Pinot Noir

Beyond Burgundy: Pretty Fabulous Pinot Noir from Argentina, Oregon, and New Zealand

From by Wanda Mann
Often referred to as the heartbreak grape, Pinot Noir is a thin-skinned diva who requires constant attention

Considered the pinnacle of Pinot Noir, the Burgundy (Bourgogne) region of France is revered for elegant, ethereal, and expressive wines that stand the test of time. Often referred to as the heartbreak grape, Pinot Noir is a thin-skinned diva who requires constant attention and is very particular about where it will grow. Burgundy's cool climate and soil composition provide ideal conditions for fussy Pinot Noir grapes. Old World Burgundy may be the queen bee when it comes to Pinot Noir but many New World regions are making incredible wines from this demanding grape that really tests the skill (and patience) of a winemaker. (Wine Spectator defines the traditional winemaking regions of Europe as Old World and regions such as the United States, New Zealand, and South America as New World. These terms can also refer to the style of wine.) Recently, I tasted three wonderful Pinot Noir wines from Argentina, Oregon, and New Zealand that show the New World has what it takes to make wonderful wines from this challenging grape.   

BARDA Bodega Chacra Pinot Noir

BARDA by Bodega Chacra, Pinot Noir 2015 ($29.99)
Patagonia, Argentina

It was absolutely love at first sip with this exquisite Pinot Noir from the very Southern Hemisphere. When it comes to reds, Malbec reigns supreme in Argentina but Bodega Chacra focuses exclusively on Pinot Noir and their commitment has paid off beautifully. With picky Pinot Noir grapes, location is everything and Bodega Chacra's vineyards are located in the Río Negro Valley area of northern Patagonia, roughly equidistant from the Andes Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, in a pristine area with no pollution and ideal climatic conditions. This freshness and purity is a definitive trait of BARDA. Supple but not lazy, this is a Pinot Noir of exceptional grace and balance. Subtle but not shy, precise but not austere; BARDA is a joyful wine with beautiful red fruit flavors and hints of spice, tea leaves, and earth. BARDA displays depth and maturity but it isn't stodgy - this Pinot Noir absolutely soars. I only have two regrets with BARDA - that I didn't open it sooner and we finished the bottle way too quickly! 

Roserock Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir
Roserock Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir 2014 ($38)
Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon

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Fans of Burgundy are very familiar with the Drouhin name - the family has been producing superb Pinot Noir in the region for more than a century. Thirty years ago, they recognized the potential to also create world-class Pinot Noir in Oregon and launched Domaine Drouhin Oregon in 1987. Location is of utmost importance for Pinot Noir grapes and Roserock is located at the southern tip of the Eola-Amity Hills in the Willamette Valley. The cool climate, elevation, and ancient volcanic soils are a winning formula for the demands of Pinot Noir. Of course, once pristine grapes are harvested, the winemaker must exercise precision and intuition to create a wine that expresses the fruit and the terroir. Roserock succeeds in this endeavor and captures the spirit of Domaine Drouhin Oregon's motto "French Soul, Oregon Soil." Elegant and fruit-forward, Roserock opens up beautifully to reveal balanced flavors of cherry, dark berries, and an appealing hint of wild flowers, and rich earth.

Invivo Pinot Noir 2014

Invivo Pinot Noir 2014 ($25) 
Central Otago, New Zealand 

Very new to the scene, Invivo launched in 2008 and the founders describe their wines as being "made from grapes, time, and two maxed out credit cards." Clearly, we're not in Burgundy anymore! From those humble beginnings, Invivo has quickly made a name for itself and is now one of the world's fastest growing wine brands - from just 12,000 bottles in 2014 to 1.5 million in 2017. Fruit-forward with a hint of sweetness, Invivo is a more modern and New World style of wine that is very approachable and a nice option for everyday sipping. Silky with flavors of sweet cherries and a touch of toast, this is a down-to-earth wine that shows the more playful side of Pinot Noir.