Pinot Noir is a true connoisseurs variety, as no other variety seems to reflect its terroir so exactly in the finished wine. For this reason it is loved by winemakers the world over, but at the same time it causes them some of their greatest headaches. This thin skinned variety will develop too quickly in hot climates, rot too easily in wetter climates and be damaged by frosts in colder climates. When conditions are right, however, few varieties can match its fascinating array of flavour characteristics.
The Cote d'Or in Burgundy is where the variety is at is ethereal best, especially in the hands of a skillful winemaker. Here the best wines combine a floral, aromatic aroma with vibrant raspberry and cherry flavous that are often complimented with a smokey, meaty, gamey character, especially as they gracefully age. These delightful secondary characteristics can develop quickly in good Pinot Noirs, rewarding a short period of cellaring.
The passion and excitement with which so many people talk about Burgundy has spurred on producers from across the world to try the variety, and in a number of places with great success. New Zealand is leading the way, especially in the South Island where the sunny climate is moderated by the southern oceans, but at the same time the mountains protect the wine regions from harmful rain. From Marlborough, through Cantebury, down to Central Otago Pinot Noir has really taken off. The best examples have are delightfully juicy and rich with a sweet spiciness that diferentiates them from the Burgundian examples. The Americans have taken to the variety too, especially in the cooler parts of California and further north in Oregon. Finding the best American Pinots in the UK can be difficult, and certainly not cheap, but few wines match them for there rich, silky texture and vibrant red fruit.
Today even producers in the warmer climates of Chile, Argentina, Australia and South Africa are taking on this tricky variety, and with modern winemaking techniques some of the results are extremely encouraging. A number of warmer climate Pinots are making it into our list and proving to be very popular. The future for Pinot Noir looks very bright indeed.
Ben Godfrey, Wine Buyer - Mr.Wheeler Wine.