarding all Pinot Noir devotees for their outstanding patience in the tireless hunt for the utopian wine.

Pinot Noir should be ethereal and reflect the unique character of the soil it originates from. Tannins are usually fine and soft, playing only a supporting role to the fruit-forward style. Some of the very best examples age well and often require a few years to unfold and reveal their true character. Still, it is all about delicacy and length, harmony and finesse.

We set off on a journey in the hunt for the best examples of
Pinot Noir from across the New World...

New Zealand

 
 

Chiefly associated with the Burgundy region of France, New Zealand has joined the ranks and has long claimed to make the best Pinot outside Burgundy. With the world's most southerly planted grape vines, the regions of Marlborough and Central Otago on the South Island produce some of the most distinctive examples with incomparable regional diversity. More recently, Martinborough at the foot of New Zealand's North Island has climbed to the top of a list of some of the most sought-after regions. Home to about 30 wineries (most within walking distance), this is the place for small, boutique growers often producing less than their local demand requires, let alone the world’s…

 
 

Australia

 

Neighbouring Australia has also shown its strength in producing great Pinot Noir. Wines of excellent depth, layered with rich fruit and extraordinarily subtle tannins come from the areas of Victoria, Geelong and Yarra Valley. Most Aussie Pinot Noirs are built for the cellar and with careful cellaring, they reveal beautifully complex truffle, game and earthy nuances. At approximately the same latitude as New Zealand’s famous wine regions of Marlborough and Martinborough, there is also the tiny island of Tasmania. Although it produces less than 1% of Australia's wine, it is currently one of the fastest growing and most profitable wine regions in the country. ‘Tassy’ Pinot Noir is incredibly distinctive, where an elegant cloak hides an underlying steel structure.

 
 

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USA

To another home of great Pinot Noir - America’s Pacific North-West has staked its wine reputation on cool-climate Pinot Noir with great success. The coastal sites of California, especially Sonoma, Santa Maria and the Sta. Rita Hills (north of Santa Barbara) have proven to be rather cosy for the sensitive vines.

Cool slopes of Sonoma County attracted many skilled growers and winemakers in recent years. Amongst the crowd, there are brothers Carlo and Dante Mondavi who left their home of Napa Valley to create world-class Pinot Noir in Sonoma. In speaking of what inspired them to found Raen Winery, the Mondavi brothers said,

“Our grandfather Robert always told us to follow our dreams. Ever since we first began to know wine, Pinot Noir has been our favourite. It is the most mysterious, the most difficult to grow and craft but also the most incredible. The time is right for the two of us to bring our vision to life.”

A little further to the south, there is one of our favourite US wineries – Chanin Wine Company. Launched only in 2007, it is hard to believe just how many awards and accolades it won in such a short period of time, quickly establishing a strong reputation for making some of the most beautiful, exciting and distinctive wines to come out of California in the most recent years. If you haven’t tried them yet, you simply must – you are definitely missing out on something very special.

 
 

If we had to choose...

As always, when the topic of our favourite Pinot Noir unfolded during our lunchtime conversations, we could not agree on a single choice. In fact, the discussion became slightly feisty especially between Stu and Natalie, who could easily have a bottle of Pinot Noir every day - always different and always a favourite. Given the amount of great bottles sleeping calmly on our shelves, perhaps it is one of those controversial questions, just like asking which is your favourite child. Therefore, and as we love them all equally, we agreed at least on different reasons why…   

If money were no object

DuMol Finn Pinot Noir 2014

99-100 Points - Stuart McCloskey

The nose is very intense and does require a good hour in a decanter to unlock its captivating bouquet of dark berries, bilberry and sous-bois. The palate is medium-bodied exquisitely balanced with ultra-fine tannins. At times the ‘Finn’ comes across as something very powerful, at other times sensory. Certainly, a mercurial Pinot Noir which washes effortlessly across your palate. Extraordinary, a moving wine and nigh on perfection.

£84.50 per bottle

 

Punching well above
its weight

Dog Point Pinot Noir 2015

97+ Points - Stuart McCloskey

What a welcome back after a three-vintage absence (for me, not the wine!). Waves of plums, mulberries, black cherries and hints of blood orange wash effortlessly across your palate. There is an intense core of rich dark fruits perfectly framed by fine tannins which is impossible not to admire. Certainly, an intriguing Pinot Noir which straddles styles and certainly would not be out of place with some of Sonoma’s ‘top’ Pinot Noirs. Utterly joyful and quite honestly soars above many of its New Zealand peers. Served in a Zalto Burgundy glass but I do feel a little unkind with my score – Perhaps another point (98+) if I had the patience to decant which I would highly recommend.

£27.95 per bottle

 

Pinots to simply die for

Dry River Pinot Noir 2013

99 Points - Bob Campbell

Ripe, dense and fairly deep-coloured Pinot Noir with dark-fleshed plum, dark cherry, violet and liquorice flavours plus a hint of rhubarb on the aroma. Clearly a very complex wine that won’t reveal its full potential for a few years yet. I particularly like the wine’s silken texture and almost chewy body. It must surely rate as one of Dry River’s best ever Pinot Noir vintages.

£58.95 per bottle

 

Anthill Farms Campbell Ranch Pinot Noir 2014 

97+ Points - Stuart McCloskey

We thought the 2013 was something special, however the 2014 could well go down as one of the greatest ‘young’ Pinot Noirs to ever pass our lips. The ’14 is blessed with an incredibly intense, powerful nose - the perfume is extraordinary, almost exotic. Although young, the palate is showing beautiful structure, filigree tannins and is utterly sensuous. This is an irresistible Campbell Ranch, a little fatter and more generous than the previous two vintages. Effortless,
mercurial and brilliant.

£39.95 per bottle

 

Valli Vineyards Mixed Case

The aim at Valli is to produce single vineyard wines, which express their unique character of each Otago sub-region with clarity and absolute purity. Four distinctive Pinot Noirs are bottled under the following labels - GibbstonBannockburnBendigo and the newest on the map, Waitaki.
Why not enjoy one of each of these superb wines in this mixed case.

£180.00 per case of 4

 

Chanin Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir 2015
(Worth every Penny)

95 Points - Antonio Galloni

The 2015 Pinot Noir Sanford & Benedict Vineyard is bold and racy, but also shows a good bit of freshness. Dark cherry, plum, lavender, mint, violet and sweet spices are front and center. Pliant and ripe, but with good supporting energy, the 2015 is all about balance.

£52.95 per bottle

 

Greystone Pinot Noir 2014

96+ Points - Stuart McCloskey 

When I taste a wine like this, my only wish is that every customer could experience how a very good Pinot Noir can be made without the enormous price tag. This is a seductive, handpicked offering from Greystone with thrilling aromatics which soar from the glass – Dark red berries and plums. The palate dazzles with complexities with remarkable fruit intensity, crunchy red fruits with pure silky tannins. Phenolic ripeness is spot on and often a problem with some Pinot Noirs. Lots of pedigree and class on show and a wine that could comfortably sell for £35+ per bottle. What a gorgeous wine.

Serving suggestion for those hot days – place in iced water for ten minutes
(no more) which does not deter from the wines deeply satisfying crescendo of aromas and flavours. My sort of Rosé!

£19.50 per bottle

 

For Hedonists

Peter Michael Ma Danseuse Pinot Noir 2012

100 Points - Robert Parker  

The compelling 2012 Pinot Noir Ma Danseuse (1,480 cases) is even better than the 2013. Notes of lead pencil shavings, DRC-like forest floor, black raspberry, blackcurrant, Asian plum sauce, rose petal and sweet cherry characteristics are found in this spectacular, multidimensional, prodigious Pinot Noir that should drink well for 10-15+ years. The clonal material probably came from one of the DRC vineyards, so it is not surprising that in this cool climate, with the great fruit purity California can achieve, there is a DRC-like resemblance.

Ma Danseuse, French for “My Dancer,” is named in honor of Lady Michael by Sir Peter, who fondly remembers how they first met. Situated between 1,200 and 1,400 feet above sea level on steep slopes, the vineyard faces east and northeast. It benefits from both the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean over the ridges to the west and the mild sunny mountain climate. The soil of the vineyard is a composite of clay, silt and volcanic gravels, which gives polished tannin, body and a hint of graphite-mineral. Ma Danseuse is the most feminine of our trio of estate Pinot Noir bottlings.

£369.95 per bottle

 

By Farr Sangreal Geelong Pinot Noir 2015

97 Points - James Halliday

Clones 114 and 115 planted '94, believed to have mutated into a single 'Sangreal' clone, 66% whole bunches, 4 days cold soak, wild yeast open-fermented 8 days, matured in new French oak for 18 months. Deeply coloured, depth and savoury complexity the cornerstones of great pinots. Spices from an Arabian bazaar intermingle sinuously with vibrant berry fruits, a skein of refreshing acidity adding another dimension to a wine that continuously draws saliva from the mouth. It is already a complete wine, its future measured
in decades, not years.

£52.95 per bottle

 

Yarra Yering Pinot Noir 2015

97 Points - James Halliday

Four clones were planted ‘69, ‘81 and ‘84, making these vines (on average) some of the oldest in Australia. This is in classic Yarra Yering style: rich, powerful and complex, but doesn’t go over the top, its varietal expression plain for all to see, its length exceptional, its longevity likewise.

£43.50 per bottle