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Pinot noir and Easter treats

Ritual Winery vineyard in Chile (Photograph supplied)

The weather is still deciding whether it should be winter or summer and so, as we gather to fly kites and indulge in fishcakes on hot cross buns or enjoy Easter ham, I thought that mid-bodied Southern Hemisphere pinot noirs would be appropriate. Although I avoid talk of pandemics and politics, I just have to say that I have made my own kite and will fly the flag colours of blue and yellow high.

Located in the midst of the Colchagua Valley in Chile, Cono Sur’s winery and cellar are equipped with cutting-edge technology. In 1999 they inaugurated an annex especially designed for the vinification of pinot noir, where ancient Burgundian winemaking traditions blend with the New World’s forefront technology. Soon after, they built another cellar which is used exclusively for premium pinot noir wines and has a capacity of 60,000 cases. We stock more of this than any other pinot noir, which speaks of its popularity.

Canadian critic Natalie Maclean writes: “A smooth, mouth-watering, berry-ripe Chilean red wine made from the pinot noir grape. I challenge you to find pinot noir this delicious at this low a price. Lots of ripe and fleshy cherry aromas and flavours. Pair with roast chicken, pasta, grilled poultry, seafood and mild fish – 88/100.” 2019 Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir sells for $17.65 (Stock #7835).

Staying in the same valley we can visit a winery founded by Agustin Huneeus, a visionary and pioneer in Chilean wine now making a name for himself in Napa Valley. Their 2019 Veramonte Pinot Noir is fresh, delicate and silky with expressive aromas of raspberries, red cherries and strawberries. It is a delicate and fresh wine with balanced tannins and silky mouthfeel. Veramonte harvests their pinot noir at night for perfect balance and they employ organic methods in all their vineyards. At $19.85 this is another very much party-priced offering. (Stock #6189).

Ritual estate is situated in the extreme eastern end of Chile’s Casablanca Valley, set against the dramatic sweeping beauty of the coastal range and heavily influenced by the cooling effects of the Pacific Ocean and Humboldt Current – ideal growing conditions for cool climate wines. Following organic practices, the winemaking team uses compost to feed the soils to promote a balanced and self-regulated ecosystem, cover cropping and seeding for revitalising the soils, and sheep to help mow the grass and act as a natural fertiliser. The vineyards are surrounded by 6,000 acres of native forest (about half the size of our island home), creating a balanced, biodiverse landscape for healthy vines to thrive alongside natural wildlife corridors and native vegetation. The 2018 Ritual Pinot Noir is a truly lovely wine, and it is also the end result of work done by the renowned Agustin Huneeus.

For a comparison I will go again to Natalie MacLean who scores this wine an impressive 93/100 and writes: “Ritual 2018 Pinot Noir is fragrant with fresh raspberry, sous bois, green herbs and sweet baking spice flavours balanced with brilliant acidity on the palate. The organically grown pinot noir grapes for this wine were sourced from Chile's Casablanca Valley. Tannins are rich and supple. A very elegant pinot noir ready to drink now or hold for a year or two.” $26 (Stock #6190).

Now we travel about 6,000 miles across our world’s largest ocean and arrive in New Zealand, another area where pinot noir flourishes. Oyster Bay winery in Marlborough has been one of the leaders when it comes to the popularity of New Zealand wines, and I would like to offer you their 2020 Oyster Bay Marlborough Pinot Noir. It would be exciting if we still had stocks of their 2019 that rated a quite incredible 95 points and also earned a gold medal at the International Wine Challenge in London, the most rigorous, impartial and influential annual wine competition – but that vintage is sold out.

With pinot noir the fruit is always the primary focus. Marlborough’s warm days and cool nights make it an ideal climate for growing this famously temperamental grape. Matured in French oak barrels the result is fragrant, soft and flavourful, with aromas of ripe cherries and sweet fruit tannins that provide structure and length. Oyster Bay’s elegant, cool climate pinot noir is always consistent and tasty. $26.90 (Stock #6903).

Matua was the very first winery to plant and produce sauvignon blanc in New Zealand, back in 1974. But that is not our story today as I wish to tell you about their 2020 Matua Marlborough Pinot Noir. It is a vibrant cherry colour, exuding an aroma of sweet raspberry complemented with sweet and spicy oak, just hinting at the layers and depth of fresh and fruity flavours. Bright and energetic to taste, it is brimming with red fruit and soft, supple tannins, perfectly seasoned with a dash of oak for those light toasty notes. $23.95 (Stock #8572).

Any wine made by the Seresin Estate in Marlborough is stupendous and here is what reviews of their 2017 Seresin Leah Pinot Noir (named after the daughter of Michael Seresin) have to say:

Decanter magazine: “93 points, made from a blend of handpicked organic fruit (worked biodynamically) from three estate vineyards, yielding just two bottles per vine. It has great concentration and purity of ripe cherry fruit, showing lovely vibrancy and freshness allied to fine tannins and fresh acidity. Elegant drinking now but with the structure to age.” (For anyone wondering, ten bottles per vine is probably a world average.)

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: “ 91+/100, seductive scents of roses, black tea, strawberries and cherries mark the nose of the 2017 Leah pinot noir. Medium-bodied, dusty and cool, it's long on the finish, ending on notes of pomegranate-like tartness.” $31.75 (Stock #8716).

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

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Published April 14, 2022 at 7:54 am (Updated April 14, 2022 at 7:54 am)

Pinot noir and Easter treats

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