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Top Pinot Noirs under £30

Good Pinot Noir is unlikely to come cheaply, but the drinks business Global Pinot Noir Masters 2015 revealed where some of the best value under £30 can be found.

Over 350 examples of this grape variety from no fewer than 16 different countries were tasted by our panel of Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers, who tasted all entries blind in flights arranged by price bracket.

While this year’s results highlighted some very strong examples of Pinot Noir priced below £10, the top medals of Gold and Master only made an appearance above this point.

Sebastian Payne MW, buyer for The Wine Society, said of the wines tasted in the 2015 competition: “My overall impression is that the competition is hotting up. There seem to be more and more places all over the world getting things right.”

This broad regional scope for success is clearly illustrated by the top medal winners profiled over the following pages. For the full results and analysis from this year’s Global Pinot Noir Masters click here.

Mud House Estate, Claim 431 Pinot Noir 2012

The only wine to scoop a Master in this year’s competition, Mud House is emerging as one of New Zealand’s brightest stars under the guidance of Accolade Wines, who bought its parent company at the end of 2013.

With several tiers of Pinot Noir in the estate’s portfolio, this particular expression retails for around £18.99 and comes from the former gold mining region of Bendigo in Central Otago, where the soil is dominated by free-draining, mineral-rich schist gravel.

Having produced their first commercial vintage in 2006, the original 61 hectares of Pinot Noir planted here in 2003 have since been extended half as much again, including an extra 11.5ha added only last year, hopefully ensuring a plentiful supply as this wine’s profile grows.

David Nieuwoudt, Ghost Corner Pinot Noir 2013

Produced from vineyards right down at the southern tip of South Africa in Elim, this Pinot Noir forms part of a particularly exciting project from Cederberg owner and winemaker David Nieuwoudt.

While Nieuwoudt’s main Cederberg venture on the west coast derives much of its freshness and character from a position as the highest altitude vineyard in the Western Cape, his Ghost Corner wines come from some of the country’s most southerly vineyards, thereby benefiting from cool maritime breezes.

2013 marked only the second vintage of Ghost Corner Pinot Noir, so it’s worth trying to catch this super-star before more people discover it. This current vintage is on the shelves for around £19.99.

Akarua Pinot Noir 2011

New Zealand is hardly a recent discovery for most Pinot Noir fans, but this year’s competition further reinforced the breadth and consistency on offer here, with Akarua proving yet another name to watch.

Produced in the Bannockburn sub-region of Pinot Noir stronghold Central Otago, this wine comes from four different vineyard blocks planted on schist-based soil and retails for around £20.

Although the first vines were planted here by the Skeggs family back in 1996, there has been considerable expansion since then. 2008 marked a major restructuring programme, including the appointment of winemaker Matt Connell, and Akarau is now busy stepping up its export focus.

 Lowburn Ferry Wines, Home Block Pinot Noir 2011

Yet another gold medal winner from New Zealand, this expression from Lowburn Ferry Wines once again shows the strength of Central Otago Pinot Noir when pitched against peers from around the world.

Home Block is the flagship wine from this producer, made from grapes on the property’s Lowburn Ferry Vineyard. As the name suggests, these vineyards lie in the Lowburn Valley sub-region of Central Otago, close to the site where ferries used to cross the Clutha River. Planting here started in 2000, and for the moment at least there are just 3.5 hectares of Pinot Noir.

Ever since the maiden 2003 vintage, this estate has been attracting attention for its Pinot Noir, with this gold medal the latest in a string of accolades for a wine that retails for around £24.99.

Santolin Wines, Individual Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013

A welcome reminder of the high quality expressions of this grape variety that have long been made in Australia’s Yarra Valley, this wine represents a new generation of talent.

Santolin Wines was founded as recently as 2012 by Adrian Santolin and his wife Rebecca. Both had spent many years in the wine industry and decided to put that experience to use by creating their own project based on an ethos of minimal intervention in order to show off the individual character of these single vineyard expressions.

Although Santolin has since added a Chardonnay, Nero d’Avola and Sauvignon Blanc to its portfolio, Pinot Noir is Adrian’s original passion. This wine is made with grapes bought from the Syme on Yarra vineyard that is also the fruit source for Australia’s ambitious Thousand Candles project. Just 275 cases were produced but the wine costs around £25 per bottle if you’re able to find any.

Framingham Wines, Ribbonwood Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013

Yes, it’s another star wine from New Zealand, but this time offering a reminder that Central Otago does not have a monopoly on top notch Pinot Noir.

Owned by Marlborough’s Framingham Wines, Ribbonwood shares its roots in the Wairau Valley sub-region and takes its name from the native Ribbonwood tree, which is emblematic of this brand’s strong environmentally friendly ethos.

While Marlborough wines are known for their plush fruit, Ribbonwood Pinot Noir offers an additional dimension due to the fact that its vineyards are planted in an east-west direction. Grapes on the shaded south side of the vine bring a more herbaceous, complementary element to the final wine, which retails for around £14.

De Bortoli Wines, Yarra Valley Villages Pinot Noir 2013

From the mind-bogglingly broad stable of brands and styles offered by Australian producer De Bortoli comes this Pinot Noir from the company’s Yarra Valley heartland.

Drawing on hand-harvested fruit from Dixons Creek, Tarrawarra and Woori Yallock, the Villages Pinot has seen a dash of whole bunch fermentation with wild yeast, followed by nine months in French oak.

Coupled with the warm 2013 growing season, this treatment has resulted in an attractively perfumed, bright style whose juicy fruit is tempered by a dash of wood spice and satisfying texture. In short, at around £15 this represents an excellent value route into some grown up, very appealing Pinot Noir.

Viña Errazuriz Pinot Noir Max Reserva 2013

The only gold medal winner in 2015 from Chile, this Pinot Noir is just one of several exciting results to emerge so far from Errazuriz’s in-depth exploration of Aconcagua Costa.

The Manzanar Vineyard responsible for this wine was planted in 2005 and lies just 7.5 miles from the cooling Pacific Ocean. Underneath lies clay and schist-based rock, which adds a fresh, mineral-laced dimension to the ripe Chilean fruit.

This style is all part of head winemaker Francisco Baettig’s “less is more” approach to Pinot Noir, guided by the expertise of Errazuriz consultant Louis Michel Liger Belair of Vosne Romanée. Just try finding the same quality from Burgundy at this wine’s price tag of around £12.

Waipara Hills Pinot Noir 2013

Coming full circle, this list ends with another New Zealand wine from the Accolade Wines stable, this time from its Waipara Hills brand.

Working out at around £12 by the time it arrives in the UK, this wine boasts the same Claim 431 Vineyard source that is used by sister brand Mudhouse to such impressive effect. This expression, however, is a fair bit cheaper and is rounded out by a 3% dose of Marlborough fruit.

Central Otago may have originally attracted attention for its gold, but today it is the raw material harvested above ground that has attracted so many entrepreneurs to a region that is now firmly established as a major Pinot Noir stronghold.


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