Plantings in Chile have grown exponentially in recent years, led in the main by Cono Sur. This is good news for wine drinkers as inexpensive (drinkable) Pinot Noir has always been difficult to find.
Pinot Noir is now the sixth most commonly planted red grape on the planet and the tenth most commonly planted grape of any colour. Chile ranks around 8th in world terms, but they are catching up fast and new regions such as Elqui and Limari show promise for the grape.
Pinot Noir hit the big time with the hugely successful film Sideways released in 2004. The character Myles in Sideways describes it very well, although we soon realise that he is also talking about himself: “It’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early... it’s not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention... and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it (well).”
Myles also says that when it is good Pinot Noir’s flavour can be “the most haunting, thrilling, subtle and ancient on the planet”. I concur. Pinot Noir was first planted in Chile in 1968 in a plot now owned by Cono Sur who have the largest holdings of Pinot Noir in Chile which they sell at all price levels from the juicy Bicicleta range for under €10, to their roasted figs flavoured Ocio for around €60.
Burgundy may still the benchmark for Pinot Noir but as prices climb it’s time to look elsewhere.
* For the Diary: Wine Tasting & A Movie Ballymaloe House, 7pm, Friday, Fen 7, Cost: €18 Guests: Bo & Heidi Barrett of Napa’s Chateau Montelena, winner of the white wine section at the Judgement of Paris as depicted in the film Bottle Shock which will be shown following the tasting in the Grain Store.
Vistamar Sepia Reserva Pinot Noir, Casablanca, Chile 2011 — €11.95-€12.95
Stockists: O’Donovans Cork, McCabes Dublin, World Wide Wines Waterford, The Vineyard Galway.
O’Donovans have the Vistamar range on special offer this month and all the range is worth trying. The Reserva Pinot has a nicely balanced mix of red and black fruit flavours and a clean fresh palate with lingering redcurrants. If only all pinot noir at this price was as drinkable.
Croix d’Or Pinot Noir Rosé, Vin de France — €12.99
Stockists: No. 21 Coburg St., Vintry Rathgar, Red Island Skerries, Drinkstore, Dublin 7
From the tiny wine region of St. Pourçain which is technically the Loire but is located at the foothills of the Massif Central so could also be classifed as the Auvergne. Light ruby colour with cherries and a hint of game on the nose and fine supple red fruit flavour.
Cono Sur Reserva Especial Pinot Noir, Casablanca, Chile 2012 €14.99
Stockists: Bradleys, Galvins, Matsons, O’Briens, JJ O’Driscolls, No. 21, widely available.
Casablanca is closer to the coast and is suited for cool climate grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. This has lovely cherry and spice aromas with a hint of grilled mushrooms and shows off a complex range of earthy red-fruit flavours.
Leyda Reserve Pinot Noir 2012, Chile — €15.99
Stockists: Searsons Monkstown, Drink Store D7, Vintry, Ardkeen and No 5 Waterford, O’Sullivans Blarney, selected Next Door
Sad that this wine is now more than €15, it is one of my stand-by Pinot Noirs. Elegant and savoury aromas and flavours of red fruit and herbs with a fine light touch. Pink-cooked duck breast or perhaps even confit duck would both match well.
Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir 2011, Casablanca, Chile — €23.49
Stockists: Bradleys, JJ O’Driscolls, 64 wines, Amber Fermoy, O’Briens, The Corkscrew,
Cono Sur choose their best 20 barrels of Casablanca Pinot for this blend which has a lovely weighty character. This also has a nice herbal touch — excellent with Partridge of other wild game. Remember the shooting season ended yesterday.
Lawsons Dry Hills White Label Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand — €24.99
Stockists: Ardkeen Stores, Thomas’s Foxrock, Londis SCR, Jus de Vine Portmarnock, WineOnline.ie
The Lawsons have been in Marlborough since 1980 and practice has made nigh on perfect. The Black Label should only be a euro or two more and is darker with more complexity, but this has lovely bright redcurrant fruit mixed with a slight forest floor edge and a beguiling elegance on the finish.