Friday, 14 February 2014

Some thoughts on Pinot Noir

By Madeline Mehalko

I had a bottle of some unusually rich and ripe Alsatian Pinot Noir the other evening from Caves Hunawihr (who make our Averys Selection Alsace) – it very much reminded me of some of the better examples of the grape coming out of Romania these days with its sweet cherry fruit, smooth tannins and bright acidity. It got me thinking about this oft revered variety, precocious and finicky by nature, and how it can show such a wide array of different expressions around the world while always remaining unmistakably Pinot. Given a glass of Vosne-Romanée, say, from a cool vintage and a glass of plush, voluptuous Kiwi Pinot they would be markedly different in colour, aromas, weight and mouthfeel, and yet still bear the trademark stamp of Pinot Noir.

The smooth tannins, the earthy undertones, the sweet fruit, the punchy acidity, the truffled perfume that can develop with age… these are wines which have inspired poetry and literature, have changed the trajectory of lives with a single perfect glass (everyone in the wine trade has a story of their first ‘eureka’ moment and how they knew from that moment forward they could no longer continue with their unfulfilling career in banking/law/auditing). I know some of my most memorable moments with wine have been with a fine, aged, red Burgundy, pondering its changing complexities as it stretches and yawns awake from its slumber.

I was fortunate enough to attend a tasting of Felton Road wines in London last year given by owner Nigel Greening, along with some illustrious members of the trade like Jancis Robinson and our own Mimi Avery! It proved to be a fascinating couple of hours, giving insight in to the distinctive qualities of the variety in New Zealand as opposed to other regions. Central Otago has a climate somewhere between Chablis and Champagne – it is cooler than Burgundy, and yet the wines nearly always riper. How is this so? It’s all down to diurnal temperature variation – nights there are cold, often 7-8 degrees, and the vines go dormant. This results in approximately 12 extra days between flowering and harvest, and physical ripeness happens before sugar ripeness (the vines don’t consume sugar when dormant), so by the time the grapes are picked the tannins are sweet and ripe and the juice is bursting with fruit.

It’s worth seeking out not only the classic Burgundies and the juicy Kiwis, but there are elegant, filigree examples from Oregon, raspberry and sometimes leafy-scented bottles from Chile, lean and austere versions in Germany and Alsace which cut through rich choucroute garni and Bratwurst, and increasingly top class examples from Australia – the prestigious Jimmy Watson trophy went to an Australian Pinot Noir for the first time in 2013.

So here’s to Pinot, of which we can never tire, and of which we should all drink a lot more!


We just so happen to have in stock a wide selection of Pinots from across the globe; here are a few of my personal recommendations:

Preiss Henny Pinot Noir Mittelwhir 2009 - Alsace, France

Martin Preiss was born in 1550, and in 1574 was the first member of the family to be registered as a vintner. Up to the present day this highly regarded wine house has remained steadfastly family owned. It was originally located in the beautiful "Chateau de Mittelwihr" which was sadly destroyed during the war in 1944. This Pinot Noir is delicious - our first offering of Alsace Pinot Noir, this is more burgundian than germanic. Tight, complex and vinous, with a savoury nose and a warmed cherry palate soft but tight and smokey.
Casa Silva Cool Coast 2011 - Paredones, Chile

This is the first vintage of Pinot Noir from Casa Silva’s Paredones vineyard and what a debut. It is juicy and refreshing with sweet raspberry and wild forest fruits while barrel ageing adds a spicy, smoky complexity. It is cool, coastal origins are evident in its fine silky texture and elegant, long finish.

Chancet Rocks 2011 - Marlborough, New Zealand

Chancet Rocks is crafted from fruit grown in Yealands’ Marlborough estate vineyards and Jeff used subtle oak ageing to give a creamy, soft texture. Intense plum and ripe red berry fruits are enhanced by a supple, plush and silky mouth-feel that will complement roasts such as turkey, duck or goose. This Marlborough Pinot Noir shows intense plum and berry fruits, complemented by the subtle use of oak, and a long, supple finish.


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