Long live the seductive and stimulating pinot noir

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Times’ Drinks Editor-in-Chief James Viner chooses four crisp bottles of this very old and seductive Bordeaux red grape to celebrate International Pinot Noir Day tomorrow (August 18)…

I have always been a pinot noir lover. It is a temperamental, early-budding, thin-skinned, low-tannin, highly acidic grape, prone to mold and viruses, and an undying source of passion for many wine lovers. Plus, it’s a versatile, catch-all wine accompaniment, complementing for example seared salmon or tuna and duck.

Difficult to cultivate, it produces a notoriously changeable liquid quintessence that is relatively delicate and sometimes haunting. The seductive, yet fussy and stimulating varietal – the ultimate test and holy grail of fine winemaking – moves north and in warm, sunny years can fully ripen in once marginal vineyards to produce classy still reds ( look for quiet examples of local producers Balfour Hush Heath Estate and Gusbourne).

You don’t have to go broke to find a suitable one, but you have to be careful because it is extremely ruthless, even in the greatest terroirs. Here are four lovely summery Pinot Noirs under £20 worth celebrating tomorrow and beyond…

1) New Zealand High Street Pick

Te Pa Signature Series Marlborough Pinot Noir 2020, New Zealand (Tesco, £12, Clubcard member price)

New Zealand still shines well PN. Marlborough is famous for its piercing Sauvignon Blanc, but it also makes characterful, upscale, tangy PN. This one from a family estate has notes of red currants, plums, red cherries and raspberries, as well as hints of chocolate, coffee and spices. The oak is largely invisible, serving only to frame the fruit and guide it through the long, unwavering finish. Give it a shot and watch it unfold. Very smart at the Tesco Clubcard price. One for the early season grouse now that the “Glorious Twelfth” has passed. Alc 13.5%

2) A high altitude, terroir driven PR from the cool northwest of Greece – yes, a Greece PR!

Alpha Estate Pinot Noir 2018, Amynteo, Greece (Aldi, £14.99)

Tired of the same old summer red wines? So unearth this beautiful bottle – so heavy it could serve as a dumbbell – at a winery in northwest Greece with vines located around 690 meters above sea level on a plateau facing Lake Petron and Mount Voras. . Alpha Estate is located in the breezy Amynteo/Amindeo region, Greece’s highest, coldest and smallest appellation (and the only protected destination of origin (PDO) where rosé is significant). A beauty of a texture-rich single-vineyard off-piste PN with a streak of wild cherries and a jolt of spice, dark plums and cocoa, the smooth, yet integrated oak. Tart, sparkling acidity and fine tannins add to the drinking pleasure. A treat with game birds and roast pork. Unfiltered and unfine. Alc 13.5%

3) Charming and silky red Burgundy ‘Bargain-basement’

2020 Berry Bros. & Rudd Bourgogne Côte d’Or Pinot Noir by Benjamin Leroux, Burgundy, France (bbr.com, £18.95)

Burgundy is the spiritual homeland of the extremely picky Pinot Noir grape. From Burgundy know-how and from the best plots of Chorey-lès-Beaune, this subtly sensual and silky “cheap” red springs from the glass and has generosity, a velvety mouthfeel, finesse and a refined and complex bouquet. of hibiscus. , plum, cranberry, wild strawberry and autumnal leaves, sending nasal receptors darting in all directions.

Ripe fruit, tons of atmosphere and fine, willowy tannins. An excellent introduction to red Burgundy from a (micro) high caliber negociant based in Beaune and run by Benjamin Leroux, bewitched by the terroir, former manager / general manager of Pommard’s all-star estate, Domaine Comte Armand. Nice drink and very accessible now. Maybe with roast chicken/pork or grilled lobster. Alc 13.5%

4) German gem from a vineyard located in the southern Palatinate, on the Alsatian border

Schweigener Spätburgunder, Weingut Friedrich Becker 2018, Pfalz, Germany (The Wine Society, £26)

As the world’s third largest producer, Germany is one of the main sources of fine PRs. The name of the grape here is Spätburgunder – late ripening pinot (spät) (burgunder). This delightful example comes from Germany’s second largest region, the Palatinate, which – unusually for the country – is not centered along a river valley. Lots of layers to this, making for a complex and compelling wine. It is a truly sophisticated PN, perfumed and judiciously wooded with notes of red fruits, undergrowth, tobacco leaf, pepper, beetroot, herbs and fine, nervous and mineral tannins. The length, finish and aftertaste sing in perfect harmony. Spicy kick to conclude. A world-class, hard-hitting example of considerable power and elegance. Leaves a beautiful impression in the mouth. Prost! Alc 13.5%

Follow Jack on Twitter @QuixoticWine

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