Pinot Noir is a notoriously hard grape to grow but the rewards are definitely worth the effort, writes Christine Austin

In a world of big-flavoured Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Syrah there is something rather relaxing about Pinot Noir.  For one thing it doesn’t leap out of the glass, challenging your senses, but rather it waits to be approached, gently exuding its magical aromas that range from light strawberry scents to dark earthy complexity.  Its flavours are equally diverse, on a spectrum that starts simple and easy and evolves through regional differences to heart-stopping, savoury silkiness with a finish that can last until next week.

It is the ultimate in food-friendliness, partnering meats such as duck, chicken and lamb, but can sit alongside a plate of charcuterie or even grilled salmon without skipping a beat.

Pinot Noir is a grape with a long history but a short attention span.  Championed in Burgundy since the 14thcentury, it has mutated and adapted to climates around the world, each time challenging winemakers, many of whom regard this grape as the holy grail of making wine.

Naturally thin-skinned, Pinot Noir is essentially a cool climate grape, although it needs good sunshine to ripen properly.  Too little sun and it remains pale and anaemic; too much and it goes hot and soupy. It demands the right site, soil and slope and that is why is challenges winemakers so delightfully, but even when they have the right place to grow their grapes there is the small matter of clones.

Clones are like identical twins – except there are lots of them.  Essentially they are the same, from the same parentage, but they have individual quirks and preferences and produce slightly different flavours. Most of these clones rejoice in names such as 777, 113, 375 and 667 which makes any conversation about them sound like a bus timetable.  They need to be matched with the rootstock which in turn will be matched to the soil.

In short, growing Pinot Noir is like navigating a matrix of pitfalls, so it is no wonder that the rarest and most exclusive wines are so expensive.  But there are bargains out there.  I tasted a range of Pinot Noirs from around the world so if you are in search of a good glass of Pinot, this is what you should head for.

Pinot Noir 2017, Romania, Waitrose £5.99

A light, delicate, strawberry-scented Pinot, made by an Australian in a Romanian winery owned and run by a chap from Bristol.  Exceptional value for money.

Johann Wolf Pinot Noir 2015, Germany, Waitrose £9.99

From the rolling hills of the Pfalz region, where summer temperatures are just enough to ripen Pinot Noir, this is a bright, black cherry-fruit style of Pinot, with an edge of complexity from 12 months ageing in French oak.

Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa Pinot Noir 2017, Ocado £16.99

Grown just 7 miles from the chilly Pacific Ocean, on a site where the blustery winds keep temperatures down while the sun shines brightly in a clear blue sky.  This is packed with floral aromas, followed by the taste of wild strawberry and crushed cherries.  There is a light streak of spice and savoury complexity, a touch of woodland earth and a long, vibrant, sustained finish.  This is an elegant wine, perfect for teaming alongside duck or lamb. There is a picture of an ammonite on the label that links the sea, minerals and the vineyard location.


Creation Pinot Noir Reserve, 2016, Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa, Harrogate Fine Wine £34.99

Creation is a fairly new wine estate, carved out of sheep country by Swiss winemaker Jean-Claude Martin and his South African wife Carolyn.  Located at the end of a very long road in the heavenly Hemel-en-Aarde area, where breezes come straight off two oceans, the climate is definitely cool, but if you visit Creation the welcome is exceptionally warm.  They have one of the best wine farm dining spots in the Cape where food and wine pairing is lifted to a new level.  Creation wines are definitely made to go with food.  Try this with meat or savoury dishes.

Escarpment Kiwa Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, Martinborough, New Zealand Harrogate Fine Wine, £32.99

New Zealand has made a real contribution to the quality of Pinot Noir in the world.  With different styles of Pinot coming out of the favoured regions of Wairarapa, Marlborough and Otago, there is now a whole range of quality Pinots to try.  This one comes from free-draining river terraces, that were formed just on the outskirts of Martinborough town in Wairarapa, North Island. Made from 30-year-old vines, it is deep in flavour, with definite savoury spice character blending with black cherry fruit and a long, textured finish.

Archangel Pinot Noir 2012, Central Otago, New Zealand, Latitude, Leeds £28.99

With 11 hectares of vines in the stunning Central Otago region, former Leeds residents Ian and Mary Zurakowski have changed careers and are now making silky, elegant, balanced wines with notes of violets, spice and plum and wild strawberry fruit.

Domaine Drouhin Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2014, Oregon, Concept Fine Wines Harrogate £33.95

French-owned but with a definite New-World, Oregon style, this hillside property in the famous Dundee Hills of Willamette Valley makes wines filled with ripe red fruits, delicately dusted with spice.   This wine is lovely now but I have tasted samples going back over a decade and it matures in a very French way, becoming complex, savoury and refined.  Buy and keep for a while.

Louis Jadot Beaune Theurons 2011, Burgundy, France  £38.46 Penistone Wine Cellars

It was in the 14thcentury that a pronouncement from local ruler, Philip the Bold set Burgundy on the path of growing Pinot Noir.  700 years later the region has found the best slopes and the best way to make their wines and so it is hardly surprising that Burgundy make some of the best Pinot Noir in the world, although many countries are snapping at the heels of Burgundy’s vignerons.  Louis Jadot makes exceptional wines, many of them stocked by Penistone, who, thankfully have older vintages because this wine, although packed with potential, took a while to come out of its shell and open up with ripe, elegant, serious flavours. This wine needs another 3 years to evolve, so head to  Penistone for Jadot’s 2009 vintage of the same wine, which is just approaching its drinking window.


About The Author

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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