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Top 10 Pinot Noirs of 2021

Following a comprehensive blind tasting earlier this month for 2021’s Global Pinot Noir Masters, we bring you the top 10 highlights, including brilliant berry-scented drops from Romania to Oregon and a brand new celebrity-backed bottle.

Below are my highest-scoring wines from across a range of categories in this year’s Pinot-only blind tasting competition, taking in fantastic samples of still and sparkling wine, red and rosé, along with Pinots selling for under £10 to over £50.

A full report on all the medallists from this year’s Global Pinot Noir Masters will feature in the June edition of the drinks business, but for now, please read on for a top 10 selection for 2021.

10. Best Blanc de Noirs:
Champagne Gremillet, Blanc de Noirs, NV

Proving that pure Pinot-based Champagne can be fine and refreshing is this Blanc de Noirs from the small house of Gremillet, based in the south of the Champagne region, near Troyes. It mixes red berry flavours with firmer characters of fresh apple and cranberry, with a creamy-texture, and a touch of brioche too. So, while full and fruity, it’s also clean and crisp.

  • Medal: Gold
  • Approximate retail price (UK): £30

9. Best Pinot Rosé:
R Pinot Noir Organic Rosé, 2020

Such is the global demand for juicy red wines made from Pinot Noir, it’s fairly rare to find a rosé made from the grape, which is a shame, as the variety’s mix of fresh acidity and berry flavours are well suited to making fruity, dry, crisp pink wines. And Germany’s Ruppertsberger has crafted an excellent, and organic version with its R rosé, which displays plenty of ripe cherry, along with a salty, citrus-fresh finish, in this pristine, bone dry, squeaky clean rosé.

  • Producer: Ruppertsberger Weinkeller Hoheburg
  • Source: Germany
  • Closure: Screwcap
  • Medal: Silver
  • Approximate retail price (UK): £8-10

8. Best Pinot Noir under £10:
Sorcova, 2019

Creating cheap Pinot Noir is a challenge, as the fragile grape requires pricy, labour-intensive handling if one is to translate the variety’s quality potential into an appealing finished wine. It’s why most Pinots cost more than £10, and the good stuff over £20. It’s also why few sub £10 Pinots have much in the way of appeal – either tasting thin, or jammy. But Cramele Recas in the Romanian wine region of Banat has crafted a pretty, fruity, balanced Pinot for just £8, displaying notes of tomato and cherry, vanilla, and fresh cranberry, in a wine that’s light, but not insipid.

  • Producer: Cramele Recas
  • Source: Banat, Romania
  • Closure: Screwcap
  • Medal: Gold
  • Approximate retail price (UK): £8

7. Best Pinot Noir under £15:
Domaines Schlumberger, Les Princes Abbés, 2017

Showing the ethereal side of Pinot Noir with great aplomb is Domaines Schlumberger with this good value drop from Alsace. Featuring flavours from strawberry to redcurrant and plum, with a background cream and chalk character, it was tasty, but particularly notable was the wine’s texture: it was so light and fine, and, as a result, so easy to drink.

  • Producer: Domaines Schlumberger
  • Source: Alsace, France
  • Closure: Natural cork
  • Medal: Gold
  • Approximate retail price (UK): £14

6. Best Pinot Noir under £20:
Brusafer Pinot Nero, DOC Trentino Superiore, 2018

Using fruit from the slopes of the Dolomites in Trentino is this delicious, delicate Italian Pinot Nero that retails for just under £20 in the UK, and took home the highest score for its price band in this year’s competition. It’s an aromatic style, with aromas of cherry and cranberry, dried flowers and orange zest, while in the mouth, it’s light and dry, but ripe, with some red berry sweetness and creamy oak – the wine spends 20 months in French barriques. In short, it’s a lovely, pretty Pinot for the price.

  • Producer: Cavit
  • Source: Trentino, Italy
  • Closure: Agglomerated cork
  • Medal: Gold
  • Approximate retail price (UK): £19

5. Best Pinot Noir under £30:
Joel Gott Oregon Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, USA, 2018

This is a fantastic discovery: an outstanding Pinot Noir from Oregon’s prized Willamette Valley that sells for under £30. It has a wonderful combination of creamy, slightly toasty oak, fleshy red cherry, crushed raspberry, and fresh cranberry fruit, along with fine dry mouth-coasting tannin. Together, this Pinot has plenty of juiciness, but also a light, refined, cleansing character. In short, it’s a bright, ripe red that’s brilliant and distinctive – not Burgundian, but Oregundian.

  • Producer: Joel Gott Wines
  • Source: Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA
  • Closure: Natural cork
  • Medal: Master
  • Approximate retail price (UK): £26

4. Best Pinot Noir under £50:
Mas Cavalls, Dona Margarita Vineyard, Marimar Estate, 2017

Hailing from the Californian property of respected Spanish wine giant Torres, this was 2021’s highest scoring Pinot Noir under £50. Taking its name from the Catalan for a horse farm or stud, the Mas Cavalls Pinot is certainly a thoroughbred red, with power and grace, and it proves why cooler areas of Sonoma are ideally suited to this pernickety grape. It’s a particularly seductive style of Pinot, with ripe, juicy red berry fruit, from dark cherry to plums, vanilla-cream oak flavours, then some crisp cranberry, and plenty of fine dry tannins to make one’s mouth water. This rich and refreshing Pinot is wonderfully indulgent, and usefully versatile when it comes to food matching too.

  • Producer: Marimar Estate
  • Source: Sonoma Coast, California, USA
  • Closure: Natural cork
  • Medal: Master
  • Approximate retail price (UK): £40

3. Best Pinot over £50:
Lucienne Pinot Noir, Smith Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands, USA, 2018

In the over £50 category of this year’s competition we had a raft of outstanding Pinot Noirs from a range of sources, including Burgundy, Oregon and Central Otago, but it was the reds from California that reached the highest points. Among these were the outstanding wines of Sonoma’s Donum Estate and, displaying a lighter touch, Brewer-Clifton, from Santa Barbara. Then there was the Lucienne Pinot Noir from Hahn Family Wine’s Smith Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands, which showed the delicious depth achievable with well-made warm climate Pinot Noir, with its flavours of cherry compote, crushed raspberry and fresh plum, married to fine French oak – the source of sweet vanilla and toast characters. Along with all this, was a palate-cleansing combination of cranberry and fine dry tannin, to ensure the wine provides plenty of refreshment after all the ripe fleshy fruit. It’s an impressive wine, with, it should be added, warming alcohol, but nothing that’s burning, or out of keeping with this powerful Pinot.

  • Producer: Hahn Family Wines
  • Source: Santa Lucia Highlands, California, USA
  • Closure: Natural cork
  • Medal: Master
  • Approximate retail price (UK): £50-55

2. Best Celebrity-backed Pinot:
Sir Ian Botham The Peerage Pinot Noir, 2019

This year’s Pinot Noir Masters contained the added excitement of a couple of celebrity-backed wines among the samples. With everything tasted blind, we weren’t to know this, but after the day’s sampling was over, it emerged that we had tried two newcomers to the world of Pinot, each carrying a famous name, and both a Gold medal winner. One was a delicious and delicate De Bortoli-made red from Australia’s Yarra Valley for Kylie Minogue, and the other, a Central Otago Pinot from Maude Wines for Sir Ian Botham. It’s this latter one that took the higher score, and has the higher price tag, although both bottles are first-class. In terms of the Botham Pinot, it’s a refined, smooth, delicate red, with cherry, cranberry and tomato fruit, a background note of vanilla, light ripe tannin and a long finish featuring fresh plums to toast and dried flowers.

    • Producer: Maude Wines
    • Source: Central Otago, New Zealand
    • Closure: Screwcap
    • Medal: Gold
    • Approximate retail price (UK): £50+

1. Best Pinot producer of 2021:
Donum Estate

The top performing producer of The Global Pinot Noir Masters 2021 was Sonoma single vineyard specialist Donum Estate. Gaining more than 95 points for all its entries, it is clear that Donum is a Master of Pinot Noir. Not only that, but with different Pinot expressions according to sourcing, it showed that Donum is able to reflect site specifics – a sign of good vineyard management, and sensitive handling in the cellar. In terms of general wine style, these are juicy, fleshy, powerful Pinots, but not heavy wines. Their ripe fruit aromatics, and creamy oak characters belied wines with a brightness, and lightness, that made all of the Donum Pinots hard to sip, only because they were so easy to drink.

  • Producer: Donum Estate (for Heritage Clones 2018, Three Hills 2018, Ten Oaks 2018)
  • Source: Carneros, Sonoma & Russian River Valley, California, USA
  • Closure: Natural cork
  • Medal: Two Masters and a Gold
  • Approximate retail price (UK): £50+

About The Global Pinot Noir Masters

With high-quality judges and a unique sampling process, The Global Pinot Noir Masters provides a chance for your wines to star, whether they hail from a famous region or a lesser-known winemaking area of the world.

The top wines are awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those expressions that stand out as being outstanding in their field receive the ultimate accolade – the title of Pinot Noir Master.

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:

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