The medallists from The Pinot Noir Masters 2020
While sensational examples of Pinot Noir across price points, regions and wine styles wowed our judges, some lesser quality samples reminded tasters of the grape’s fragility. Patrick Schmitt MW reports on The Global Pinot Noir Masters 2020.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Pinot Noir is a pernickety grape. Whether it’s managing the variety in the vineyard, or the cellar, small adjustments can have a big effect on Pinot’s personality. And this year’s Global Pinot Noir Masters left none of the judges in any doubt as to the grape’s fragility. But it also proved why so many persist with Pinot – and that’s because, when it’s good, it delivers a combination of fragrance and texture quite unlike anything else on the planet.
There was something else we realised following this year’s competition. That was Pinot’s impressive versatility. As we saw from the blind tasting, Pinot can make delicious traditional method sparkling wine; it can also make wonderful pure expressions of rosé or red wine, and in terms of the latter, the stylistic range is broad, from a pretty light redcurrant tasting result to something richer, sometimes slightly jammy, or at the top end, smooth and seductive, sometimes gently tannic, and the ideal partner for fine-grained, toasty oak.
It was, of course, the contrast of great Pinots with those of lesser quality that reminded the judges of the problems with this variety. It wasn’t that we tasted wines that were poor, but rather that we came across some that were very expensive, without being close enough to greatness to justify the prices being charged.
What was missing in these wines? Sometimes it was a lack of Pinot’s characteristic appealing perfume. Sometimes it was a tannin texture that was a touch too coarse. And sometimes it was an alcohol warmth that dulled the finish, or at worst, scorched the palate.
Among these few disappointments were delicious wines. These weren’t all in the same mould – some were delicate, but still ripe. Others surprisingly powerful, but still perfumed. Notably, it was hard to draw any generalisations in terms of Pinot sources. We had stunning wines from a broad sweep of places, including Australia, California, Canada, Chile, England, France, Italy, New Zealand, Romania and South Africa, but lesser samples from such places too.
If one was to draw a generalisation about this grape, it is that quality is most closely connected to the individual producer rather than the climate or soil of the vineyard. Where conditions are good enough to successfully ripen Pinot Noir, the quality relates to how attentively it is managed in the field and the winery. That takes sensitivity and experience. And even when both these are apparent, weather conditions during the vintage can easily spoil things, along with small errors in the cellar.
But this report is not designed to give our readers a state of Pinot Noir pitfalls. It is penned to celebrate the top performers. Regarding pure Pinot sparklers, it was notable how good the blanc de noirs are from Italy, particularly the northern area of Lombardy, so unfortunately and horribly affected by Covid-19.
Here the conditions seem ideal for ripening Pinot for fizz making, bringing delicious ripe apple scents, bright acidity, and a touch of red berry appeal. Such fruit characters when allied to the sparkling winemaking expertise of Northern Italy create a wonderful result – seen in two styles of Pinot Nero fizz from Azieda Agricola Quaquarini Francesco.
As for the still red wines, starting with the sub £10 category, it was pleasing to taste some lovely samples. It’s often said that creating inexpensive Pinot isn’t possible, but a number of producers this year proved that it is, with a handful in particular: Romania’s Cramele Recas, Chile’s Viña Leyda, the Languedoc’s Gérard Bertrand, Bourgogne’s Bouchard Aîné et Fils and California’s Three Thieves. Among these was stylistic variation, but all would be recognised as Pinot-based, with its archetypal red berry fruit and soft mouthfeel.
We also found real value for money with this grape over £10, but still below £15, with our first Gold of the tasting awarded to Stoneleigh’s Latitude Pinot from Marlborough – a part of the wine world that is getting better and better at producing Pinot, coaxing more depth from the grapes perhaps due to older vines, lower yields, or better clones and sites.
Over £15, but still under £20, we had a suite of Golds, proving that there is much to be said for spending a bit more on Pinot, but also showing that you don’t need to commit huge sums to enjoy the grape’s appealing traits. Within this price band, we saw greatness from New Zealand with Matahiwi Estate, California with Reata, Tasmania with Devil’s Corner, and brilliance from big brand Concha y Toro, with its reliably good Marques de Casa Concha label from Chile.
Our higher priced Pinots then yielded our first surprise star of the competition, with England’s Balfour Hush Heath picking up a Gold for its Luke’s Pinot Noir – hailing from the exceptional 2018 vintage in the UK. But also remarkable at this level was the quality of Pinot from Rheinhessen (Peth-Wetz) and Trentino-Alto Adige (Cantina La-Vis), who were awarded Gold medal-winning scores too, alongside Napa Cellars, with its fleshy take on the delicate grape.
Such wines were still sub £30, and it wasn’t until we surpassed this price point that the judges awarded their first Masters. Notably, two exceptional wines were given this, our ultimate accolade, and both were in the £30-£50 flight. And while we had brilliant samples over £50, awarding as many as four Golds, even at these elevated prices the judges didn’t feel any were worthy of the title of Pinot Master – although they are more demanding of very high priced wines.
Back to our Masters, neither were from areas classically designated as truly great Pinot producing regions. While one, from Marlborough’s Marisco Vineyards, may not be so surprising – this cellar is highly skilled with Pinot along with Chardonnay in a place best known for Sauvignon – the other Master, from GD Vajra in Italy’s Langhe region, was unusual; after all this is Nebbiolo country.
Looking across the top scorers among the pricier wines it is exciting to see how many regions are represented, proving that you don’t need to default to Bourgogne for great Pinot Noir – although if you do, Château de Pommard is a great source of relatively affordable reds from this famously expensive wine region. Deliciously scented, smooth and seductive wines loaded with personality hailed from Kent (Gusbourne), Santa Lucia (Hahn), Tasmania (Tamar Ridge), the Valais (Domaines Chevaliers) and Marlborough (Yealands), along with Limarí (Concha y Toro’s Amelia).
In fact, Chile showed this year that it is reaching the high points today with Pinot, with the latter Limarí-sourced sample picking up a Gold along with Cono Sur’s Ocio, which uses fruit from Casablanca. Among the final wines of the day, a further source of excitement among some lovely wines from Bourgogne came with an Austrian sample from Weingut Wieninger – providing another nation that can wow with Pinot.
While the judges had noted some of the problems with Pinot, confirming its reputation for fragility, they had also experienced a set of remarkable wines that served to sustain their love for this ancient grape. Not only that, but with such a range of places shown to be producing brilliant Pinots, the tasting had awakened an adventurous spirit among the tasters regarding this grape. And we hope these results will have the same effect on you when it comes to selecting Pinot for your customers. In fact, please use the popularity of this grape to open consumers eyes to up-and-coming or little-known wine producing corners of the world, England included.
Sparkling white Pinot Noir (blanc de noirs)
|Azienda Agricola Quaquarini Francesco||Op Pinot Nero Metodo Classico
Sparkling rosé Pinot Noir
|Azienda Agricola Quaquarini Francesco||Pinot Nero Rosé Vino Spumante||Lombardy||Italy||2019||Silver|
Rosé Pinot Noir
|Bouchard Aîné & Fils||Héritage du Conseiller Pinot Noir Rosé||Bourgogne||France||2019||Bronze|
Unoaked red Pinot Noir
|Cramele Recas||Sanziana Pinot Noir||Banat||Romania||2019||Silver|
|Gérard Bertrand||Côte des Roses Pinot Noir||Languedoc-Roussillon||France||2018||Silver|
|Barton & Guestier||B&G Réserve Pinot Noir||Ile de Beauté||France||2019||Bronze|
|Cavit||Terrazze della Luna Pinot Nero
|Cramele Recas||Frunza Pinot Noir||Banat||Romania||2019||Bronze|
|Cramele Recas||Wildflower Pinot Noir||Banat||Romania||2019||Bronze|
|Moulin de Gassac||Pinot Noir||Languedoc||France||2019||Bronze|
|Patriarche Père et Fils||Patriarche Bourgogne Côte d’Or Pinot Noir||Burgundy||France||2018||Bronze|
Oaked red Pinot Noir
|Viña Leyda||Leyda Reserva||Leyda Valley||Chile||2019||Silver|
|Bouchard Aîné & Fils||Héritage du Conseiller Pinot Noir||Bourgogne||France||2019||Silver|
|Bouchard Aîné & Fils||Réserve du Conseiller Pinot Noir||Bourgogne||France||2019||Silver|
|Three Thieves||Three Thieves Pinot Noir||California||USA||2018||Silver|
|Barton & Guestier||Bistro Pinot Noir||Languedoc-Roussillon||France||2018||Bronze|
|Viña Indómita||Irresistible||Casablanca Valley||Chile||2019||Bronze|
|Qualia Wines||Barramundi Pinot Noir||Murray Darling||Australia||2019||Bronze|
|Brancott Estate||Marlbrough Pinot Noir||Marlborough||NZ||2018||Bronze|
|Stoneleigh||Stoneleigh Latitude Pinot Noir||Marlborough||NZ||2017||Gold|
|Bread & Butter||Bread & Butter Pinot Noir||California||USA||2018||Silver|
|Yealands Wine Group||Yealands Estate Land Made Pinot Noir||Marlborough||NZ||2018||Silver|
|SeaGlass||SeaGlass Pinot Noir||Santa Barbara||USA||2017||Silver|
|Gérard Bertrand||Domaine de l’Aigle||Aude||France||2018||Silver|
|Stoneleigh||Stoneleigh Rapaura Series Pinot Noir||Marlborough||NZ||2019||Silver|
|Viña Leyda||Leyda Single Vineyard Las Brisas||Leyda Valley||Chile||2018||Silver|
|Stoneleigh||Stoneleigh Pinot Noir||Marlborough||NZ||2018||Silver|
|Cono Sur||Single Vineyard Pinot Noir||San Antonio Valley||Chile||2018||Silver|
|Brancott Estate||Brancott Estate Terroir Series Reserve||Marlborough||NZ||2018||Bronze|
|Cavit||Bottega Vinai Pinot Nero DOC Trentino||Trentino||Italy||2017||Bronze|
|Weingut Fred Loimer||Gumpoldskirchen Pinot Noir||Thermenregion||Austria||2017||Bronze|
|Viña Tabalí||Vetas Blancas Pinot Noir||Limarí Valley||Chile||2017||Bronze|
|Bouchard Aîné & Fils||Grand Conseiller Pinot Noir||Bourgogne||France||2019||Bronze|
|Marisco Vineyards||The Ned Pinot Noir||Marlborough||NZ||2018||Bronze|
|Cono Sur||Cono Sur Reserva Especial||San Antonio Valley||Chile||2018||Bronze|
|Nepenthe||Nepenthe Altitude Pinot Noir||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2018||Bronze|
|Yealands Wine Group||The Crossings Wild Pinot Noir||Marlborough||NZ||2018||Bronze|
|Cielo e Terra||Bericanto Pinot Noir DOC Vicenza||Veneto||Italy||2018||Bronze|
|Matahiwi Estate||Holly Pinot Noir||Wairarapa||NZ||2018||Gold|
|Jamieson Ranch Vineyards||Reata Three County Pinot Noir||California||USA||2018||Gold|
|Concha y Toro||Marques de Casa Concha||Limarí Valley||Chile||2018||Gold|
|Devil’s Corner||Devil’s Corner Resolution||Tasmania||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Jackson Estate||Vintage Widow Pinot Noir||Marlborough||NZ||2016||Silver|
|Viña Ventisquero||Ventisquero Grey Pinot Noir||Leyda Valley||Chile||2018||Silver|
|Marisco Vineyards||Leefield Station Pinot Noir||Marlborough||NZ||2018||Silver|
|Yealands Wine Group||Yealands Estate Single Vineyard||Marlborough||NZ||2019||Silver|
|Folie à Deux||Folie à Deux Pinot Noir||Sonoma Coast||USA||2017||Silver|
|Cantina Colli del Soligo||Levigato Pinot Nero Marca Trevigiana IGT||Veneto||Italy||2017||Silver|
|Mission Hill Family Estate Winery||Reserve Pinot Noir||Okanagan Valley||Canada||2018||Silver|
|Nepenthe||Pinnacle Good Doctor Pinot Noir||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2017||Silver|
|Labouré-Roi||Bourgogne Pinot Noir||Bourgogne||France||2019||Silver|
|Marisco Vineyards||The King’s Series Wrath Pinot Noir||Marlborough||NZ||2018||Silver|
|Cono Sur||20 Barrels Pinot Noir||Casablanca Valley||Chile||2017||Silver|
|Weingut Heinrich||Pinot Freyheit||Burgenland||Austria||2017||Bronze|
|Chamlija||Felix Culpa||Strandja Mountain||Turkey||2018||Bronze|
|Tamar Ridge||Tamar Ridge Estate||Tasmania||Australia||2018||Bronze|
|Cavit||Brusafer Pinot Nero DOC Trentino Superiore||Trentino||Italy||2017||Bronze|
|Viña Morandé||Morandé Adventure Despechado||Casablanca||Chile||2019||Bronze|
|Yealands Wine Group||Yealands Estate Winemaker’s Reserve||Central Otago||NZ||2017||Bronze|
|Peth-Wetz||Pinot Noir Unfiltered||Rheinhessen||Germany||2018||Gold|
|Balfour Hush Heath||Luke’s Pinot Noir||Kent||UK||2018||Gold|
|Cantina La Vis||Pinot Nero||Trentino-Alto Adige||Italy||2016||Gold|
|Napa Cellars||Napa Cellars Pinot Noir||Napa Valley||USA||2017||Gold|
|Wakefield/Taylors Wines||Jaraman Pinot Noir||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2018||Silver|
|Matahiwi Estate||Holly South Series Pinot Noir||Wairarapa||NZ||2018||Silver|
|Bouchard Finlayson||Galpin Peak Pinot Noir||Walker Bay||South Africa||2018||Silver|
|Viña Leyda||Leyda LOT 21||Leyda Valley||Chile||2017||Silver|
|Tapanappa Wines||Tapanappa Foggy Hill||Southern Fleurieu||Australia||2017||Bronze|
|Hahn Family Wines||Hahn Pinot Noir||Monterey||USA||2018||Bronze|
|Alpha Estate||Ecosystem Single Block Strofi||Florina||Greece||2018||Bronze|
|Achkarren||Achkarrer Schlossberg Pinot Noir
Qualitätswein trocken “Edition A”
|Mission Hill Family Estate Winery||Terroir Collection Simes Vineyard||Okanagan Valley||Canada||2018||Bronze|
|Weingut Wieninger||Pinot Noir Select||Vienna||Austria||2017||Bronze|
|Joel Gott Wines||Oregon Pinot Noir||Willamette Valley||USA||2017||Bronze|
|Marisco Vineyards||Craft Series ‘The Journey’ Pinot Noir||Marlborough||NZ||2015||Master|
|GD Vajra||Langhe DOC Pinot Nero||Piedmont||Italy||2017||Master|
|Hahn Family Wines||Hahn SLH Pinot Noir||Santa Lucia Highlands||USA||2016||Gold|
|Concha y Toro||Amelia Pinot Noir||Limarí Valley||Chile||2018||Gold|
|Tamar Ridge||Tamar Ridge Reserve||Tasmania||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Domaines Chevaliers SA||Pinot Noir Clos de Pachje||Valais||Switzerland||2017||Gold|
|Yealands Wine Group||Yealands Estate Winemaker’s
Reserve Awatere Valley Pinot Noir
|Zorzal Vineyards & Winery||Zorzal Porfiado 4to Corte||Tupungato||Argentina||N/V||Silver|
|Gusbourne||Pinot Noir Barrel Selection||Kent||UK||2018||Silver|
|Mission Hill Family Estate Winery||Prospectus Pinot Noir||Okanagan Valley||Canada||2018||Silver|
|Gérard Bertrand||Aigle Royal||Aude||France||2018||Bronze|
|Domaines Chevaliers||Pinot Noir “Clos de Pachje”||Valais||Switzerland||2016||Bronze|
|Tabalí||Talinay Mentor Pinot Noir||Limarí Valley||Chile||2018||Bronze|
|Mission Hill Family Estate Winery||Prospectus Pinot Noir||Okanagan Valley||Canada||2017||Bronze|
|Château de Pommard||Clos Marey-Monge Monopole||Burgundy||France||2017||Gold|
|Cono Sur||Ocio Pinot Noir||Casablanca Valley||Chile||2017||Gold|
|Château de Pommard||Simone||Burgundy||France||2017||Gold|
|Weingut Wieninger||Pinot Noir Grand Select||Vienna||Austria||2016||Gold|
|Weinmanufaktur Mario J. Burkhart||Malterdingen Willistein Pinot noir||Baden||Germany||2018||Silver|
|Hahn Family Wines||Lucienne Smith Vineyard Pinot Noir||Santa Lucia Highlands||US||2017||Bronze|
|Patriarche Père et Fils||Patriarche Gevrey Chambertin||Burgundy||France||2015||Bronze|
|Azienda Gulfi Società Agricola srl||Pinò||Sicily||Italy||2015||Bronze|
The judges (left to right)
Demetri Walters MW; Andrea Briccarello; David Round MW; Patrick Schmitt MW; Simon Field MW; Patricia Stefanowicz MW; Matthieu Longuere MS; Christopher Delalonde MS; Tobias Gorn; Jonathan Pedley MW
About the competition
The Global Pinot Moir Masters is a competition created and run by the drinks business, and forms part of its successful Masters series for noble grape varieties, such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as major wine styles, from sparkling to rosé, and famous regions like Rioja, Champagne and Tuscany. The entries were judged on 4 March at The Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair, London. This report features the medal winners only.
Please visit The Global Masters website for more information, or, to enter future competitions – giving you the chance to feature online and in print – please call: +44 (0) 20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at: email@example.com