France tops the list when it comes to many things that are close to our heart at Pinosity – the country has delicious cheese, is home to a host of the finest restaurants, has the world’s most rambunctious lovers (apparently), and of course we adore their Pinot Noir. But to be fair, when it comes to Pinot Noir, France had a head start on the rest of the world. The first Pinot Noir grapes were planted way back yonder in the first century.
Fast-forward over 2,000 years and the rest of the world is giving the French a run for their money when it comes to this seductive, refined red. So outside of France, whose Pinot Noir should you be checking out? Here is our dating advice.
France’s neighbour Germany makes headlines with its Pinot Noir, specifically drops from Ahr Valley. Of the region’s 560 hectares of vineyards, more than half are planted to Pinot Noir – a surprise to many in the wine industry due to the Valley’s location. Decanter reveals that while the majority of German Pinot Noir is grown in warmer locations such as Pfalz and Baden, Pinot Noir has a love affair with the Valley due to the soils, which are basalt and slate.
A leading winery in Ahr is Jean Stodden, which dates back to 1900. Its 2010 Spätburgunder (German for Pinot Noir) is a true delight according to Decanter. “Silky in the mouth, long, with a confidently acid-led structure balanced by delicate summer fruit,” Decanter reports. “Jean Stodden, Spätburgunder Alte Reben 2010 shows considerable density for Pinot without being too extracted; a true delight.”
While California is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, there’s been an explosion of Pinot Noir from ‘The Golden State’ in recent years. As Matthew Kenny explains in Gear Patrol, producers everywhere from the south end of California in Santa Barbara, to Monterey County to Sonoma and the Napa Valley are producing top notch Pinot Noir.
“In the pantheon of Californian Pinot, Sonoma sits at the top,” Kenny writes. “Partially, that’s name recognition; sitting next to the Napa Valley, Sonoma benefits from being a part of the most recognised wine region in the world. The other part is that the conditions are fantastic for growing Pinot Noir, with that precious fog rolling through the Petaluma gap every evening.”
One of Kenny’s most cherished Sonoma Pinot Noirs is the Patz & Hall Jenkins Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Wine.com describes the 2012 vintage as a wine that showcases layers of wild strawberry, pomegranate and raspberry jam, while also featuring savoury flavours of white pepper and sage, as well as a hint of briny ocean air.
Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, with its English translation of ‘heaven on earth’ is a fitting description of one of the world’s most picturesque wine regions, and the region sure can produce a good Pinot Noir. One winery leading the way is Newton Johnson Family Vineyards. The family owned vineyard says Pinot Noir is the epitome of the vineyard and over the years, the Pinot Noir vines have been fine-tuned to produce winning wines.
Next stop is New Zealand’s Central Otago, home to a whopping 1,484 hectares of Pinot Noir. Remember how we said France has some of the oldest vines. Well, Central Otago has some of the youngest with vines for the Felton Road Block 5 Pinot Noir planted in 2001.
But this by no way has impacted the quality of the wine. Since 2001, Dijon clones of Pinot Noir were planted to create the Block 5 Pinot, which Decanter holds in high regard, voting the 2015 vintage as one of the best Pinot Noirs in the world, outside of Burgundy. “Felton Road, Block 5 2012 has a lush, meaty nose, but has some bright cherry fruit too,” Decanter reports. “Lots of energy on the palate; the structure is acid-led, with tannins in the supporting role as they should be for Pinot, and there is an unwavering persistence of fruit.”
Huon Hooke, one of Australia’s major wine critics, once said: “Ask a mainland Aussie winemaker what other region of Australia he or she would like to make wine in, and the most common reply is Tasmania.” And he couldn’t be more on the money! With its ideal cool climate, the quality and character of Tasmanian wines improves every year as the vines age and winemakers and viticulturists learn more about Tassie’s unique growing and wine making conditions. And when it comes to Tassie Pinot Noir we are spoilt for choice, with top Australian producers, Dalrymple Vineyards, Freycinet Vineyard and Barringwood calling the small island state home.
In the words of master sommelier Madeline Triffon, Pinot Noir is “sex in a glass, so seductive, it’s hard to say no”. While France is known as the country of love and we love their Pinot Noir, there is no better time than now to open your heart to new horizons.