Close Menu
Slideshow

Pinot Noir Masters 2017: Results & analysis

‘Care and attention’ is, according to Miles, the lead character in the film Sideways, what is needed to make a great Pinot Noir. Patrick Schmitt MW finds out how many entries in our Pinot Noir Masters deserve star billing.

OF ALL the Global Masters tastings we run – and it’s an extensive series covering noble grapes and major wine styles – it is the Pinot Noir competition that yields the greatest range of results.

Within the same flight you might find a group of judges either grimacing or grinning, depending on whether the sample had caused great offence or glorious pleasure.

Unlike, say Cabernet Sauvignon, where there are gradations of quality and style, and few failures, Pinot Noir seems a boom-or-bust grape – it either excites with perfume and sweet berry fruit, or severely disappoints with a thin body and unripe aromas.

It’s why Miles – the lead character in the Hollywood film Sideways – was “so into Pinots”.

About the competition

In a crowded wine-competition arena, the drinks business Global Pinot Noir Masters stands out for its assessment of wines purely by grape variety rather than by region. Divided only by price bracket and, for ease of judging, style too, the blind-tasting format allowed wines to be assessed without prejudice about their country of origin.

The best wines were awarded medals that ranged from Bronze through to Gold, as well as Master, the ultimate accolade, given only to exceptional wines in the tasting.

The wines were judged by a cherry-picked group of Masters of Wine and one Master Sommelier on 10 February at Bumpkin in London’s South Kensington.

As he said in the blockbuster movie, which is now more than 10 years old: “It’s a hard grape to grow… It’s thinskinned, temperamental… it needs constant care and attention…. And it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked-away corners of the world.”

But what he didn’t mention was Pinot’s huge commercial significance, mainly because the demand for this single variety rocketed after this particular film’s success.

Consequently, those “tuckedaway corners” mentioned by Miles have expanded to include pretty much every major wine region that will allow it.

And, as you can see in this year’s Pinot Masters results, we’ve added to our broad list of medal winners with Turkey and Greece: two countries without a long history of nurturing this most pernickety of grapes.

But what is it about Pinot that creates such variation in wine quality? After all, it does seem to perform well in a range of soil types, from volcanic to sedimentary. The key is climate – the grape performs poorly in either very cool or hot places.

For example, some entries this year that failed to attract high scores were too green and weedy, because they hailed from areas that struggle to fully ripen the grape in weaker vintages. Others that didn’t win over the judges were alcoholic and jammy – a result of high temperatures during the growing season, as well as picking too late.

As Miles also said about making good Pinot: “Only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it.” And that’s because it’s a grape that needs careful handling in the vineyard – it will punish growers who push yields too high or leave bunches exposed.

It’s the same in the cellar, where insensitive techniques to extract colour and tannin will produce grainy, unappealing wines. But, for all the things that can go wrong with Pinot, we are pleased to note a higher proportion of Golds and Masters in this year’s competition.

Although the variability in quality is still a hallmark of the Pinot Masters – and winemaking with this grape in general – the overall standard of wine appears to be on the up. In the past, entries have been criticised for being either too hot (from unbalanced alcohol) or too sweet (from excessive oak).

Last year in particular, we reported on the worryingly high number of entries with reductive aromas, ranging from a whiff of burnt rubber to the stink of rotten eggs (Pinot Noir is naturally susceptible to the production of sulphur-like odours).

However, in 2016, very few wines seemed to have a burning sensation from high abvs, while the structure and flavour from oak barrels appeared to have been used to complement rather than smother the fruit.

Also, the incidence of reduction in the samples was much lower. If there were criticisms that seemed common among the judges this year, however, it concerned the structure and body of some of the wines.

It was felt that perhaps extraction methods had been too heavy handed on relatively delicate berries. The judges wanted to see more juicy sweet fruit, and fewer firm tannins. Looking specifically at the medalwinners, like previous years, the Masters show Pinot’s versatility, and above all, its ability to make great sparkling wines.

Although more commonly blended with Chardonnay, Pinot can, on its own, make delicious fizz, proved by a Pinot Noir specialist such as Champagne’s Gremillet in the results – this Aube-based producer gained a Gold for both its entries.

But we shouldn’t forget Italy’s sparking winemaking expertise, and the Berlucchi vintage Franciacorta also picked up a Gold, although this was at a higher price point. Meanwhile, when it came to pink fizz, although we didn’t award a Gold, the results show that English sparkling sits on a similar quality rung to Champagne, with both Gusbourne and Laurent-Perrier earning Silver medals.

Moving to the still wines, the relatively low number of unoaked Pinots in the tasting, and comparative lack of topscoring wines, shows that Pinot performs best when its smooth berry fruit is married to oak, particularly new oak, in varying proportions depending on the wine. Nevertheless, De Bortoli showed that it’s possible to create a top-scoring Pinot without any oak influence.

The under-£10 category is another area of the Pinot masters with relatively few entries and top scores, although the four silver medallists this year showed that it is possible to craft an appealing wine from Pinot Noir at low prices (in the past, we have been tempted to suggest Pinot lovers switch to Gamay or Grenache when they need to buy wine on a budget).

Scanning over the results among wines priced over £10 but under £20, it is clear how Marlborough is becoming a place for good-quality keenly priced Pinot Noir, despite this region’s much stronger reputation for Sauvignon Blanc.

While New Zealand’s Central Otago may have the more premium image for Pinot, and produces darker more concentrated styles, the southerly region rarely produces examples at sub-£20 retail prices.

And £15-£20 seems a particular sweet spot for Pinot Noir from both New Zealand and Chile, with the latter country proving it’s now a serious player when it comes to this grape, with the now fully mature vineyards of Casablanca, and maturing sites of Limari definitely places for great and good-value Pinot Noir from Chile.

Between £20 and £30, it was Australia that really stood out this year. Interestingly, the top performers in this price band weren’t from the country’s most famous places for Pinot: Mornington Peninsula, Geelong or the Yarra.

Rather, we had Tapanappa gain the most keenlypriced Master of the day for its Pinot from the Southern Fleurieu Peninsula, closely followed by Burch family for its example from Porongurup in Western Australia’s Margaret River.

At these prices the US showed its aptitude for crafting great Pinot, particularly from California’s Sonoma Coast, along with Edna and Santa Maria valleys.

Over £30, and Oregon also featured from the US, with Angela Estate picking up a silver and a Master for its wines from the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, along with same region’s Eola Amity Hills AVA, where Ste Michelle Wine Estates is crafting Gold-medal winning Pinot from the Willakia Vineyard.

At these higher prices, with a Gold medal for Giesen and Marisco Vineyards, it was apparent that Marlborough can craft top-end wines to rival other great Pinot-producing regions, including the more famous source of great Pinot from New Zealand, Central Otago.

Although it was this latter area that took home the only Master in the £30-£50 price band, which was awarded to the China Girl Pinot from Central Otago’s Crown Range Cellar, while Hawkesbury Estates Atkitu A1 from the same region got a Gold.

AUSTRALIAN PROWESS
Australia also showed its Pinot prowess, with Tapanappa’s top expression from its Foggy Hill vineyard picking up a Gold, along with Shawdowfax for its Little Hampton Pinot from the Macedon Ranges and, the pricier Moorooduc McIntyre Pinot from Mornington Peninsula.

Among our final flights for the priciest wines of the day, and within the US, the judges were (like last year) very impressed by the wines from Edna Valley’s Tolosa, which makes rich, ripe but deliciously perfumed Pinots, along with lovely wines from the Mira winery, using fruit from the much sought-after Hyde vineyard in Napa.

Elsewhere, South Africa’s Bouchard Finlayson proved a standout, along with Switzerland’s Jean Remé Germanier, which makes wonderful Pinot Noir from the Valais. Of course, no report on the world’s great Pinot Noirs would be complete without mentioning Burgundy, and it was pleasing to see that where the region did compete, it scored well, with two wines from Château de Pommard proving among the six Master winners in total for this year’s tasting.

In all, 2016’s Pinot Masters had proved that the wine world is right to get excited about certain tucked-away corners for this grape, whether it’s the Côte d’Or in Burgundy, Limari in Chile, Central Otago in New Zealand or parts of Oregon and California, Australia and South Africa.

It had also shown that there are plenty of other places producing first-rate examples from this difficult grape, and from a broad sweep of countries, taking in England, Switzerland, Turkey and Greece.

While such samples were stylistically diverse, when it came to quality, there were similarly high – and, with the competition’s aim to sample wines without prejudice about their source, it is quality first and foremost that the Pinot Masters exists to reward.

 

The judges (l-r): Jonathan Pedley MW; Clive Barlow MW; Richard Bampfield MW; Michelle Cherutti-Kowal MW; Will Heslop; Patricia Stefanowicz MW; Michael Palij MW; Patrick Schmitt MW; José Gonzalez Godoy; Matthew Forster MW

 

White sparkling Pinot Noir

Company Wine Name Vintage Region Country Medal
£10-£15
Calatroni Pinot 64 2012 Lombardy Italy Bronze
La Piotta Mille Bolle d’Oro Brut 2015 Lombardy Italy Bronze
£15-£20
Travaglino Gran Cuvée – Blanc de Noirs NV Lombardy Italy Bronze
£20-£30
Champagne Gremillet Blanc de Noirs NV Champagne France Gold
Juvé y Camps Cava Blanc de Noirs 2012 Penedès Spain Silver
Quaquarini Francesco Oltrepò Pavese DOCG Pinot Nero Brut ‘Classese’ 2009 Lombardy Italy Bronze
Lyme Bay Winery Blanc de Noirs 2014 Devon UK Bronze
£30-£50
Champagne Gremillet Le Millesime 2009 Champagne France Gold
£50+
Guido Berlucchi Franciacorta Palazzo Lana Extreme 2007 Franciacorta Italy Gold

Rosé sparkling Pinot Noir

Company Wine Name Vintage Region Country Medal
Bottega Bottega Rose Gold 2016 Lombardy Italy Bronze
£30-£50
Gusbourne Estate Twenty Thirteen Gusbourne Rosé 2013 Kent England Silver
£50+
Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé NV Champagne France Silver

Unoaked red Pinot Noir

Company Wine Name Vintage Region Country Medal
Under £10
Calatroni Flora Vanti 2015 Lombardy Italy Bronze
Halewood Romania La Umbra Pinot Noir 2016 Dealu Mare Romania Bronze
Les Grand Chais de France Zweigniederlassung Oppenau Baron Von Maydells 2014 Baden Germany Bronze
Halewood Romania Waitrose Pinot Noir 2016 Dealurile Munteniei Romania Bronze
£10-£15
Badischer Winzerkeller Black Forest Pinot Noir 2015 Baden Germany Silver
Badischer Winzerkeller Junge Winzer Spätburgunder Rotwein 2014 Baden Germany Bronze
De Bortoli Wines Villages Pinot Noir 2016 Yarra Valley Australia Bronze
Cave Onze Communes Valle D’Aoste DOC Pinot Noir 2015 Valle d’Aosta Italy Bronze
£15-£20
De Bortoli Wines Yarra Valley Estate Pinot Noir 2015 Yarra Valley Australia Gold
Castello di Luzzano ‘Umore Nero’ Pinot Nero dell’Oltrepo Pavese DOC 2015 Lombardy Italy Silver
£20-£30
De Bortoli Wines Riorret The Abbey 2012 Yarra Valley Australia Silver
De Bortoli Wines PHI Pinot Noir 2013 Yarra Valley Australia Silver

Oaked red Pinot Noir

Company Wine Name Vintage Region Country Medal
Under £10
Bodegas Trapiche Oak Cask Pinot Noir 2016 Mendoza Argentina Silver
Darwin Vineyards Curis Valley Pinot Noir Private Reserve 2015 Maule Valley Chile Silver
Cramele Recas Alamina Pinot Noir 2015 Viile Timisului Romania Silver
Bodegas Trapiche Melodías Winemaker Selection Pinot Noir 2016 Mendoza Argentina Silver
Maycas del Limari Maycas Sumaq Pinot Noir 2016 Limari Valley Chile Bronze
Zimmermann – Graeff & Müller Peter & Peter Pinot Noir Trocken 2015 Pfalz Germany Bronze
Viña Cono Sur Bicicleta 2015 Central Valley Chile Bronze
Lanchester Wines Nika Tiki Pinot Noir 2014 Marlborough New Zealand Bronze
£10-£15
te Pā- Family Vineyards Pinot Noir 2015 Marlborough New Zealand Gold
Bodega Del Fin del Mundo Malma Finca La Papay Pinot Noir 2015 Neuquen Argentina Silver
Colli del Soligo Levigato Pinot Nero Marca Trevigiana IGT 2014 Veneto Italy Silver
Chamlija Wines Pinot Noir 2014 Kirklareli Province Turkey Silver
Viña Undurraga Aliwen Pinot Noir 2015 Casablanca Chile Silver
Maycas del Limari Maycas Reserva Especial Pinot Noir 2015 Limari Valley Chile Silver
Viña Falernia Falernia Pinot Noir Reserva 2015 Valle de Elqui Chile Silver
Luis Felipe Edwards Marea Pinot Noir 2014 Leyda Valley Chile Bronze
Viña Undurraga Sibaris Pinot Noir 2014 Leyda Chile Bronze
Cembra Cantina Di Montagna Vigna di Saosent – Pinot Nero Trentino DOC 2014 Trentino Italy Bronze
Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Family Selection Pinot Noir 2015 Leyda Valley Chile Bronze
Cavit Bottega Vinai Pinot Nero Trentino DOC 2014 Trentino Italy Bronze
Mud House Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago New Zealand Bronze
Scheid Family Wines Pinot Noir 2014 Monterey USA Bronze
Bodegas Trapiche Estación 1883/Broquel Pinot Noir 2016 Mendoza Argentina Bronze
McPherson Wines MWC Pinot Noir 2015 Victoria Australia Bronze
Halewood Romania Kronos Pinot Noir 2014 Dealu Mare DOC-CMD Romania Bronze
Cave Onze Communes Valle D’Aoste DOC Pinot Noir “Barrique” 2015 Valle D’Aosta Italy Bronze
£15-£20
Viña Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Pinot Noir 2015 Limari Valley Chile Gold
Tiare Pinuàr 2015 Friuli Italy Gold
Wild Rock Wine Pinot Noir 2015 Marlborough New Zealand Gold
Giesen Wines Ara Select Blocks Pinot Noir 2013 Marlborough New Zealand Gold
Viña Cono Sur 20 Barrels 2015 Casablanca Chile Gold
Yealands Estate Wine Group Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 Marlborough New Zealand Gold
Nobilo Wines Icon Pinot Noir 2014 Marlborough New Zealand Gold
Domaine Camus-Bruchon Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2015 Burgundy France Silver
Viña Arboleda Arboleda 2016 Valle de Aconcogua Chile Silver
Viña Undurraga T.H. Pinot Noir Leyda 2013 Leyda Chile Silver
Alpha Estate Pinot Noir 2013 Florina Greece Silver
Jean René Germanier Pinot Noir Balavaud Velioz Grand Cru 2015 Velioz Valaos Suisse Silver
Jackson Family Wines Carmel Road Monterey Pinot Noir 2014 Monterey USA Silver
Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Reata Three County Pinot Noir 2013 California USA Silver
Marisco Vineyards The Ned Pinot Noir 2015 Marlborough New Zealand Silver
te Pā Family Vineyards te Pā- Pinot Noir 2014 Marlborough New Zealand Silver

Oaked red Pinot Noir (cont.)

Company Wine Name Vintage Region Country Medal
Nitida Pinot Noir 2015 Durbanville South Africa Bronze
Abbotts & Delaunay Domaine de la Métairie d’Alon, La Métairie 2015 Languedoc France Bronze
Quaquarini Francesco Oltrepò Pavese DOC Pinot Nero ‘Blav’ 2013 Lombardy Italy Bronze
Marisco Vineyards The King’s Wrath Pinot Noir 2015 Marlborough New Zealand Bronze
te Pā Family Vineyards Pa Road Pinot Noir 2014 Marlborough New Zealand Bronze
De Grendel Wines OP die Berg Pinot Noir 2013 Ceres Plateau South Africa Bronze
Abbotts & Delaunay Domaine de la Métairie d’Alon Pinot Noir Solaire 2014 Languedoc France Bronze
Scheid Family Wines Pinot Noir – District 7 2014 Monterey USA Bronze
Abbotts & Delaunay Domaine de la Métairie d’Alon, Solaire 2015 Languedoc France Bronze
Château de Santenay Bourgogne Vieilles Vignes 2015 Burgundy France Bronze
£20-£30
Tapanappa Fleurieu Peninsula Pinot Noir 2015 Southern Fleurieu Australia Master
Burch Family Wines Marchand & Burch Pinot Noir 2015 Mount Barker/Porogurup Australia Gold
Loveblock Pinot Noir 2014 Central Otago New Zealand Gold
Falcon Ridge Estate Pinot Noir 2015 Nelson New Zealand Gold
Rockburn Vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago New Zealand Gold
Jackson Family Wines La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2014 Sonoma Coast USA Gold
Tolosa Heritage Pinot Noir 2015 Edna Valley USA Gold
Matahiwi Vineyard Holly Pinot Noir 2015 Wairarapa New Zealand Gold
Giesen Wines The Brothers Pinot Noir 2013 Marlborough New Zealand Gold
Jackson Family Wines Cambria Estate Vineyard and Winery Benchbreak 2014 Santa Maria Valley USA Gold
Château de Santenay Mercurey Vieilles Vignes 2015 Burgundy France Silver
Weingut Mario J. Burkhart Rarus Noir 2. Gewächs Blauer Spätburgunder 2010 Baden Germany Silver
Kellerei Meran Burggräfler Blauburgunder Zeno Riserva 2014 Alto Adige Italy Silver
Hush Heath Manor Hush Heath Manor Pinot Noir 2015 Kent UK Silver
Whalehaven Winery Conservation Coast Pinot Noir 2014 Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley South Africa Silver
Averill Creek Vineyard Vineyard Somenos Series 2014 Vancouver Island Cananda Silver
Kim Crawford Wines Small Parcel ‘Rise & Shine’ Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago New Zealand Silver
Australian Vintage Nepenthe ‘The Good Doctor’ Pinot Noir 2015 Adelaide Hills Australia Silver
Weingut Fritz Waßmer Spätburgunder Alte Reben 2013 Baden Germany Silver
Cantina Terlano Monticol Alto Adige Pinot Noir Riserva 2014 Alto Adige Italy Silver
G.D. Varja di Vaira Aldo Langhe DOC Pinot Nero 2014 Piedmonte Italy Silver
Bar Z Winery L’efflorescence Pinot Noir 2014 Texas High Plains USA Bronze
Château de Santenay Mercurey 1er Cru les Puillets 2015 Burgundy France Bronze
Weingut Mario J. Burkhart Rarus Noir 1. Gewächs Ft Blauer Spätburgunder Trocken 2014 Baden Germany Bronze
Cantina Terlano Anrar Alto Adige Pinot Noir Riserva 2013 Alto Adige Italy Bronze
Rockburn Vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014 Central Otago New Zealand Bronze
Jackson Family Wines Kendall-Jackson Vintners Reserve Pinot Noir 2014 California USA Bronze
Mud House Single Vineyard Claim 431 Pinot Noir 2014 Central Otago New Zealand Bronze
Bar Z Winery L’efflorescence Pinot Noir 2016 Texas High Plains USA Bronze
£30-£50
Crown Range Cellar China Girl Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago New Zealand Master
Shadowfax Winery Little Hampton Pinot Noir 2015 Macedon Ranges Australia Gold
Tapanappa Foggy Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 Southern Fleurieu Australia Gold
Giesen Wines Clayvin Single Vineyard Selection 2014 Marlborough New Zealand Gold
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Willakia Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 Eola-Amity Hills United States Gold
Hawkesbury Estates Akitu A1 2015 Central Otago New Zealand Gold
Château de Santenay Aloxe-Corton les Brunettes et Planchots 2015 Burgundy France Silver
Château de Santenay Beaune 1er Cru Montée Rouge 2015 Burgundy France Silver
Castelfeder Winery Alto Adige Riserva DOC ‘Burgum Novum’ 2013 Trentino Italy Silver
Mira Winery Pinot Noir Stanly Ranch 2013 Napa Valley USA Silver
Giesen Wines Ridge Block Single Vineyard Selection Pinot Noir 2014 Marlborough New Zealand Silver
Lowburn Ferry Wines Home Block Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago New Zealand Silver
Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Reata Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 California USA Silver
Angela Estate Winery ‘Angela Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2013 Yamhill-Carlton USA Silver
Château de Santenay Aloxe-Corton les Brunettes et Planchots 2015 Burgundy France Silver
Weingut Leitz Spätburgunder Geisenheimer Rothenberg 2010 Rheingau Germany Silver
Jackson Family Wines Gran Moraine Carlton Oregan 2013 Yamhill-Carlton USA Silver
Viña Cono Sur Ocio 2014 Casablanca Chile Bronze
Weingut Fritz Waßmer Spätburgunder XXL 2014 Baden Germany Bronze
Château de Santenay Beaune 1er Cru Clos du Roi 2015 Burgundy France Bronze
Over £50
Château de Pommard Clos Marey-Monge 2013 Burgundy France Master
Angela Estate Winery Angela Estate ‘Abbott Claim’ Pinot Noir 2013 Yamhill-Carlton USA Master
Château de Pommard Clos Marey-Monge 2014 Burgundy France Master
Tolosa 1772 Pinot Noir 2015 Edna Valley USA Master
Marisco Vineyards The Journey Pinot Noir 2013 Marlborough New Zealand Gold
Tolosa Hollister Pinot Noir 2015 Edna Valley USA Gold
Tolosa Stone Lion Pinot Noir 2015 Edna Valley USA Gold
Bouchard Finlayson Tête de Cuvée Pinot Noir 2013 Walker Bay South Africa Gold
Jean René Germanier Pinot Noir Venthône ‘Lapon’ AOC Valais 2013 Valais Suisse Gold
Mira Winery Pinot Noir Hyde 2013 Napa Valley USA Gold
Crown Range Cellar Signature Series Grant Taylor Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago New Zealand Gold
Moorooduc Estate The Moorooduc McIntyre Pinot Noir 2014 Mornington Pen. Australia Gold
Tolosa Primera Pinot Noir 2015 Edna Valley USA Silver

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No