Expect equal parts pain and pleasure from Pinot Noir

Multiple areas have learnt how to grow and make this fickle and capricious variety of wine

Pinot Noir: The flavours run from red cherries and raspberries in lighter wines to dark cherries and damsons.

For many years every article (mine included) on Pinot Noir began with two warnings; firstly, you can expect equal amounts of pain and pleasure as you strive to uncover the mysteries of this fickle and capricious variety. Secondly your pockets will be regularly emptied because Pinot is always pricey. Yet things may have changed. In recent years it seems multiple areas have learnt how to grow and make Pinot Noir. For this article I tasted very good wines from eight different countries around the world, including some at reasonable prices.

I am a big fan of Pinot Noir, but according to Kevin O’Callaghan, wine buyer with Musgraves, I am in a minority. He tells me it is still a hard sell, including French Pinot Noir and at every price point. Possibly the problem is one of style; If you prefer rich full-bodied reds such as Australian Shiraz, Argentine Malbec or Châteauneuf-du-Pape then I can see why you might not take to lighter more elegant Pinot. However, you are certainly missing out on one of life’s great pleasures.

Seductive and aromatic with silky fruits, Pinot Noir is all about finesse, charm and elegance. It is pale in colour, usually with good acidity. It can be smooth, rich and sensual, or light, fresh and fruity. It all depends on where it comes from. To the delight of its fans, Pinot Noir varies hugely depending on soil and climate. Even wines from two neighbouring vineyards can often taste distinctly different.

The flavours run from red cherries and raspberries in lighter wines to dark cherries and damsons. Lighter Pinot pairs very well with charcuterie, including ham and terrines; fruitier wines go well with salmon, tuna, roast chicken, and duck. The most full-bodied are great alongside feathered game, lamb, coq-au-vin and of course, Boeuf Bourguignon. Burgundy is the home of Pinot Noir, where it is responsible for all serious red wine; it has also been grown in Champagne, Alsace, Germany and Austria for centuries, as well as the Jura, Savoie and Loire valley. Parts of California and Orgeon now produce exquisite Pinot Noir, sadly at prices similar to top Burgundy. Various regions of New Zealand have long produced high quality wines, as does South Africa, and the cooler valleys of Chile. I did not include Burgundy or New Zealand in my tastings, as I covered these earlier in the year.


Yields from Pinot tend to be low, so there are fewer cheap versions. However, you can find very good wines at around €10 from Romania, Chile, New Zealand, Germany and parts of France. This week four Pinot Noirs, two for less than €20, that should convince any doubters that this variety is more about pleasure than pain.

Terra Quartär Pinot Noir 2019, Pfalz, Reh Kendermann, Germany
13%, €11.50

Light and juicy with elegant, clean red cherry fruits and a smooth easy finish. Drink lightly chilled with salmon or cold meats. 

Stockists: Dunnes Stores, Dunnestores.com 

Viña Casablanca Céfiro Pinot Noir 2020, Casablanca, Chile
12.5%, €15

An engaging wine with vibrant crunchy red summer fruits and a tannin-free finish. Drink solo, with seared tuna, or baked beetroot with goat's cheese.

Stockists: JNwine.com

Domaine de Begude Le Cerisier Pinot Noir 2020 Pays d'Oc Organic
12.5%, €16.95

Utterly delicious fragrant pure raspberry and red cherry fruits in perfect balance with a refreshing acidity. Try it with roast chicken or duck breast.

Stockists: O'Briens, Obrienswine.ie

Sipp Mack Tradition Pinot Noir Vieilles Vignes 2019 , Alsace, Organic
13%, €23.95

A suave elegant Pinot Noir that combines freshness with a certain opulence; delectable smooth dark cherry fruits that linger nicely. This should work nicely with roast pork or ham dishes.

Stockists: Mitchell & Son, D1, Sandycove, and Avoca, Kilmacanogue & Dunboyne, mitchellandson.com; Sweeneys D3, sweeneysd3.ie.