Pinot Noir has to be one of the great grape varieties along with Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is certainly my favourite and, when good, is quite a drinking sensation. However I was put on the spot recently when asked by a customer to recommend a tasting case of Pinot Noir that would build up to a crescendo on wine number 12. The brief was to start with something simple and finish with something sensational commanding a top price of approx £75. I was asked to write some simple notes to accompany the wines, which were to be drunk on consecutive evenings. I explained in an introductory piece how Pinot Noir is the Holy Grail for most wine makers but that the grape is very fickle and is not suited to warm climates and yet has the versatility to be one of the main grapes in Champagne.
I started my case with wines from Romania and southern France which, although simple, demonstrated that Pinot is light and fruit-driven at this level. I then moved to basic Bourgogne Pinot which is hugely overpriced and often dull and acidic and I explained that, although it was from the area that makes the greatest Pinot of them all, one should never be tempted at the low level. From here I went 'down under' and picked an Aussie example which was a touch too rich and stewed explaining that, as a generalisation, Australia was too hot to produce subtle and delicate Pinots. Then it was back to Europe again as I selected a German example. From here I hit Chile where there can be great value and increasing quality as they discover the right areas for planting. I then put in a basic New Zealand wine from Marlborough, before going for an example from the more southerly Otago and then on to an Hamilton Russell from one of the southernmost vineyards in South Africa. For wine number 9 I went back to Burgundy for a youngish Beaune 1er Cru and then hopped across the Atlantic to California, where they make some top Pinot and for number 11 - an Oregon example from a perfect, cool-climate region. My running order might be disputed but I have not bored you with the names of the wines other than to say that the top example, at the price cap stated, was a Grand Cru Charmes Chambertin from a single estate in the heart of Burgundy.
What a brief - what fun. Just waiting for an invitation!
By the time you read this, The Oxford Wine Company will be up and running in Tetbury, Glos. We have taken two shops in the Chipping ( for those of you who know the area) and knocked them into one. The walls were two feet thick, which tested the builders, but everything is on track . There is one Wine Merchant and a supermarket in Tetbury with Wine Rack closing earlier this year, and the three girls running the shop are hoping to make an immediate impact in the area. They will!!
We have just done a great deal with Domaine Gayda in the Languedoc for those of you keen to learn a little more about wine. Instead of an evening course why not fly down to Carcassonne and spend up to a week experiencing the reality of living on a wine estate. It's much more interesting than turning the pages of a book, and the course is run by a Master of Wine. Full accredited wine qualifications can be gained. It may not be cheap but the experience will be unbeatable - a beautiful setting in a classic region with a top class restaurant to boot. Look at the website www.oxfordwine.co.uk.