Pinot Noir sub £20 is a bigger challenge than one might assume. Pinot has the ability to make world class wines and particularly from its heart land of Burgundy can fetch exceptionally high prices. A sensitive and therefore difficult vine to grow it can be a labour of love for many wine growers and cheaper examples are not only relatively difficult to come across, but can often fall far short of the quality one might hope for. People took this week’s challenge seriously spending the week sampling different examples in an effort to find a really good quality wine. And the million dollar question… did we succeed?!
Germany is still the dark horse of the Pinot world, and as such often gets overlooked as a source of very good quality wine at still reasonable (in most cases) prices. There was one shop in particular that is known for its selection of German wine, so in their lunch hour, despite the cold, they set out on the 40 min walk to reach the shop. Cold and tired but still not there they ducked into a butchers shop to warm up and found a Swiss Pinot Noir for sale and decided to cut their pilgrimage short and go with this. 50% of Switzerland’s red grapes are planted to Pinot and the region of Graubunden is particularly famous for it. The Herrschaftstrunk Pinot Noir, 2018, Jeninser, Graubunden is under screwcap which is highly unusual in Switzerland and this is a really surprisingly tasty wine. Nicely concentrated notes of black cherry with a subtle hint of earthiness, it is light, fresh and eminently quaffable. 18.5 Swiss francs
Next a senior moment was claimed as he had opened a Cabernet Sauvignon under £20! The Journey’s End Sir Lowry’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Stellenbosch, South Africa is delightful, fruit forward and drinking beautifully now, though it certainly has the ability to stay in the cellar for a few more years. Typical Cab flavours with cassis and a hint of tobacco and cedar. It is excellent value for money. Waitrose £15
The commitment to the perfect Pinot was taken to a whole new level with a selection of 4 being compared and contrasted. The contenders hailed from Malborough, Monteray in California, Sancerre and Rully in Burgundy. The Monteray had far too much oak to be pleasurable now and came in a rather dismal 4th, the Sancerre rouge was really tutti-fruity, too much so for their palates and took 3rd place. The Jackson Estate Somerset Pinot Noir from Marlborough was very good and came in a solid second. First place was awarded, without hesitation to the Chanzy Rully en Rosey 2018, Burgundy. This is an area of Burgundy called the Cote Chalonnaise which is just to the south of the more famous (and expensive Cote D’Or), it shows really good balance, good fruit concentration, freshness and a very subtle use of oak. Elegant, subtle and classy, this fitted the brief perfectly. The Cote Chalonnaise is often a lovely source of slightly softer styled, fruitier, good value Pinot and Chardonnay. Majestic £16
A very interesting trio of Pinot’s come hot on the heels of this, from Germany, Bulgaria and Romania. The Ziereisen ‘Tschuppen’ Pinot Noir 2016, Baden, Germany was the most expensive clocking in at £17.95. There is a lot going on in the bottle, although the oak sits somewhat heavily dominating the palate and detracting from would could have been a very attractive wine. The Wildflower Pinot Noir 2019, Romania is light, bright, simple and happy with a subtle savoury undertone and good texture, the light tannins also make it perfect for lunch time BBQ’s. It is not only incredibly drinkable but it is excellent value at £10.50. The Soli Pinot Noir 2019, Romania is all juicy, exuberant fruit and is also brilliant value at £13.50. On balance she is probably enjoying the Soli slightly more at the moment but having never drank either Bulgarian or Romanian wine before, is incredibly impressed and would definitely buy both again. All wines from Philglass & Swiggot
Underprepared and grabbing the first wine to hand which is again the Maxim Riesling 2019 from Germany, because at £8 and utterly delicious particularly after a long day, why wouldn’t you! However he did have a tip for finding value in Burgundy. Seek out the best producer (that you can afford) and buy their Bourgogne rouge which will be their ‘entry’ wine. Though still often in the early £20’s or 30's, they are often wines that will improve with a good few years of age and are made by extraordinarily talented winemakers and often from still very good terroir.
Another trio of Pinot’s followed to be taste tested against one another. The ‘Pinot Pinot’ Pinot Noir 2020, Northern Macedonia ‘so nice they named it twice’ had a superb, eye-catching label, but despite the excellent marketing there was really very little else going on. Not offensive but not a lot of character, this rang in at £7. The Cono Sur Pinot Noir 2019 from Chile was £9 and though only an additional £2 you could really taste the step up in quality. Much better with lovely fruit weight and freshness. It is also vegan and organic. Finally the Taste the Difference Pinot Noir 2019 Vin de Pays d’Oc, France which was the most expensive at £11. Lots of raspberry and cherry fruit, very close in quality to the Cono Sur but with a touch more warmth, flavour and smoothness it just had the edge. All from Sainsbury
Sending in his entry from holiday in Cornwall, and with only the local Spar to choose from, he opted for the William Robertson Pinot Noir 2017, South Africa. Expectations were low but it was actually perfectly nice, much better in fact, than he had been expecting with a juicy, strawberry jam fruitiness. £9.49 Spar.
Finally a wine I am incredibly impressed with. The Martin Wassmer Markgraflerland Spatburgunder 2017, Baden, Germany. Spatburgunder is the German word for Pinot Noir and this one delivers in spades. When I first tried it 6 months ago it was a little spiky, but it has really settled into its stride and is showing sweet black fruit and crunchy sour cherries with a beautiful yet subtle savoury undertone of cherry pips. Juicy and velvety on the entry with a beguiling hint of spice teasing the midpalate and a lovely fresh finish, it is an elegant wine with more complexity than the price point would suggest. £14.50 The Wine Society.