ALISTAIR GIBSON: New world wines are making a tough grape more loveable

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There is no doubt that, as with many things, our tastes change given time. When I look back at my tasting notes and vineyard visits over the past 20 years, it has been a constant journey through different wine regions and grape varieties.

There is no doubt that, as with many things, our tastes change given time. When I look back at my tasting notes and vineyard visits over the past 20 years, it has been a constant journey through different wine regions and grape varieties.

For many years big, bold Aussie shiraz filled my notebooks and still Rhone grape varieties would be my first love, but for the past few years it is pinot noir that has really caught my imagination. Now pinot noir is a tough grape to love, when it’s good it’s fabulous, mainly in Burgundy, but it’s also by and large expensive.

Accessible, good value pinot noir is almost the holy grail, and it is here that the new world has tried to fill that gap, some wine regions more successful than others, it has to be said. New Zealand has come closest but other countries such as Australia, Chile, the USA and South Africa have something to offer.

Pinot noir has really found a home in New Zealand and would certainly be my current destination of choice for this fickle grape. Waipara Springs Pinot Noir 2014, (winedirect.co.uk, £12.95) is produced in the Waipara Valley, just north of Canterbury on New Zealand’s south island. At this price this is really quite serious wine, aged in a mixture of new and older French oak barrels, the nose shows red fruits, herbs and a touch of oak which really open out given time in the glass. The palate is very elegant with bright red fruits and supple tannins. Very much in the elegant style of pinot noir, match this with some roast duck.

The Edge Pinot Noir 2014, Martinborough (Waitrose, £13.99) is made by Larry McKenna, one of New Zealand’s greatest pinot noir exponents, on his Escarpment estate near Wellington. This is a little more full-bodied than the Waipara Springs, maybe a little more New World in style. Quite dark in colour with perfumed dark fruits, as well as notes of raspberries and coffee spices, followed by firm but ripe tannins and mouth filing fruit and a long, pleasing finish. This would be lovely with a roast leg of lamb.

Something a little more light-hearted. Mr. P Pinot Noir 2015, (Hennings Wine £13.50) is made by Iona, one of South Africa’s leading estates in the Elgin region. Lots of fun and a lovely introduction to a lighter pinot noir, this would work wonderfully slightly chilled. There are lots of fresh, ripe red fruits with just a hint of smokiness, and the palate is very bright. It’s not complicated, but that’s the joy of it all. It’s refreshing, ‘drink me now’ wine with one of the best-looking labels you’ll see this year.

Alistair Gibson is proprietor of Hermitage Cellars, Emsworth. Call 01243 431002 or e-mail alistair@hermitagecellars.co.uk.