Peaks of Pinot perfection
Pernickety Pinot Noir performs best in cooler climates similar to its home in northern France's Burgundy.
The coolness emphasises its herbal and earthy undertones and expresses its crisp red fruit character of raspberry, redcurrant and strawberry and, in warmer areas, ripe red cherry.
Chile and Argentina are like an open book, sharing the same spine, the Andes. Chile plants Pinot Noir at Casablanca and Leyda near the Pacific coast cooled by the Antarctic's Humboldt sea current.
Argentina's main wine region, Mendoza, is located 1,200km inland from the Atlantic. Argentina must use altitude to achieve cooler conditions higher up the Andean slopes coupled with the chilled air from the snow-capped mountain tops being sucked down into the hot valleys in summer.
On their labels, Reserva implies, with good reason, that the Chilean and Argentinean winemakers consider the wine to be extra special and often may age it in new expensive oak casks for enhanced character, spice and long life.
Pinot Noir's thin skin produces wines pale red in colour and with softer, less astringent tannins to match beyond beef to duck, reddish flesh fish and pork. Add mushrooms to echo the earthy notes. For cheese, pair with a mild and nutty Manchego made from sheep's milk.
1) Leyda Pinot Noir Reserva 2011, Leyda Valley, Chile 14pc
Red fruity and earthy aromas and refreshing red fruit flavours spiced with paprika. Ripe and velvety smooth tannins. Full-bodied, rich and savoury.
€15.41 at Next Door chain nationwide; JJ O'Driscoll's, Cork; Shannon Knights, Clare; Bradley's, Cork; No 21, Cork; Paul's Off Licence, Donegal. In Dublin at Lilac Wines; Searson's; The Vintry; McHugh's; Jus de Vine; Liston's; Red Island Wines; Sweeney's and Donnybrook Fair
2) Gouguenheim Pinot Noir 2011, Valle Escondido, Mendoza, Argentina 13.5pc
Satin smooth tannins underpin crisp red berry fruits. An elegant wine whose subtlety makes it widely versatile with food.
€13.55 at Wines Direct Shop, Mullingar, and online at winesdirect.ie
3) Veramonte Pinot Noir Reserva 2010, Casablanca Valley, Chile 14pc
Sensual animal bouquet with redcurrant notes. Tasty with tangy redberries and a little peppery spice. Earthy and a dry finish.
€14.99 at Mulcahy's, Charleville; The Parting Glass, Enniskerry, and La Touche Wines 4u, Greystones. Dublin: Hole in the Wall, Blackhorse Avenue; Cheers @ The Coach House, Ballinteer; The Corkscrew, Chatham Street; Doyle's Foodstore, Dundrum and Redmond's, Ranelagh
4) Salentein Pinot Noir Reserve 2011, Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina 14.5pc
Sweet ripe red berry fruits with a savoury richness support the alcohol. Firm tannins, full-bodied and elegant.
€16.99 in Dublin at Wines on the Green, Dawson Street; 64 Wines, Glasthule; Nolan's, Clontarf; McCabe's, Blackrock and Foxrock; Gibney's, Malahide, and Baggot Street Wines
Value Buy: Monrouby Chardonnay
From Pays d'Oc, France 13pc
Fragrant with a Banana Split ice cream fruitiness. Dry with banana rich flavours and a creamily smooth texture of banoffee without the toffee and sweetness. €11.99 at O'Brien's Off Licence outlets nationwide; Bradleys, Cork; C Morton & Son, Galway; Florries Fine Wines, Tramore; World Wide Wines, Waterford and The Malt House, Trim