September 5, 2013
The Hunt for Budget-Friendly Pinot Noir
Searching for value where value is often hard to find
I took a bit of flak last week for some offhand comments in my prelude to tasting notes for value-priced sauvignon blanc. I made the grave mistake of saying that finding value priced pinot noir that exhibits varietal character is a challenge, and more than one merry reader took me to task for saying so. So what do I do? I trudge down to the cellar and pick out a case of value-priced pinot noir to taste, that’s what I do. After all I have to back up my words.
Now to begin with, this is a case of comparing apple to oranges, but even more to the point, while the sauvignon blancs I reviewed ranged in price from $9 to $14, this set of pinot noir starts at $12 and climb to $16, which to my mind probably corresponds well to the price point I focused on for sauvignon blanc values. If anything these wines, within the world of pinot noir at least, represent even greater values.
As you will see it’s an eclectic group from around the globe and as is often the case these days we get some surprising results when we pit international combatants against one another. Yes, there were wines that came out rather decisively on top, but lets pause for a moment to think about what that means in this case. As with the sauvies I was not looking for terroir with these wines, rather I was looking for the best expression of varietal character among these wines. That is not to say that these wines don’t possess terroir, it’s just to say that that is not what I was looking for.
What I was hoping to find in these wines were bright red berry fruits supported by juicy acidity and supple tannins. I was looking for wines that had enough meat on their bones so that they didn’t come off as simple, lean or overly tart. A little complexity was appreciated, though I have to admit that I prefer a bit of herbaceousness to the sweet spice of clumsily used wood. Not surprisingly I found a few wines that overachieved here but there were plenty of duds as well. Predictably it is more difficult to find delicious value-priced pinot noir than sauvignon blanc, but the savvy shopper can find some gems in the marketplace today. The Hahn, Primarius, Murphy-Goode, and Windy Bay pinots were real standouts in this tasting. With two coming from Oregon and the other two coming from California they offer a variety of styles that should appeal to a broad range of Pinohiles out there.
— Gregory Dal Piaz, Snooth