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SWA 2011: NEW WORLD - PINOT NOIR - THE REST OF THE WORLD

Pinot Noir: The Rest Of The New World
A good selection of medals from across the New World shows this is a category with real strength in depth

The Kiwis might be setting the pace with Pinot Noir, but the rest of the New World is making impressive progress, too, with most of the competitors racking up a few medals.

With a Gold and four Silvers, Chile, as so often in this competition, performed the best. Although here its pricing was generally somewhat higher than you might expect
– reflecting, perhaps, the extra effort that goes into growing the grape there.

The key aspect of Chile’s performance was, unusually, not so much the pricing as the geography. Despite a large number of wines being submitted from Casablanca Valley, not one made it to medal level, with all of the medal winners coming from Leyda, Limarí or Bio-Bio. This suggests that, despite a 20-year head start, the country’s best-known cool-climate valley isn’t as well suited to the grape as its competitors to the North and South.

Still, it wasn’t the only big name to suffer death by a thousand can’ts. Perhaps surprisingly, Argentina’s Patagonian entries met a similar fate, while South Africa’s
no-show in the medals is largely a reflection of the fact that hardly any of them bothered to enter. Shame. It would be good to see how Walker Bay stacks up against some of the other emerging New World A-listers.

The other big performer outside New Zealand was the US. Not, perhaps, the first place most sommeliers would think of when it comes to Pinot, and a country that has historically restricted itself to the odd flash of genius rather than sustained assaults of brilliance during the five years of the SWAs.

Yet it did well here. Perhaps because, when it comes to Pinot, classiness becomes obvious, and the American Pinots were nothing if not ambitious.

‘The price point showed in our flight of US wines – the cheap Pinots tasted cheap,’ said Team Leader Tom Forrest. Wines with a slightly more savoury edge didn’t really start to appear until up around the £13 mark, and the only Gold List wine, from the estimable Sonoma-Cutrer, was more than twice that. But though the good wines came at a price, sommeliers are happy to shell out a bit extra when they find classy Pinot.

Despite some of the big prices coming out of the likes of Mornington Peninsula, Australia has never had the same reputation for Pinot that it does for other red grapes,
so a Gold and a Silver was not a bad haul. The fact that one of them – the Kooyong – was north of £25 at least sends a message that the country really can do quality and finesse with the grape as well as the more affordable versions like the Giant Steps from Yarra.

At the lower level, rather too many Aussie wines were felt to lack that trademark velvety suppleness of Pinot, so this doesn’t seem to be a country to look to for Pinot bargains.

‘I thought the wines showed more complexity as the prices increased and I would be happy to list one or two of the more expensive examples,’ said Olivier Marie.

“Following the success of New Zealand Pinot, customers have become more confident about buying wines like this from Australia and elsewhere in the New World. ” Luigi Buonanno, Etrusca Restaurants


GOLD LIST

Ventolera Pinot Noir 2008, Leyda Valley, Chile
£10.78 @ Novum Wines
SWA 2011 Gold List A wine with many layers, from the floral aromas alongside slatey notes on the nose through to the juicy red fruit and spices. ‘The palate is focused, varietal, attractive and intense with a nice use of oak,’ said Ivan Dixon. ‘Bright and concentrated, this has power and length,’ said Charlotte Jonasson. Kooyong Single Vineyard Ferrous Pinot Noir 2005,

Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, australia
£26.68 @ Enotria
SWA 2011 Gold List A serious, savoury Pinot that beguiled with its minerality and elegance. ‘Burgundian in style with restrained varietal character and good aromatics,’ said Olivier Marie. ‘Breed and complexity.’ Ivan Dixon noted that the nose was ‘earthy, with pronounced fruit and spice’, while the palate was ‘silky, midweight and youthful’.

Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir 2007, Russian River Valley, California, USA
£28 @ Brown-Forman Europe
SWA 2011 Gold List Floral aromas mingle with red fruits on the nose, leading into a veritable red fruit salad – think cranberry right through to blueberry via red and black cherries – with soft, ripe tannins, a velvety mouthfeel and toasted undertones. ‘The palate is concentrated and focused, with warm spices and liquorice,’ said Kyri Sotiri. ‘Great
length’, said Garry Clark.

SILVER

Terramater Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir 2009, Leyda Valley, Chile
£7.36 @ Cockburn & Campbell
Perfumed, with wild raspberry and violet notes, this is fresh and juicy, with good minerality, gentle tannins, good structure, and raspberry and cherry flavours. ‘A very elegant wine,’ said Laurent Chaniac.

McManis Pinot Noir 2009, Lodi, California, USA
£8.43 @ Stevens Garnier
With soft, slightly overripe red fruits, the palate has slightly smoky, earthy notes, plus
medium to high alcohol. ‘The palate has good intensity and freshness, and good length,’
said Charlotte Jonasson.

Tabali Talinay Pinot Noir 2009, Limari Valley, Chile
£11 @ Boutinot
Elegant raspberry and plum nose, this is well structured with concentrated summer berry fruit, creamy hints and good length. ‘Delicate fruit with light savouriness and tasty oak,’ said Kyri Sotiri.

Giant Steps Sexton Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia
£12 @ OW Loeb 
Fragrant with floral notes, soft red berries, light spice and earthy notes, this has a well-balanced palate with good freshness and a juicy finish. ‘Fair minerality and balance,’ said Kyri Sotiri, while Ivan Dixon liked the good acidity, structure and length, proclaiming it, ‘good value for money!’.

Terroir Hunter Pinot Noir 2009, Leyda Valley, Chile
£12.59 @ Moreno Wines
With good structure, acidity and attractive raspberry fruit, this is another illustration of how Chile’s Leyda Valley does so well with elegant, cool-climate-loving varieties like Pinot Noir. Caspar Auchterlonie noted the ‘smokiness with a spicy finish’.

Veranda Oda Pinot Noir 2009, Bio Bio, Chile
£14.98 @ Bibendum
Lively and intense on the nose – think acacia, strawberries, leather, mushrooms and ripe red fruits for starters – this has a real intensity of red fruits with supple tannins, freshness and a long finish. ‘It has a decent mineral line on a long, spicy finish,’ said Kyri Sotiri.

Saintsbury Stanly Ranch Pinot Noir 2007, Carneros, California, USA
£23 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
Much to please the judges here, with ripe cherry and raspberry aromas, plus some spicy oak on the nose, followed by spicy oak, cherry, raspberry and hints of chocolate, liquorice and tobacco on the well-structured palate with good length. ‘Good acidity, minerality, ripe fruit and juicy tannins,’ said Maria Rodriguez in summary.

BRONZE

Luigi Bosca Pinot Noir Reserva 2009, Mendoza, Argentina
£8.10 @ Bancroft Wines
Black pudding, earth and chorizo with a refreshing shot of mint to the base. ‘Nice firm tannins and a good length round off an interesting little wine,’ concludes Louise Gordon.

La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2008, Sonoma, California, USA
£13.49 @ John E Fells & sons
Savoury gamey fruit, with structured acidity, juicy tannins and medium length. ‘This aged style of Pinot with more restrained fruit reminds me of Burgundy,’ said an approving Rhys Griffiths.

“Customers who are open to New World Pinot Noir are also open to advice, and with such a variety of styles, it is possible to list several different wines. ” Louise Gordon, Clos Maggiore


Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – May/June 2011

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