This article was first published in The Irish Times Saturday 27th October, 2018
There is something distinctly autumnal about pinot noir; the earthy, leafy forest-floor aromas of a mature wine, the soft, ripe mellow fruits, even the whiff of wood smoke at times. It also goes so well with all sorts of game birds, rabbit and venison that come into season now.
Pinot noir was once the holy grail of most winemakers. It was famously fussy to grow, and equally difficult to fashion into a drinkable wine. It was also very expensive, whether from its home territory in Burgundy or elsewhere.
Yet many winemakers seem to have overcome these difficulties as most retail outlets now have a selection from around the world, often at very affordable prices. Chile probably leads the way for decent inexpensive pinot, followed by New Zealand.
Recently, various retailers have started selling very drinkable Romanian pinot noir for about €10. O’Briens is the latest with the Wildflower Pinot, €8.95 for November and December.
The Mornington Peninsula and Tasmania make Australia’s finest pinot noir, but sadly at a higher price; O’Briens has the Stonier Pinot Noir for €23.95 for November and December. California and Oregon produce some exquisite pinots, sadly at even higher prices; see Jus de Vine, Deveney’s and 64 Wine for these. You can also find very high-quality pinot noir from Germany, but mostly over €20, one exception being the very tasty Palataia Pinot for €14.80 (Marks & Spencer).
For many years, the rest of France struggled to produce decent pinot noir. Not any more; the Loire, Alsace, Limoux and the Languedoc all offer good wines, often at very affordable prices. O’Briens has the delicious juicy Begude Pinot Noir (€16.95) or at entry level, Aldi have the light Roussellet (€7.49). From the Loire, look to the soft ripe La Petite Perrière from SuperValu (€9 on promotion) and Whelehan’s in Loughlinstown has the vibrant la Roncière Pinot Noir 2015 for €17, alongside other great pinots from around the world.
Value for money
But back to Burgundy; I have written here before about how prices for the top wines are rocketing. Recently however, I have come across a number of very reasonably priced Bourgogne rouge. By reasonable, I mean about €20, but both the wines below offer real value for money. The most interesting tend to come from the best domaines of the Côte d’Or.
Burgundy Direct (burgundydirect.ie), as the names suggests, has an expertise in the area; their list contains many gems. Elsewhere you will find the Bourgogne Rouge Domaine J. C. Regnaudot for €21.95 in many independents.
Pinot noir is one of the most food-friendly grapes of all. Lighter versions go well with chargrilled salmon, tuna or roast Mediterranean vegetables. Medium-bodied wines, including most Burgundy, will make a memorable partner for the above-mentioned game birds, baked ham or a mushroom risotto.
Domaine de Mandeville Pinot Noir 2017, IGP Pays d’Oc
Smooth ripe red cherry fruits with an attractive earthy touch. Try it with game pie.
Stockists Marks & Spencer, marksandspencer.ie
Domaine de Brau Pure Pinot Noir 2017, VDP d’Oc Organic/Vegan
Herbal aromas, medium-bodied with dark cherry fruits and a pleasant earthy touch. A very attractive wine and very good value too. Try it with chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce.
Stockists Clontarf Wines, clontarfwines.ie; Urru, Bandon, urru.ie; Scally’s, Clonakilty, Supervaluclon.ie; Connemara Hamper, Connemarahamper.com; Quay Co-op, Cork, quaycoop.com.
Bourgogne Rouge 2015, Domaine Maurice Charleux
Lively refreshing brambly blackberry and red cherry fruits; smooth, concentrated and ripe. Lovely wine and great value for money. With a grilled breast of duck or roast mallard.
Stockists Burgundy Direct, burgundydirect.ie
Bourgogne Rouge 2016, Domaine de la Vierge Romain, Machard de Gramont
Very seductive smoky spicy dark cherries with good acidity and a smooth long finish. Try it with roast game birds.
Stockists Karwig Wines, Carrigaline, karwigwines.ie; The Vintry, Dublin 6, vintry.ie; The Cinnamon Cottage, Cork, cinnamoncottage.ie.