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Wither Pinot Noir?


If there is one grape to get those on here enthused, bemused, angry or indifferent it has to be Pinot Noir.
The recent WS Burgundy ‘offer’ careful with that word, was a typical starting gun for opinions on the prices, alternatives style you name it opinion was given, nowadays it is ever thus.

My own position is well known to those who bother to read my comments, going all the way back to that seminal bottle of '66 Clos de Beze by Rousseau purchased for a song around '70 as a bin end, oh happy days, my complete falling out with rip off Burgundy in following years, not just for the price but the appalling lack of quality control, at those prices I really don’t want 50% poor bottles, so I stopped buying it, simple as that.

But the new world and other alternatives have revived my interest to a degree, mainly out of curiosity, it wont be a mirror image of the Cote d’Or but I would not expect it to be, but could they give a decent substitute at a reasonable price.

I cannot give a definitive answer to that at this juncture, I doubt anyone can, but my thoughts and tastings are here in a small way for you to read agree, disagree or provide your own take on the grape.

The first obvious large scale effort to grab a piece of the Pinot Noir sales was from NZ, it now as a an earlier article said on here with SB takes the Lions share of NZ sales abroad, has despite the sales, it been a total success, not for me, from the start far to many were thin, green, bland, the use of unripe fruit shone throughout far to many of the PNs that across the seas, even going up the price scale was not a guarantee of ripe fruit.

That has changed but really from the ones I have drunk only further up the price scale, the lower levels whilst improved are to me rather bland still, a good example was from Villa Maria, a reliable brand across the board, their PN was on offer, that word again, at 25 % off and already reduced so a no brainer to buy, was it worth it, perfectly drinkable and instantly forgettable for at normal prices a £15 wine, the first PN from NZ I thought was decent was a Saint Clair at around £25, nothing from there at below that price has been to me worth bothering with, need less to say my tasting has been limited so usual disclaimers pile in.

Chile is interesting, no problem it seems with ripe fruit in fact the reverse of NZ to ripe or unbalanced seems to be the big problem, but they are giving PN the full treatment with the use of high altitude sites and different latitudes as well as the usual different site variations, Cono Sur part of Concho y Toro has as much as been given the brief to go for PN in a big way, they already hold sway in the entry class with Bicicleta seen everywhere and sold in large quantities, doesn’t do much for me but at that price you at least recognise it is PN which is more than some can say, and that is a feature of nearly all Chilean PNs they have the fruit, as they up their game and start producing at more premium levels it will be interesting to see the results.
Germany’s resurgence with the grape is largely down to the change in the weather, thin pale Spatburgunder has given way to ripe fruit and a totally different wine, I can’t give an opinion on a personal level as I have drunk so little of it so far, my only contribution is a case of Holger-Koch top cuvee in my cellar, not quite ready yet, but not long…
What is good about Germany’s new prominence is that they are not new to this difficult grape they have been growing it for 500 years so they know full well how to take advantage of the weather they are now getting and it bodes well.

The USA as with so many of their wines prices itself out of the market on many wines, they also have no problem with ripe fruit and because as a drinking nation of their own wines and the fact they like full on styles jammy PN does appear to often a terrible example I had earlier this year was a bottle of 667 PN from Waitrose, best described as drinking high alcohol diluted strawberry jam, awful but all part of the investigation, two surprises at the cheap end were a Trapiche PN from Agentina at around £6.50 perfectly drinkable and a the big cheapie winner the own label Waitrose Romanian PN when on offer, as in cheaper, coming in at a ridiculous £4.75.

Of others readily available the Cono Sur reserva especial at around £9 is a good buy, the Errazuriz Coastal series is drinkable, as in enjoyable without having to worry about things like terroir, and the Tescos Hans Baer Spatburgunder at £6 was awful despite the plaudits in the press, must have been a hug involved to get those write ups.
Santa Ritas Chilean PN like so many left that slightly jammy almost sickly taste at the end but if you don’t mind that was also drinkable, I even drank Tescos own label Marlboro PN at around £9, this has been oak casked according to the label which made it drinkable and hid the pale fruit used, not for me.
So we come to the end of a small trawl, poetic licence there, leaves just two others both from the WS TARRAH !

Firstly this from Concho y Toro


at £8.50 not much wrong with this at all, have tried it a couple of times and enjoyed, got the fruit but avoids the jamminess, good buy and for me as good as any in the lower up to £20 bracket.
And lastly this one drunk last night in company, a lot more to it well balanced berry/ forest floor slight strawberry nose, cherries plums blackberry in there in the mouth, nice wine but spoilt itself at the end by evolving into a slightly more jammy version, up to then the clear winner of all the cheapie, relative PNs ihave tasted.

I really only included that picture to show off my own self grown and trimmed topiary in the background before the dreaded box disease caterpillar gets it as it runs rampant through the country virtually unstoppable.
I am sure you all have your own take on PN having said so much about it anyway recently.


Friends from America brought a bottle of this Baker and Brain PN 2011.
It was stunning!


IMO there’s no such thing as “Pinot Noir”, there are only clones of PN, some producing wines so different from each other that tasted side by side they taste like different varieties.

Most PN wine is a blend of different clones. You actually had a single clone wine, the 667 which is an old Dijon clone considered one of the best. But throw in rootstock, terroir and winemaking regime and its a spin of the dice.

I gave up on Burgundy a long time ago, too much horrible wine. I don’t drink much PN now, but I look to Central Otago, Willamette Valley and Hemel-in-Arde for PN enjoyment.

They’re not Burgundy, which is – for me – a plus.


Update. Seems ‘667’ isn’t a single clone wine…

To achieve greater flavor complexity, we utilize other esteemed vine stocks such as Pinot Noir 777 (also from Dijon, Burgundy), and 115 which provides less structure but contributes extraordinary aromatics. We also source Pinot Noir from nearby vineyards in Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands and Arroyo Seco AVAs

Source: https://www.noblevines.com/wines/pinot-noir.html


Another good one and from a country who’s Pinot seems to be benefiting from global warming.

I think we all agree that burgundy is over priced but as recently attended wine lunch confirmed it can be so good and the styles so varied that you won’t need any other areas if you were very wealthy and a bit dull.


Germany seems to be a prime spot. Agree on the Wassmer (relative) cheapie, also Aldinger.

Austria and Slovenia are also making increasingly good Pinot. N Italy improving too. Can Rafols near Barcelona have a great take on the grape too (Carlos Esteva doesn’t make anything that isn’t seriously good).

Not that impressed with NZ at the lower end, and I haven’t yet found a Chilean I’ve really liked. From SA I’ve enjoyed Newton Johnson a lot, but have had some poor ones too.


If you can find them in the UK, have a look for PN from Patagonia in Argentina. PN is also being produced at height in the Uco Valley and Salta. Patagonia is delivering ‘pretty’ lighter wines around Neuquén. Schroeder, Humberto Canale (Rio Negro) and Chacra are some names to look out for.


Humberto Canale do a really nice one from there, I believe @szaki1974 has also tried it .


And very nice it looks too.
Have to admit we spray our box with something fairly nasty. While the rest of the garden is pretty much run on organic lines. All the neighbours have serious caterpillar defoliation.

As to PN, Martinborough has always been a favourite area, drinking a 2013 of this at present

And Marlborough PNs are improving after a poor start. Try Seresin Raupo creek.

Marjan Simcic from Slovenia, and the Canale from Patagonia both worth a look.

And Willamette Valley, not had a bad bottle of this yet.


It is difficult at this stage to know if the caterpillar is stoppable, the RHS give this advice…
the problem with the pesticides advised is they are very expensive for more than a couple of plants and the suggestion is as here…
means that the private gardener can’t get hold of the chemicals that really work, the the Box Tree Nursery said they had to spray eight times last season to keep the box alive, the big problem is that the moth/ caterpillar has no natural enemies here where as in Japan where it comes from it has a hornet that kills them off.
I have a collection of topiary and it will be sad if they succumb, the big spirals in the pot you see took twenty years to reach that size, more than a lot of Bordeaux, but it is nature and if it happens something will replace them, they have given years of pleasure, I also have some large variegated box topiary, this resisted the box blight much better than the green variety, not sure if it will resist the caterpillar.

Back to PN, interesting you recommend the same Williamette Valley as PeterM did I shall have to give that one a try, I should have added that there is some pretty awful generic PN coming out of France, they should be ashamed they put it on the market.


Being unable to afford to drink much burgundy and finding little satisfaction in what I can afford, I share your efforts to drink elsewhere.

I can second @Kent_wino’s recommendation of the Lemelson Pinot noir (though a previous vintage). Somehow didn’t manage to finish on day 1 and it was sublime on day 2, so probably worth decanting.

Willamette valley in Oregon well worth exploring further. It is massive though and there’s sure to be a lot of variation.

I also think the Germans know what they’re doing now, lots of really good producers all over, I particularly enjoyed this the weekend before last:


Some of the best PN I enjoy is from Tasmania - the only problem is trying to find the good stuff over here! TWS does occasional help by stocking some of the Freycinet Vineyard “Second” Pinot Noir.

Their top PN is something else and was rated in the latest Langton Classifications. Surprisingly a few years ago TWS stocked vintages of this wine.

Basic Devils Corner PN is not bad and for the UK is probably one of the easiest Tasmanian PN’s to get including TWS.

However, they do on exceptional years make a premium PN from a block of vines across the road from Freycinet: Their Mount Amos. I’ve never seen it for sale in the UK and it’s pretty limited production with numbered bottles. They’ve made two vintages so far.

Just down the road from Devils Corner & Freycinet in the little settlement of Cranbrook are two stars of the East Coast PN scene - Gala Estate & Spring Vale. Gala’s Estate PN and Constable Amos PN frequently wine awards and praise from Huon Hooke etc. Unfortunately this will not reach the UK.

Spring Vale has once reached these shores and they have a nice line of older PN’s which are reaching a very good sweet point!

We visit Tasmania every year to visit my partner’s Mum, it’s now turned into a PN feast and wine shopping expedition. It’s a hard task…but someone has to do it!


I have had two excellent Mornington PNs this year - a Finisterre and a Circe. Both have had a combination of lightness, complexity and depth which I have never spent enough money on Burgundy to find. As with many premium PN sites, good value wines from there are becoming harder to find. I have also had a good NZ PN, which is the Paddy Borthwick, but my wider experience of NZ Pinot (and Syrah) has been less encouraging.


No one has yet mentioned Alsace, and pinot noir is certainly on an upward curve there. It seems to be a combination of warmer weather, and winemakers getting to grips with how to make a more Burgundian style, but there has been a clear progression over the last ten years from rather light yet often overly tannic reds to quite a good choice of high quality pinot.

Some producers have been making good examples for years: Marcel Deiss’s St Hippolyte and Burlenberg, and Paul Blanck (especially “F” from the Furstenstum) are a couple we’ve enjoyed. There’s a lot more available now, though, even from small producers such as this Christian Barthel wine which I believe @inbar enjoyed in Strasbourg.

We’ve also had some lovely pinot noir from Kuentz-Bas and Vincent Stoeffler, and Bruno Sorg make a good one too.


Indeed I did! It was a really pleasant surprise!
We also thoroughly enjoyed a 2015 Hugel Pinot Noir ‘Classic’, which reinforced the fact that Alsatian PN is getting better and better (even at an entry level wine). It was all earth and Black Forest gateaux! :heart_eyes:


I’ve not had the opportunity to taste more than a half dozen, fairly basic Burgundy’s and only 1 or 2 were notably delicious. I have enjoyed a few NZ Pinot’s with the best being from Otago, but they can be variable in quality and there’s no guarantee that the quality increases with price, in my experience.

Chile, however has proved much more interesting and while the wines may be more fruit driven, they are usually VGV. I have enjoyed these wines especially:

All show good fruit, but with the more interesting forest floor, farmyard and mocha aromas and flavours.

I too rate the Lemelson Thea’s Selection Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2015 - delicious yet complex and not too expensive.

By interesting co-incidence, this weekend, I opened the first Crystallum from the TWS mixed case of a year or two ago. On it’s first day, I was struck by the near orange rim of the poured wine, which is also really pale, even more so than German Pinot’s I have tried.

There was some strawberry fruit, good acidity and an interesting, complex aroma and taste; not so much farmyard or forest floor, but unmistakenly PN. Yesterday, the nose had morphed into really tertiary characteristics, predominantly a mellow coffee aroma which persists in my memory even now. Without the alcohol, it could easily have been a latte that I was smelling - an amazing wine experience! Really looking forward to the rest of the case :grin:


I am with you on the Wassmer.

N Italy have a couple of interesting ones too. Also agree with bottom end NZ. Better at the £20-30 ish level, but you can still just about get reasonable burgundy for that. Chilean, I kind of agree, it just doesn’t taste right. SA - not had one I like yet and have had a few. Prefer Oregon/Washington.

Alternative for me is Greek from Thymiopoulos. It may not be Pinot Noir, but it’s very close, and better than most.


Looking forward to trying this now. Thanks for the note.


Totally agree about the Thymiopoulos. And yes, I do think the best value to find a good value Burgundy “substitute” is not to buy Pinot at all - think Xinomavro, Ribeira Sacra Mencia or perhaps best of all Cerasuolo di Vittoria. Maybe also mountain Nebbiolo or Nerello Mascalese, but value starting to be an issue there too.


I only have one of the six bottles of the mixed case left…