10 outstanding Pinot Noirs from £10-50
Following last month’s big tasting of Pinot Noirs from every corner of the wine-producing world – The Global Pinot Noir Masters 2019 – we pick out 10 outstanding samples from a range of price points.
In contrast to other globally-planted varieties that trip from any wine-lover’s tongue, Pinot Noir is rarely used to make inexpensive plonk. Why? Because creating an appealing Pinot Noir on a tight budget is notoriously tricky. Employ the techniques of high-volume viticulture and winemaking to this grape, and the results tend to be dire. Such pernickety behaviour may frustrate the producer, but it has helped Pinot’s positioning – today, it is deemed the ultimate in sophistication when it comes to top-end drinking.
But, because Pinot is so hard to perfect, it is relatively rare to unearth a wine where the combination of talent, climate and soil have come together to yield something magnificent, and particularly at an accessible price point.
Having said that, this year’s Pinot Masters taught us two things. Firstly, there is good Pinot now available for those without deep pockets, as more producers master the grape’s particular requirements in the field and the cellar.
Secondly, there is a broader sweep of places where Pinot can reach impressive heights. And these are primarily in cooler-climate New World locations, usually near the sea.
For now, if I were to name a single part of the wine world that reliably delivers plenty of Pinot punch for not too much cash, then I would single out Sonoma County. While good Pinots will rarely be found for less than £20 in the UK market from this part of California, one doesn’t have to go much beyond £30 to find something delicious. Move further up the west coast of the US, to Oregon, and one can also fine great Pinot, but the entry-point is higher.
Elsewhere, considering the results from this years’s Pinot Masters, it is apparent that parts of Chile are emerging as sources of lovely Pinot, particularly the Leyda Valley, along with Limarí, while New Zealand’s Marlborough is also becoming a go-to for keenly-priced mid-weight Pinot, and the Adelaide Hills appears to be in the ascendancy regarding this grape. It was also good to taste a lovely, reasonably-priced example from Italy’s Oltrepò Pavese, where Pinot Nero is the flagship variety.
10. £30-£50: Sparkling: Champagne Philipponnat, Blanc de Noirs, 2012
9. £10-£15: Rosé: Nepenthe Altitude Pinot Noir Rosé, Adelaide Hills, 2018
8. Under £10: Trapiche Oak Cask Pinot Noir, Mendoza, Argentina, 2018
7. £10-£15: SeaGlass Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara, California, USA, 2016
6. £10-£15: Viña Maycas Del Limarí, Reserva Especial, 2017
5. £15-£20: Agit Optima, Claudio Giorgi, Pinot Nero, Oltrepò Pavese Riserva DOC, Lombardia, 2016
4. £20-£30: Viña Leyda, Leyda Lot 21, Leyda Valley, 2016
3. £30-£50: Patz & Hall, Chenoweth Ranch Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Calfiornia, USA, 2015
2. £20-£30: Gérard Bertrand, Aigle Royal, Languedoc Roussillon, 2017
1. £50+: Gran Moraine Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon, 2015
About the Global Wine Masters
The Pinot Noir Masters is a competition created and run by the drinks business, and is an extension of our successful Masters series a range of grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah, as well as regions from Rioja to Champagne.
The competition is exclusively for Pinot Noir, and the entries were judged using Schott Zwiesel Cru Classic glasses supplied by Wine Sorted. The top Pinot Noirs were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those expressions that stood out as being outstanding received the ultimate accolade – the title of Pinot Noir Master. The wines were tasted on 12 March at Onima in Mayfair, London.
About the tasting process
All the entries are tasted blind, ensuring that the judges have no knowledge of the identity of each wine beyond its price band and basic style.
Once a score for each wine from every judge has been revealed, and the reasons for the result given, the chair of each judging group will compile an average score, and award medals accordingly.
Each wine is scored on the 100-point scale, with pre-set scoring bands corresponding to the medals awarded, which range from Bronze to Gold, and Master – the ultimate accolade, awarded only to outstanding samples. The judges are told to consider the resulting medal when assigning their score.
The bands are as follows: 85-88 – Bronze; 89-92 – Silver; 93-96 – Gold; 97-100 – Master.
Although the judges are tough, they are accurate and consistent, and the open judging process allows for debate and the revision of initial assessments.
Within the style and price category, the judges are looking for appropriate flavours – be they attributable to the vineyard or the winemaking processes. They are also in search of complexity, intensity and persistence at levels expected of the style and price band. In particular, the judges will reward wines highly if they have both balance and personality.
Thanks to the quality of the judges and the sampling process, the Global Masters provides an unrivalled chance to draw attention to hidden gems, as well as confirm the excellence of the renowned.