Poor man’s Pinot
Thanks to improved viticulture and possibly climate change too, it is now possible to find plenty of very attractive lightly fruity wines at fair prices
Pinot Noir, the great red grape variety responsible for Burgundy
“All things being equal I would drink a bottle of top Burgundy over any other wine or indeed drink. This much I know.” So a friend wrote to me last week, as we counted our pennies to see what 2015 Burgundies we could afford. I would probably agree, but top Burgundy is already beyond my pocket and inexorably heading further away. Great and even good Burgundy is joining the ranks of luxury wine. It won’t stop me drinking it, but barring the long-awaited lotto win, I may have to confine myself to Bourgogne Rouge and look elsewhere for my pleasure. I will cover alternative, more affordable fine wines in a few weeks’ time, but today a look at less expensive Pinot Noir, the great red grape variety responsible for Burgundy.
Low-yielding, difficult to grow, and equally challenging to make into wine, Pinot Noir is generally expensive wherever it is produced. Outside of its home in Burgundy, very good Pinot Noir is made, and sold at a premium, in Germany, New Zealand, Australia, California and Oregon. Some of the less expensive Marlborough Pinots, such as Brancott Estate, are well-priced and very drinkable. I have featured the delicious Geil Pinot Noir from Germany (€16-17, independents) here before. The least expensive source is Chile, where Cono Sur and Viña Leyda are the best known, but Carmen and Errazuriz also produce very attractive wines.
The other provider of decent, budget Pinot Noir is Romania. Older readers may remember drinking very cheap Romanian Pinot back in the 1980’s. Over the past few years, they have made a reappearance on our shelves. Cramele Recas, a company run by Englishman Philip Cox, currently provides at least three wines under the names Paparuda, Frunza and Calusari to various Irish wine shops. All are very gluggable gently fruity wines that sell for €10-12 a bottle.
In France, the quality of Pinot Noir from Alsace, the Ardèche, and Limoux near Carcassonne is improving rapidly. But the largest producer outside of Burgundy is the Loire Valley. In the past, many of the wines seem to be a little too green and anaemic, but thanks to improved viticulture and possibly climate change too, it is now possible to find plenty of very attractive lightly fruity wines at fair prices. Sancerre is the best-known name, and therefore generally expensive, but Touraine and a host of other lesser-known appellations also produce refreshing light reds and very good rosé from Pinot Noir.
I cannot pretend that any of the wines below will provide competition to the great wines of Gevrey-Chambertin and Vosne-Romanée. However, with Bourgogne Rouge from a top producer now selling for more than €30, they will certainly fill a much-needed gap in our drinking.