Pinot noir is the heartbreak grape. Of all the grapes used to make wine, this is the one that brings tears to the eyes of grown men – seriously, I’ve seen it happen. Pinot noir gets people emotional. It elicits joy, ecstasy, disappointment and frustration. It drives winemakers half insane as they pursue it with clench-teethed determination, even in completely unsuitable climates.
I could try to describe the flavours: cherry blossom, cherries, cranberries and, as it ages, mushrooms, earth, and dead leaves – but that would miss the point. A beautiful pinot noir is other-worldly. Adjectives become redundant. When it’s not right, pinot is just ordinary. Enjoyable, sure, but you’d never guess it could cause such chaos. There’s nothing in between.
Of course, this is part of the appeal for those who have fallen for pinot. This grape is like the person who doesn’t message back, causing you to set all self-respect aside and try again and again – text after text, bottle after bottle – until, finally, you’re rewarded with a moment close to pure bliss.
What to buy
Even buying pinot noir isn’t easy. Somehow you can never completely rely on a bottle you thought would be utterly sublime – you can never be sure what you’re going to get. The problem, from a drinker’s perspective, is that when pinot noir is right, nothing can touch it – it makes wines that taste so effortless, fluid and light you almost feel you’ve encountered a ghost when you drink them.
A bottle of pinot noir can give you as much of a runaround as any difficult partner, and it’s not easy to find one of those mesmeric bottles.
You could start by trying the Gevrey-Chambertin by Rossignol-Trapet 2011 (£35, Berry Bros & Rudd). The Saintsbury Pinot Noir Carneros 2012, USA (£26), Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, New Zealand (£27.50) and Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2014, New Zealand (£50) are available from Majestic. Or look for a pinot noir from the Mornington Peninsula in Australia: Paringa Estate, Ten Minutes by Tractor, Kooyong and Ocean Eight are good names.
The perfect bottle may prove hard to find, but persevere and one day you’ll find a pinot that leaves you blinking in blissful disbelief.
Want some suggestions for how to pair up your red wine with the perfect meal? Check out our guide for all your pairing needs.
Do you have a favourite robust red? Let us know in the comments below…