I spent the first few weeks of the year pretty much immersed in pinot noir: first at the 2010 burgundy en primeur tastings in London, reporting mainly for World of Fine Wine (out this week I think); then in New Zealand at this year’s Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration and visiting other South Island regions (there’s one beginning with M – remind me what it’s called); and then, a couple of weeks ago, visiting the Ahr region and attending Germany’s first International Pinot Noir Symposium (aka Spätburgunder Symposium).
What’s so exciting about Germany is the number of regions producing excellent pinots noirs. It’s not just Baden and the Pfalz, but the Ahr and even the Mosel and Franken. Here are some of the names to look out for: Meyer-Näkel, Nelles, Jean Stodden, Kreuzberg and Deutzerhof in the Ahr; Ziereisen, Dr Heger, Bernhard Huber and Karl H Johner in Baden; Knipser Johannishof and Ökonomierat Rebholz in the Pfalz; Markus Molitor in the Mosel; and Rudolf Fürst in Franken. Stockists of these wines are few and far between in the UK, and the wines aren’t cheap – the M&S Palataia below a notable exception – but if you put Spatburgunder in the search box on wine-searcher.com it comes up with quite a few. And although it’s not listing it yet, The Wine Society has bought some Meyer-Näkel.
If it had been any other grape variety, I’d been gasping for something else to taste and drink by the time I’d done this three-stage pinot noir assault course, but you can’t have too much pinot noir. Can you? I can’t. Below are some you can buy in the UK. I’m hoping that someone will start importing Burn Cottage pinot noirs from Central Otago – a biodynamic estate started in 2003; impressive first vintage in 2009 and an even more impressive 2010.
2011 Palataia Pinot Noir, Pfalz, Germany
Jewel-bright, ripe cherry and strawberry fruit with a hint of cranberry. Medium-bodied, supple, rounded, pure and very pretty. 13.5% abv. Great value.
£8.99, Marks & Spencer
2010 The Crater Rim Canterbury Pinot Noir, Canterbury, New Zealand
Fragrant, supple and pure, with plum and cherry fruit, sweet earth and aromatic herb flavours. The cheapest of The Crater Rim’s three pinot noirs from different regions of the South Island and very good value. 14% abv.
£12.95, Lea & Sandeman
2009 Main Divide Pinot Noir, Waipara Valley, New Zealand
Main Divide is under the same ownership and stellar winemaking as Pegasus Bay (ie the Donaldson family), but is a cheaper label. The pinot noir, made in the same, burgundian way (small vats, hand-plunging, 18 months in burgundy-coopered barriques) has succulent cherry fruit, supported by spicy, toasty oak and a backbone of fine, velvety tannins and acidity. 14% abv.
2010 The Crater Rim Gibbston Valley Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand
Fine-boned, fresh, young pinot from Central Otago’s wetter side. The oak is still showing in the chocolate, coffee and vanilla flavours, but just feel that lovely raspberry fruit and silky-smooth texture. 14% abv.
£17.95, Lea & Sandeman
2009 Black Estate Pinot Noir, Waipara, New Zealand
Full and rich, but crisply underpinned by its acidity and light tannins and with hints of truffle and game adding complexity to the black cherry fruit, spice and oak. 14.3% abv.
£26.75, Lea & Sandeman
2010 Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand
The entry-level pinot from Felton Road, the estate which vies with Rippon (below) for top billing in Central Otago and, like Rippon, is biodynamic. This is a blend of three sites in Bannockburn (and, for the record, ten clones and six rootstocks), whereas the other pinots are all single vineyards or blocks. It’s very young and really should be kept, but it’s hard to resist: crunchy, ripe-cherry fruit, exotic spicy notes, hints of raspberry, vanilla and fragrant herbs and satin-smooth tannins. 14% abv.
£28.50, Swig; £28.95, Tanners, £29.95, Lea & Sandeman
2009 Rippon Vineyards Mature Vine Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand
Rose petals and sweet red berries with a touch of smokiness; ultra silky tannins; long, sleek and polished. Superb, complex pinot from this long-established and biodynamic estate. Drink over the next five years. 13.5% abv.
£31.95, Lea & Sandeman