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Pinot noir, a refreshing summer drink

I will start by admitting that in our home we often drink red wines at slightly higher temperatures than what is considered the traditional norm, but one has to be careful not to have them too warm during this hot season.

At our room temperature, which may be 75F+, reds will start to taste clumsy and jammy. Most recommendations are to serve cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah and malbec at 65F to 70F. However today I want to suggest pinot noir, that at about 55F will be more refreshing on a summer’s day.

Gamay, used to produce beaujolais, and grenache also reveal themselves better at cooler temperatures but pinot noir is the best-known cooler-served varietal and it has learnt to thrive in cool growing areas and microclimates around the world.

There are records showing reference to a grape in the first century that was thought to be pinot noir and so its roots in the Burgundy region of France are historic. A few days ago, I stopped by our store on Harbour Road in Paget and I was rather amazed by the amount of red burgundy that customers were buying, so let us start at the top and discuss 2018 Joseph Drouhin Clos des Mouches.

This is an exceptional wine that is a beautiful deep red ruby colour, with the bright sheen of great burgundies. Intense and fresh nose as it is young. Primary notes of red fruit dominate, such as Morello cherry, raspberry and blackberry. There are hints of complexity with smoky flavours evolving towards liquorice. While the wine is maturing, aromas of pepper, tobacco, humus and undergrowth appear.

When drinking the wine, the first impression is clear-cut and fleshy. The body is firm without being rough, well meshed without being heavy. There is great freshness in the younger wine but with age, the wine will get rounder. It will take on “gras” (velvety texture) and a more precise architecture, supported by silky tannins. It is lively and refined at the same time. There remains a final and most pleasing sensation of harmony, fullness and delicate tannins, as the wine lingers on the palate.

James Suckling awards it 95/100 and writes: “A perfumed and spicy wine with ripe strawberries, smoke and chocolate. Full, very savoury and intense. Long aftertaste with lots of perfume. Fine, creamy texture. Really spicy at the finish.” This does cost $120 which reflects the small production of great burgundy and the large demand for these beautiful wines. This one really sets a benchmark and our allocation is very small due to very limited production. (Stock #8194)

Pinot noir is not a common sight in Tuscany, in fact a rather amusing story goes that the Pancrazi family planted a sangiovese vineyard that proved difficult to achieve good results from. One day a visiting vine expert had a close look at the vines and informed the owners that they had been sold pinot noir by mistake. Management and production methods were immediately changed and now for many years they have been producing one of Italy’s best pinot noirs. Incidentally, it is not always an easy task to identify one vine from another.

Our 2014 Pancrazi Villa di Bagnolo Pinot Noir is full and warm with rounded flavours of cherry, black currant, oak, charcoal, and roasted hazelnut. As pinot noir ages the bright fruits fade a bit and gradually are enhanced by what the French call “barnyard aromas”. Although this may not sound enticing, it shows the animal side of this complex grape and I hope that the Italians will not mind me saying that this Pancrazi offering is quite burgundian. $35.30 (Stock #8744)

Central Otago in South Island New Zealand lies about the same distance south from the equator as Burgundy and Oregon do in the north. We offer 2019 Mt Difficulty Roaring Meg Central Otago Pinot Noir that may be the entry level pinot from Mt Difficulty, but it punches well above many other wines from Central Otago. Made in a 'drink-now' style it has a sweet-fruited and super smooth palate with the classic Central Otago notes of berries and dried herbs. Coming from a top producer, Roaring Meg is a no-brainer when you need a crowd pleasing, great tasting, easy-drinking pinot noir.

Wild raspberry and red cherry characters dominate while soft sweet brown spice characters add in detail. Savoury red cherry notes and fine elegant tannins rise out of the mid-palate and with wild raspberry notes drive the finish with fine acidity. $31 (Stock #8644)

The Russian River Valley in California is often referred to as “the Burgundy of California” and it was here in 1968 that Rodney Strong was one of the first to plant pinot noir.

The 2017 Rodney Strong Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir has lovely aromas of red fruit, floral and earth. With a soft and silky texture, on the palate dark cherry, cranberry, and baking spice characteristics shine through with balance, acidity and a nice lingering finish. This medium bodied wine was aged for 11 months in small French oak barrels, which added a hint of toasty vanilla and spice complexity. Wilfred Wong of Wine.com gives it a 90/100 and calls it “pleasing, bright and focused on the palate with ripe red fruit and hints of savoury spices”. $31.55 (Stock #6501)

We started with a highly rated Drouhin wine and in this manner, we will end by travelling to Oregon where this family farms biodynamically, as they do in France.

James Suckling describes their 2017 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir this way: “So delicious with very vibrant red cherries and a wealth of fresh red flowers and a reticent, spicy edge. The palate has a succulent, pure and very neatly defined feel with a long, chiselled core of fresh red cherries. So pure. 94/100.” $44.35 (Stock #8077)

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

Critic James Suckling awards the 2018 Joseph Drouhin Clos des Mouches 95/100

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Published June 25, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated June 23, 2021 at 12:51 pm)

Pinot noir, a refreshing summer drink

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