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Raising a toast to pinot noir
RED burgundy is like the holy grail for wine lovers. (Some might call it a bug - once bitten, you are smitten!) Comparing pinot noirs from different regions provides for a fascinating as well as instructive tasting.
Thus the incessant search for pinot noir wines from viticultural regions outside of the Cote d'Or, notably the Sonoma Valley in the United States, Adelaide Hills in South Australia, Bannockburn in Central Otago, New Zealand, Rheinpfalz in Germany, etc.
Mount Difficulty Pinot Noir 2004, Central Otago
A surprisingly youthful bright medium-hued red (for its age of 12 years) with a fine pinot aroma of ripe red berries. Good ripeness of fruit and density of texture, good flavour of pinot (like red and black berry fruit), finishing very long with a light tannic edge.
Lacks the transparency of texture and palate of Cote d'Or wines, but otherwise good, and very acceptable stand-in for burgundy proper.
I have been consistently impressed by this wine since I first made its acquaintance.
Note: Not available here at the moment. This bottle was imported from Australia.
Kammerberg Spatburgunder 2007, Weingut Friedrich Becker, Rheinpfalz
A transparent youthful medium ruby-red, an attractive light aroma of fresh pinot berries, good density and balance of ripe fruit, good medium-weight body, has medium complexity but good length.
Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chenes 2003, Domaine des Comtes Lafon, Meursault, Cote de Beaune
Very dark garnet-red, a beautiful light youthful pinot aroma of ripe strawberries; full-bodied, very ripe fruit, good length, with long finish. Classic Lafon Volnay.
The wines of Volnay are noteworthy for their greater lushness than those from the Cote d'Nuits.
There used to be some degree of snobbishness which regarded the wines of the Cote de Beaune inferior, or at least not as "classy" as those from the Cote de Nuits.
Today, this is gone, and the true worth of the wines of Volnay and Pommard is fully realised. I remember with great wistfulness the lovely Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Ducs (monopole) 1988, Marquis d'Angerville, and the glorious Pommard Clos des Epeneaux 1er cru, 1985, Comte Armand, of which I had the good fortune to acquire a case of each. And I shall always remember the most gracious Marquis d'Angerville to whom I paid a visit one Saturday morning at 9.00 am, and was very kindly received by the Marquis who answered my knock on the door himself.
I was embarrassed to have encroached on his Saturday morning; "Not a bit", he charmingly disarmed me.
Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 2006, Domaine Ponsot, Morey-Saint-Denis
A youthful, very dark purple-red, with a very pure light pinot aroma; a big wine on the palate, good ripeness, very dense, good length but still backward. I had the impression that this wine showed signs of over-extraction.
Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 1999, Domaine Armand Rousseau, Chambertin
Medium-hued, amber-red, with beautiful light, floating, haunting aroma of freshly ripe red berry fruit. On the palate, still a youthful wine at 17 years' age, lightly tannic medium-bodied, lovely wine.
The most famous and sought-after producer of Chambertin, based in Gevrey-Chambertin, his wines are benchmark Chambertins.
They need long-ageing but will well repay the patience. These are wines which would be a shame to open under 10 years of age.
Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru La Combe d'Orveau 2005, Domaine Anne Gros, Vosne-Romanee
Medium-dark ruby red, a still youthful colour for its age of 11 years. Lovely aroma, fresh and fragrant, of ripe red and black berry fruit. Medium-weight on palate, mouth-watering fruit, perfectly ripe, long lingering finish. A triumph.
Two non-Burgundian Pinots tasted/drunk in company side by side with the first three true-blue Burgundians last week, while the last, the Anne Gros wine, was drunk last night. Anne Gros's Burgundies are much sought-after and well worth the effort.
It should be noted that the Burgundies were from four of the best and most sought-after names in Burgundy.
Their names hardly need introduction, but for the benefit of readers, the Burgundian vintages 1999 and 2005 have been rated very good, with 2006 just a shade less good.
The Mount Difficulty Estate is in Bannockburn, Central Otago, the best wine-growing region in New Zealand, and was formed in the early 1990s when the owners of five newly-planted vineyards in Bannockburn got together to produce wine under one label, Mt Difficulty.
Mt Difficulty Wines Ltd was formally established in 2004. Its wines rank among the best of New Zealand's wines today.
It was not surprising that this 2004 pinot noir showed creditably well against a line-up of Cote D'Or's best.
Among New Zealand pinots noirs, I have found Mt Difficulty a very acceptable non-Burgundian pinot.
How do these non-Burgundian pinot noirs differ from Burgundies from the Cote d'Or? The most noticeable differences that are easily noticeable are the greater ripeness of the fruit, the denser-bodied texture, the more intense aroma, quite heavy in some cases, and the thicker, more intense taste on the palate.
The thickness of the taste is perhaps the most noticeable difference. The transparency and "floating" attributes I associate with Burgundian pinot noirs are noticeably missing.
Differences in the taste of non-Burgundian pinot noirs are to be expected and inherent in the differences in their climates and terroirs.
Of course the chief attraction of non-Burgundian pinots is that they do not cost an arm and a leg and are more readily available and more accessible.
- The writer is involved in the distribution of Becker's wines