A Sideways take on pinot noir

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Indy Lifestyle Online

As Miles, the hapless wine-buff hero of Sideways, the mid-life crisis movie set against a Californian wine-tasting tour, says, when pinot noir has god on its side, it's capable of making wine that's 10 times as intense as a mulberry-crammed summer pudding.

As Miles, the hapless wine-buff hero of Sideways, the mid-life crisis movie set against a Californian wine-tasting tour, says, when pinot noir has god on its side, it's capable of making wine that's 10 times as intense as a mulberry-crammed summer pudding. And god is not necessarily a burgundian. Yet the fatuous new ad campaign for Burgundy in colour supplements and magazines tries to convince wine drinkers that the one true path to pinot noir enlightenment lies in red burgundy.

The ad in question shows the fictitious Andrew, a tenacious New World grower marooned somewhere in the compacted red clay of the Australian desert, hopelessly looking "for the ruby in Burgundy wines". The secret of red burgundy is "terroir", say the Burgundians, and Andy won't find it Down Under.

Where chardonnay is forgiving by nature, pinot noir is thin-skinned, temperamental (like Miles) and fickle too. But when it comes good, it can be the most enthralling of reds, wherever it's grown. Not surprisingly, given its high-maintenance status, only the most spirited of New World growers are prepared to search for the holy pinot grail in their own patch of dirt.

The coastal regions of Miles's California are among the best cool-climate pockets in the New World for pinot noir to flourish. A pinot such as the 2002 Domaine Carneros Avant Garde Pinot Noir, Carneros (£15.99, Asda), is the epitome of the fresh and fragrant style, lightly spicy, bursting with raspberry flavours, with the complexity of a good village red burgundy. And, well-priced until next Tuesday, the 2001 La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Kendall-Jackson (£9.99, down from £12.99, Somerfield), is a soft, strawberry-juicy example with a veneer of toasted vanilla oak.

No one in their right mind would look for pinot noir in the red clay of the Aussie desert, as the Burgundians suggest. Australian growers have already located pinot noir gold in the hills and close to the oceans. If Miles were prepared to go pinot hunting Down Under he'd get serious bang for his buck from the vibrant red berry juiciness of the 2003 Scotchman's Hill Swan Bay Pinot Noir, Geelong (£7.99, Oddbins). In Victorian High Country, he'd find the 2000 Curly Flat Pinot Noir to be an exceptionally seductive, sumptuously cherryish red made from young pinot noir vines in the cool Macedon Ranges (£19.95-£21.95, Andrew Chapman Fine Wines, Abingdon, 01235 550707; Bennetts Fine Wines, Chipping Campden, 01386 840392). In the Adelaide Hills, he'd be delighted by the 2002 Leabrooke Estate Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir (£19.99, Arthur Rackham Emporia, 0870 870 1110), a vibrant, raspberryish pinot noir overlaid with spicy oak.

Sancerre growers would be far too savvy to take out an ad claiming that New Zealand lacked the terroir for top-quality sauvignon. The Burgundians should note the way the Kiwis have taken a leaf out of their pinot noir book. The 2003 Churton Pinot Noir, Marlborough (£12.60, Tanners, Shrewsbury, 01743 234455) is a charming, perfumed, raspberry-fruity style that burgundy can only dream of at the price. Craggy Range's 2003 Lone Range Pinot Noir, Martinborough (£13.99, Marks & Spencer) is another cracker, spicy, rhubarby, trenchant. At the top end of the scale, meanwhile, the 2002 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir, Martinborough (around £25.95-£27.97, Noel Young Wines, Cambridge, 01223 844744; Philglas & Swiggot, Battersea and Richmond, 020-8332 6031; Bennetts, 01386 840392) is a Kiwi premier cru of a delicacy and complexity to send a shiver down the burgundian spine.

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