Pinot noir, the holy grail of grapes – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community

Log In

Reset Password

Pinot noir, the holy grail of grapes

The term holy grail is, at times, used to refer to an elusive object or goal.

I use it in the way that many winemakers do as they strive to make a fine wine from a most difficult grape to work with.

August 18 is designated as the day where we celebrate the existence of one of the very first wine grapes, pinot noir, which has a history going back possibly 2,000 years — cabernet sauvignon was not born until the 1700s.

Although there are actually more than 1,000 clones of this vine, only 47 are authorised in France for winemaking and 16 in the United States. I am a particular fan of Dijon 777 clone that has a wonderful velvet richness and I should mention that most of these wines are a blend of various clones.

Constant experimentation is going on and this could easily change. So let us travel and select some of the most interesting pinot noir from the cool areas that so suit its finicky character.

Ritual 2016 Pinot Noir is produced using organic methods in the Casablanca Valley of Chile. A medium-bodied pinot noir with remarkable floral, cherry and raspberry aromas, on the mouth it has bright fruit flavours with a wonderful texture and extraordinary acidity. Smooth and balanced with a long, silky and velvety finish; ideal with grilled tuna and seafood risotto. It receives fine ratings for a wine that costs a modest $26.45 and proves the value that Chile offers us. Our stock is #6190.

Critic James Suckling rates it 93/100 and writes: “This is a high-toned and focused red with strawberry, lemon and cherry aromas and flavours. Medium to full body, vivid fruit and a long and flavourful finish. Screw cap. Drink now or hold.”

Also at 93/100 is Tim Atkin who comments: “French and American pinot clones supply the raw material for this partially whole bunch fermented red, aged in 15 per cent new oak. Textured, aromatic and summer pudding sweet, with fine tannins and some grip.”

We travel north some 6,000 miles and I imagine that I am standing on Fisherman's Wharf and gazing out past Alcatraz Island to focus on the distant shoreline of the Carneros District that runs along the southern end of Sonoma and Napa valleys. This is the Spanish word for sheep and, like pinot noir, this animal loves a chilly, fog swept climate.

Etude 2017 Carneros Estate Pinot Noir is vibrant red ruby in colour and it shows lifted red berry fruit flavours and aromas of fresh strawberry, Bing cherry and raspberry, along with the signature cinnamon graham cracker spice found in their Grace Benoist Ranch pinot noirs. Appealing and bright, concentrated red fruit comes through on the palate alongside delicate mineral earth and spice notes followed by a lush mouthfeel and silky tannins. It is youthful and fresh but with the potential to age for up to tenyears. This is another 93-pointer from Suckling. $56; stock #6282.

If we leave Carneros and drive a mere 45 miles northwest we find ourselves in the “Burgundy of the west” as the Russian River Valley is often called. It is so named for the Russian fur traders who hunted here in the 1800s and — you guessed it — cool climate equals lush furs and happy pinot noir.

In the latter part of the 1970s my wife and I first visited Rodney Strong Vineyards and I am always a fan of their consistently fine Russian River Pinot Noir, as every vintage seems to be so drinkable. In fact, the Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast both award our current 2016 91/100. It has lovely aromas of red fruit, flowers 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 14 months in small French oak barrels, which added a hint of toasty vanilla and spice complexity. Enjoy this pinot noir with mushroom risotto and grilled pork tenderloin and it just sings with salmon and tuna. $31.55; stock #6501.

Now to find ourselves on a parallel north shared with the birthplace of pinot noir (Burgundy) we must drive another 575 miles north to the Willamette Valley in Oregon and it is here that the historic Burgundy firm of Drouhin was the first from France to found a winery in this area so alike their homeland.

Domaine Drouhin Cuvée Laurène 2015 Pinot Noir is named after Véronique Drouhin's elder daughter Laurène. This is the winery's flagship wine, and is produced entirely from pinot noir grown on the family's estate in the Dundee Hills. All of the fruit is handpicked into small totes, destemmed, fermented with indigenous yeasts and then placed into barrels — French oak, never more than 20 per cent new. Once the vintage is safely in the cellar, Véronique begins the process of selecting barrels which have an extra complexity, length and depth — barrels that will work together as Laurène. As Drouhin does in France, they farm all their land biodynamically and use these guidelines in their winery as well.

Critical acclaim from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate reads: “Pale to medium ruby-purple in colour, the 2015 pinot noir Laurène is intensely scented of cranberries, wild strawberries and raspberry leaves with nuances of underbrush.

“Delicious already but quite age worthy for a decade at least. Thyme and yeast extract, medium-bodied, fine, fresh and tightly wound at this youthful stage, it delivers plenty of depth and expression and the long finish is beautifully framed with a commendable texture.” 93/100. Wine Enthusiast also awards it 93 points. $59.15; stock #8076.

I realise that our trip has not taken us to the two other areas in the world with geographical positions about the same distance from the equator as Drouhin in Oregon and so there is still time, next week before World Pinot Noir Day, to share wines from Burgundy in France and Central Otago in New Zealand.

I cannot end without expressing the sadness I feel by reading today (August 5) that Robin Blackburne is no longer with us. I first met Robin back in the early 1970s when I sold him some IBM equipment for his office and at that time had no idea what the initials MW meant after his name, or how rare and special they are.

I believe that there are 393 Masters of Wine worldwide today. Our last time to enjoy some wine together was about a year ago, when fittingly, the tasting was of his much loved bordeaux reds and the participants were studying for their WSET, Wine & Spirit Education Trust, exams. We were fortunate to have Robin in Bermuda and I have certainly enjoyed chatting with him over many, many years.

This column is a paid for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Written by Michael Robinson for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. He can be contacted at Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East. 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355)

Perfect partnership: Michael Robinson promises that the Ritual 2016 Pinot Noir is ideal with grilled tuna, pictured, or alternatively, seafood risotto

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published August 07, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated August 07, 2020 at 10:24 am)

Pinot noir, the holy grail of grapes

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon