What to drink…

This month, Mas­ter of Wine Richard Hem­ming ex­am­ines the Pinot Noir grape va­ri­ety

Living France - - Á La Maison -

Search­ing for great Pinot Noir can some­times feel like hunt­ing the Snark – an ul­ti­mately fu­tile ex­er­cise. The trou­ble is that the va­ri­ety is very tricky to grow. It has a thin skin mak­ing it prone to dis­ease, yields are usu­ally very low, and it re­quires a long cool sea­son to ripen prop­erly.

Thank­fully, the Bur­gundy re­gion of France is ide­ally suited to pro­vide the right con­di­tions – although the qual­ity of vin­tages can vary dra­mat­i­cally. At its best, red bur­gundy can be truly sub­lime, but is usu­ally in high de­mand and short sup­ply. That re­sults in some eye-wa­ter­ingly high prices, with the top ex­am­ples reach­ing hun­dreds if not thou­sands of pounds per bot­tle.

There are some out­posts of Pinot Noir else­where in the coun­try, how­ever. In Sancerre, they make a lit­tle red and rosé from the va­ri­ety, though it is rarely great value for money. Al­sace pro­duces some very light ex­am­ples that can achieve great­ness, while the Cham­pagne re­gion grows loads of Pinot Noir as part of the blend for its fa­mous fizz.

Stylis­ti­cally, Pinot Noir has sev­eral dis­tin­guish­ing fea­tures. It tends to be translu­cent ruby or gar­net in colour, with light body, bright acid­ity and very soft tan­nin – it’s pretty much the po­lar op­po­site of some­thing like Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon. In terms of flavour, ex­pect red fruits such as cherry, cran­berry, straw­berry, of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by green herby notes and some­times a hint of truf­fle oil.

Cave St-Verny, Pinot Noir 2014 IGP Puyde-Dôme (£9.95 leaand­sande­man.co.uk, south­down­scel­lars.co.uk) This Pinot Noir is one of the best-kept se­crets in the whole world of wine. It dis­plays all the char­ac­ter­is­tics that make the va­ri­ety so pop­u­lar – pale ruby colour, ripe straw­berry fruit with a com­ple­men­tary herbal scent, fresh acid­ity and soft tan­nin – with a de­gree of pu­rity and con­cen­tra­tion that is rarely found for be­low £10 per bot­tle. A must-try!

Do­maine de Cabri­als Pinot Noir 2015 IGP Pays d’Oc (£10 ewwines.co.uk) The warm Langue­doc re­gion is not the most ob­vi­ous ori­gin for qual­ity Pinot Noir, which gen­er­ally prefers cooler cli­mates. This ex­am­ple from Do­maine de Cabri­als cer­tainly has a bit more body than most clas­sic French Pinot Noirs, but it re­tains the text­book red fruit, light tan­nin and crisp fin­ish of the va­ri­ety.

Mai­son Roche de Bel­lene, Vieilles Vignes Pinot Noir 2014 Bour­gogne (£16.99 laith­waites.co.uk, £17.50 odd­bins.com) Clas­sic red bur­gundy doesn’t come cheap – but it is to­tally worth the pre­mium for a good one. Mai­son Roche de Bel­lene is a very re­li­able name in the re­gion, and their bour­gogne rouge comes from vines that are at least 50 years old. The the­ory goes that older vines pro­duce more con­cen­trated and com­plex wines – and its en­chant­ing rasp­berry fruit with hints of men­thol and herbs cer­tainly de­liv­ers.

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