Two things distinguish this wine (Norman Hardie unfiltered Pinot Noir 2015, WS £22). Firstly it is a Canadian pinot noir. Red wine from Canada is rarely seen, let alone a pinot – although we have blogged on Canadian chardonnay. This is from the same maker, Norman Hardie in Niagara. Secondly it is only 11.9%. I can’t recall the last time I tasted a red wine under 12.5% and even those are unusual.
Tasting the wine rather split opinion. I liked the delicate red-fruit style which, to me, looked like, smelt and tasted typically pinot. Not complex, certainly but very drinkable. Geoff also had a Burgundian pinot open which was heavier and more to his taste.
[Geoff: It did split opinion. Whilst liking its delicacy, I didn’t find the wine particularly complex. To me it tasted like alcoholic cranberry juice and reminded me of wine still undergoing fermentation. It lacked development which may come later, of course. Again, it’s interesting to taste these wine but I would not be tempted to buy.]
Geoff and I live on the same road and we take turns to host wine tastings. Usually the wines are tasted blind so we have no idea what to expect. This most recent tasting – with the wine below, by remarkable coincidence, featured wines from the same region, made within a few kilometres of each other, not that I picked up on this.
‘Not pinot’ I confidently exclaimed. Certainly the colour – a pale clear red – was typical but the nose with lots of strawberry and raspberry led me to think it was a differently vilified southern french variety. In the mouth, rather firm and tannic, lacking complexity and without the flavour the vivacious smell led you to expect. But certainly moreish. Needless to say the wine was pinot. Perhaps I’ve tried too many New World pinots recently…
As you can see, quite a classy bottle. I leave Geoff to explain the geography.
[Geoff: Aloxe is the first Cote de Beaune village you come to driving south; it sits underneath the hill of Corton. Traditionally the wine has been thought of as having a fine bouquet but rather robust on the palate and I would say that is what we found. This wine was one of several different Burgundies I bought from M & S after they had been considerably reduced – to clear stocks – from the normal retail of £35. At full price it would definitely not have been VFM, as Richard’s description implies. It was good with some rich flavoured boeuf bourgignon, however.]
The wines from this premier cru vineyard are described by Clive Coates as ‘rather foursquare’ and lacking the elegance found in other Volnay wines. Other critics, in 2016, have stated how it needs some development. I’d be blunter and say this wine was not overly enjoyable.
Decanted 40 minutes previous to tasting, the brown rim and medium intense colour pointed to age and a cooler climate. The overwhelming vanilla aromas masked the slightly past-its-best smell (Richard called it ‘vegetal’ and ‘leaf mould’) which was not appealing to me. I did not pick Pinot Noir at all.
The taste was dry, long and cherry-like with high acidity but it wasn’t a generous wine at all and, to be frank, disappointing.
Evidently, 2006 produced patchy wines in Burgundy and this was certainly proof of that opinion.
[Richard: a poor wine lacking any redeeming characteristics. No improvement over the evening. I placed a negative review on TWS website (not published because the wine is no longer stocked) and received an emollient reply, suggesting that the wine is out of it’s drinking window (2011-16) and had lost the ‘charm of youth’. This is doubtful in my view, not least because a similar wine from the same maker and vintage was much better. I’m reminded of a phrase an old friend uses when we ‘enjoy’ a similar experience – ‘another disappointing Burgundy’.]
Tasted this (2012 Réyane & Pascal Bouley Volnay) blind with Geoff on Sunday and was not in the least tempted to wonder if it was a New or Old World pinot. Quite pale, typical nose, pure refined taste although rather raw and tannic on the finish. But savoury and mouth filling. Clearly Old World but my attempt to place the wine within the region was totally wrong in that I thought northern, rather than southern Burgundy.
[Geoff: I was delighted to share this with my drinking partner; it seems he is better at choosing between Burgundy and NZ Pinot than I am. Following a classic Pinot nose of sweet red fruits, this wine was quite lean in the mid-palate but none the worse for that. However, as Richard has commented, it came across a little too tannic at the finish which might suggest it needed more time. Or that it was a good village wine with no further pretensions. Which reminds me of that James Thurber line “it’s a naïve domestic Burgundy without any breeding, but I think you’ll be amused by its presumption.” Quite appropriate, in this case.]
“This is a Burgundy.” I declaimed. “It’s firm but nicely aged and serious.” Richard laughed and produced the Ata Rangi 2009 from Martinborough, on the other side of the world to Dijon. He’d done it again. So much for the skills of the wine taster!
The colour was an intense brown-red with a distinctive brown rim. The nose was pure and sweet with the aromas of bitter cherries giving it the ‘come-hither’ attractiveness of Pinot Noir at its best. This was followed by a big mouthful of serious wine, mature and of medium length – surely typical of a well-matured Cote de Nuits?
Nope. And after Richard had enjoyed his revelation and my embarrassment we then got to discussing how lacking in complexity this wine was. It’s easy to be wise after the event and start developing theories once you know the result.
[Richard: as you can see from the dust, another from the depths of the ‘cellar’. Purchased about 5 years ago for £37, so certainly Burgundian in price. Compared to the Chambolle of a couple of weeks ago this was bigger, richer but less complex and nuanced. Unfortunately I’m running out of New World pinot so this is a game that hasn’t got much longer to run.]
Christmas Eve eve and Richard arrived bearing a gift. Neither frankincense nor myrrh, but gold in the form of Chambolle-Musigny 2012 by Domaine Hudelot-Baillet. (Okay, that’s it with the Christmas references). CM, as every reference book seems to say, is the most delicate of the Cote de Nuits reds but – as all reference books also say – there is a multitude of different styles from the commune. Logically, the second statement appears to negate the first. Anyway, our tasting showed the following.
A clean, bright wine, it had an intense, but light red colour with a brownish rim. As usual with good Pinot Noir, the smell was magnetic, each sniff revealing something interesting. The strong primary fruits were black cherry and cranberry but overlaying a slight vegetal note. Richard remarked on the deeper, beefier note. We also detected some spice – presumably from the oak ageing – and the firmer, herbaceous qualities of under-ripeness. This was so much more complex than a NZ Pinot.
The palate had grippy tannins which made it firm mouthful with the acidity keeping it lean. Light in weight, the under-ripe quality was still there, with Richard picking up a floral, violet note. Not a lush wine, this was beautifully restrained, and, yes, delicate. There was loads more development in this (village) wine as the tannins and acidity hinted. A lovely drop which confirmed my preference for lighter reds.
[Richard: a generous Christmas present from my father-in-law. Nothing much to add to Geoff’s very full and accurate description. A lovely French pinot which I really enjoyed drinking.]
The two wines we tried last Friday night were not very impressive, despite being lauded by wine critics or having a premium price tag. One white, the Huber Family Selection Gruner Veltliner, was from Asda and had been greatly recommended as typical of its style by a national newspaper. (I honestly can’t remember who.) The price was £6. The red, Gruyere, a Mac Forbes Pinot Noir from the Wine Society cost considerably more at £29, so the disappointment was greater.
The GV’s colour was greenish, clear, bright whilst showing some degree of alcohol. Its nose was dumb, faintly citrussy with none of the white pepper aromas typical of the grape. The heavy mouth feel turned quickly into a cloying style and, after a sweet fruit start, was rather hard. Superficially attractive it soon bored and became quite ordinary.
[Richard: agree with all of this, nowhere near refined enough to be a recommendable Gruner Veltliner.]
The Yarra Valley red had a slight haze and a distinct brown tinge. The delicate strawberry nose had both sweetness and a vegetative quality which promised a good wine. But, on tasting, the wine was short, lacking in depth and, to be frank, a touch sour. There was no promise of improvement and, at £29, was just not worth the price paid.
[Richard: the disappointment was compounded by the fact that this wine was found in the WS Fine Wine Room in Stevenage. Mac Forbes has a good name for Australian pinot and I had high hopes for this – not realised. The was a peculiar, rather synthetic aroma in the bottom of the glass as well as the sour taste. The closure was an Ardea seal, never previously encountered, which may be a coincidence. However I’m pleased to say that the WS have refunded the cost.]
Useful benchmarks both but neither good wines.