Pinot Noir: too light for the Bordeaux-minded, but the ethereal goal of wine drinking for others.
These days, Pinot Noir has many manifestations, from the more earthy Old World presentation to the more fruit-forward wines of the New World.
It used to go by the name Red Burgundy, which is what color it is and where it is from originally, but as a quick perusal of the wines below show, it's grown, well, all over the world now. People have been making wine from Pinot Noir grapes for about 1,600 years now. Let's see what this decade brings:
Höpler 2008 Pinot Noir, Austria, $20.99, The Wine Studio, Manchester. Central Europe is growing in the production of good red wine, and Pinot Noir is an important part of this growth. In Germany it's referred to as Spätburgunder (Late Burgundy), and in Austria, today's sample, as Blauburgunder — isn't Pinot Noir so much easier to say? It was not widely planted in years past, but is more common now, and the better ones come from Vienna and Burgenland.
This Höpler, from the 2008 harvest, is an intriguing wine, ruby-garnet in color, developing, with vegetal aromas as a first greeting. It's dry on the palate, with high acidity, medium tannin, alcohol and body, and medium-plus flavor intensity that offer earthiness, herbaceous and herbal flavors, and very ripe raspberry. Very good quality wine for food pairing. 88 points.
900 Grapes 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand Pinot Noir, $12.99, The Wine Studio.
Pinot Noir plantings rose markedly on this island nation in the 1990s, so that by 2006 there were eight times as many acres planted as there were in 1996. 2011 created this Pinot, with colors running from purple to ruby-garnet as you move from center to rim. Medium intensity nose, ripe red fruit, especially red cherry, and on the palate, strawberry and raspberry. It's dry, with medium acidity, tannin and body, well-harmonized, more fruit-forward than earthy, not unlike the MacMurray Pinot Noir, if you've had it. Best buy in the show at $12.99 a bottle.
Napa Cellars 2008 Napa Valley Pinot Noir, $20.99, The Wine Studio. Garnet-tawny in the glass, medium-plus intensity at the center, it's developing with aromas of fruit, flowers, spice and oak. It's a little warm on opening, and the darker palate reflects the nose with raspberry, strawberry, red cherry, cedar, some smokiness, vegetal flavors indicating development, and some mineral earthiness. 90 points.
R. Stuart Autograph 2008 Pinot Noir, Willamette, Oregon, $24.99, The Wine Studio. In his 2004 book, "North American Pinot Noir," John Winthrop Haeger tells us that the Willamette Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) came into being in 1983 in the environs of Portland, Oregon. The Willamette River gives the region its name, and many plantings are on the hillsides of this river, from 200 to 700 feet above the floor of the valley, facing south, southeast and southwest to capture the sun's heat. And for the wine: Medium intensity, good legs and tears, medium intensity nose, and ruby-garnet coloring. The nose is dark red fruit; the palate is dry, with medium acidity, medium-plus ripe tannin, medium body and flavor intensity, with red fruit and earthy flavors, including some oak. Medium-length finish. 87 points.
Pierre Andre 2006 Gevry Chambertain Grand Vin de Bourgogne, $43.99, The Wine Studio. As with all good French Pinots, some decanting is required — several hours (3 to 6) for this one. It's initially barnyardy, which might send the uninitiated fleeing from Maureen's shop to plunge their noses into the nearest lilac bush — but for those who know (and you know who you are), this moment in the farmyard diminishes with the arrival of fresh air and the wine's true, and often glorious, flavors come to the fore. If only the lilac-bush crowd knew. Medium intensity nose, developing, dry palate, medium acidity, medium-plus flavor intensity of death, dark fruit, oak and flavors of forest floor, vegetal notes, fruit and developing aromas in balance, in other words, everything you're looking for when you look to Burgundy itself for Pinot Noir. 89 points.
Wine Event: The eighth Winnipesaukee Wine Fest is Thursday night (June 20), featuring samples of more than 150 wines and spirits from around the world. The event will benefit the New Hampshire Audubon Society's Newfound Audubon Center in Hebron. It takes place from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in the Winnipesaukee Ballroom at Church Landing on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in Meredith.
The event is hosted by The Common Man Family of Restaurants and The Martignetti Companies of New Hampshire. To order tickets call 968-9330. Space is limited and advanced tickets are strongly suggested.
Next Week: When California viticulturist Jim Beauregard of the Santa Cruz AVA writes to New Hampshire wine writer Jim Beauregard, it causes the latter to perk up and take notice. Next week, we'll explore California's Beauregard Vineyards.
Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at firstname.lastname@example.org.