Saturday, March 14, 2009

Joanna Simon in The Sunday Times, March 8, 2009: Pinot Noir - getting better all the time

If tasting Australian chardonnays recently reminded me how good they can be, tasting pinot noirs from Australia reminded me how hit and miss they are - and how much better this fashionable, food-friendly red variety has become in some other countries. Australia’s handicap is that its traditional regions are mostly too warm to produce elegant pinot and there are only a limited number of new cooler sites at higher altitudes or closer to oceans.

New Zealand, on the other hand, has plenty of suitable areas and has developed a style, or styles, of its own, with the emphasis on purity and sweetness of fruit and seamless texture. The results are not like red burgundy (the original pinot noir wine) with its more savoury flavours, but most are not trying to be and that’s their strength. Better still, prices are stable, because so much pinot noir has been planted that more comes onstream with every harvest.

The other rising star is Chile, on a limited scale but with some notable bargains - and it’s rare for the words bargain and pinot noir to come together.

2008 Secano Estate Pinot Noir, £6.99
Fresh, supple, cherry-scented Chilean. Great value (Marks & Spencer).

2007 Tasmanian Pinot Noir, £7.99
Cool-climate Aussie with rose and raspberry fragrance (Marks & Spencer).

2007 Felton Road Pinot Noir, £26.99-£29.30
Not cheap, but stellar New Zealand pinot (Averys, 0845 8630995; Laithwaites, 0845 194 7755; Berry Bros & Rudd, 0870 900 4300).