Pinot Noir: Back to black
Pinot Noir is high-maintenance both in the vineyard and in the winery. Coupled with its high quality and fashionability, Pinot Noir is rarely cheap. Maturing the wine in expensive new oak casks adds a couple of euro to the price tag as well as a subtle peppery spiciness to the wine's red-berry and savoury meaty character.
Why then do so many countries try to tame this shrew? Like most love affairs, the answer lies more with the heart than the head. Pinot Noir, at its best, can be one of the most sensual and emotionally seductive of all wines.
It is considered almost a badge of honour for a winery to produce the technically demanding Pinot Noir. But Pinot Noir chooses the vineyard.
It is very selective, preferring to grow in cooler climates. Not surprisingly, then, that ocean-cooled twin islands of New Zealand produce some accomplished Pinot Noirs.
Because Pinot Noir ripens early on the vine, its wines mature relatively quickly in the bottle. This makes Pinot perfect for the impatient because it expresses itself so openly when young. It is usually pale in colour from its thin black skins. However, its distinctive bouquet, when mature, has a rich organic earthiness, politely referred to as 'farmyard'.
Pret a porter Pinot.
1) Pinot noir 2011 Brancott Estate, South Island, New Zealand, 13.5pc
Smoky and meaty aromas. Spiced red fruits with a whiff of mocha delivered in a silky texture. Light tannins, so can be served cool. Enjoy with thin slices of liver quickly pan-fried in butter and glazed with sherry vinegar and honey.€14.68 at Dunnes Stores and Tesco nationwide.
2) Pinot noir 2010 Wither Hills, Marlborough, New Zealand, 13.5pc
Vegetal leafy scents. A refreshing summer red with juicy berries and cranberries to serve cool with a tuna steak and piquant salsa topping.
€17.99 at O'Donovan's chain of off-licences, Cork, and Worldwide Wines, Waterford. In Dublin: Vintry, Rathgar; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Blackrock Cellar; Sheils Londis, Malahide and Hole in the Wall.
3) Pinot noir 2010 Urlar, Gladstone, New Zealand, 14pc
Rich coffee, fudge aromas. Spicy black-fruit flavours and finish over an indulgent creamy coffee palate. Needs rich, dark game.€22.99 at O'Briens wine shops Dublin citywide.
4) Pinot noir 2010 Siefried, Nelson, New Zealand, 14.5pc
Ripe strawberry aromas. Full-bodied and peppery red-berry fruits with paprika and warming alcohol-fuelled finish. Enjoy with Hungarian goulash.
€20.99 at Brian Barry, Midleton; Mannings Wine Emporium, Ballylickey; Stack's, Listowel; Newtown Off-licence, Maynooth, and The Magic Carpet, Dublin 18.
5) Pinot noir 2010 Mahi, Marlborough, New Zealand, 14pc
A richer style of Pinot Noir expressed by the gamey and meaty bouquet. Ripe juicy red berries are held by gentle tannins. A restrained style, subdued temporarily by oak. Serve with strips of red meat stir-fried with mushrooms and peppers.
€22.45-€24.95 at Power & Smullen, Lucan and quintessentialwines.ie
The Twelve Hotel in Barna, near Galway, hosts the first Indie Wine Weekend on June 21-22, with another on November 8-9. It pairs music with wine.
Two nights B&B plus dinner with wines costs €250 per person sharing.
For more information, call 091-597000 or visit thetwelvehotel.ie.