Pinot Noir. Ancient, fussy, annoying, amazing and fascinating. Yes, in my view, you can use all of these words and many others to describe this enigma (there’s another one) of a grape variety. As I’m generally a fan of bigger red wines I had never really ventured with any true depth into this variety until recent times. It was a bottle of Gevrey Chambertin , enjoyed in Paris a couple of years ago, that changed all that. Presented with the deep , complex, wonder of a wine I found my self checking with the lovely wine waitress that it was actually made with Pinot Noir?? The wine was mind blowing and as I watched the level of wine in the bottle drop I started wishing I had the ‘God like’ powers required to magically refill the bottle. Sadly, despite some Yoda like concentration I failed miserably.
I’ve now had the pleasure of exploring much more of this variety and one of the key things that strikes me is the incredible variety of wines produced both in terms of style and quality. From deep, classy and luxurious Gevrey through to frankly terrible ,thin, and watery examples that make you resent having to pay for them. So bad, I have actually poured some down the sink!!
The other problem with Pinot Noir is it is expensive! Why is this? Well it’s because frankly the variety is a nightmare to grow! It’s a late ripening variety which means it needs to stay on the vine longer. In the cooler, and more climatically variable regions it prefers, this means every day is a gamble. It forms tight cone shaped clusters, meaning poor air circulation around the berries, making it prone to vine diseases. Finally, it’s thin skins make it vulnerable to big temperature swings during the growing season and a target for annoying flies called ‘spotted wing drosophila’. Whilst on the way to whatever fruit flies do during the day, they have a habit of dropping their kids off under the skins of developing fruits! The result, well, what do you think happens when the little ones are left unattended? Yep, you got it, havoc!
So where can you get decent Pinot at a sensible price. Well, in all honesty, it is a bit of a challenge but after reading a couple of blog posts I decided it was time to try some Pinot Noir from Germany and after ‘consulting Oz’ ( Red & White ) I decided Pfalz was a good place to start. In his chapter on Germany he states “Just for now I find the broader, mellower, cheerily scented styles from the Pfalz the most particular and the most enjoyable”
The Pfalz region is the second largest wine region in Germany after the Rheinhessen. It has 6,800 vintners busily producing 6.5 million hectolitres of wine every year. More than one third of this is now red wine with a growing focus on ‘Spatburgunder’ (German word for Pinot Noir ‘translates as ‘late Burgundy’)
So onto the wines.
The first I tried was ‘Palataia’ Pinot Noir from https://www.marksandspencer.com/palataia-pinot-noir-case-of-6/p/p60017914. Made by Gerard Stepp who used to be a buyer for M&S. Now back home in Germany he has returned to his original career of winemaker and has produced this little wonder. Impressively dark in colour this wine ( enjoyed by Tim Atkin M W https://timatkin.com/tasting-notes/palataia-pinot-noir/) has a lovely bouquet and is like summer fruit pudding in a glass. Think Raspberry, Strawberry and Cherry with a sprinkle of Blackberries and spice. For the price I think this has remarkable complexity, a result of careful winemaking, low yields and subtle use of oak.
The second I tried was ‘Johann Wolf’ Pinot Noir 2017 from https://www.waitrosecellar.com/all-wines/wine-type/johannn-wolf-pinot-noir-857070. Not as impressive on first taste this one grew on me. Very light with quite noticeable acidity. Very dominant Cherry aroma and flavour along with a hint of savoury earthiness. Tannins were hardly noticeable but sadly so was the finish for me.
The best bit? The Wolf Pinot is £9.99 ( only £7.50 in the 25% offer on now ) and the Palataia is only £9 full price. I think Palataia is the star buy here, but if you are a bit of a ‘Pinotphile’ (got to be careful when you say that!) I think they are both well worth a try.