Prior to release of the movie “Sideways” in 2004, pinot noir was obscure to all but the most serious wine aficionados. Although it is known among vintners as a grape that is notoriously difficult to grow, excellent pinot noirs are being bottled all over the world. Generally light in body, the versatile red wine is thin enough to be paired even with dishes that would traditionally go with white wine. Here are some of the best.
5 Vincent Girardin Santenay Les Charmes 2005
It is simply not possible to talk about pinot noir without talking about its historic homeland of France. From the Burgundy village of Santenay, known for intense pinots, there is one that comes from these half-century old vines that may be better than them all. Vincent Girardin Santenay Les Charmes is described as smooth and easy, and all who drink it report tasting dark fruits like cherry in the finish. You can score a bottle for around $31.
4 Rainstorm Pinot Noir 2009
The secret to Rainstorm’s unique body and flavor is the 50/50 blend of grapes from two Oregon grape-growing regions: Willamette and Umpqua valleys. One dry and warm, the other cool and mild, the blend embodies the flavor behind what has become Oregon’s signature grape. The wine is roughly filtered and stays in contact with oak for at least 12 months, resulting in a bright coloring and bold flavor. A bottle will only set you back about $16.
3 Beck Burgenland 2005
Judith Beck is currently the chief of Eastern Austria’s legendary winery founded by Matthias and Christine Beck in 1976. Her revolutionary aging cellar allows her to leave her wines virtually untouched throughout the vinification process, making one of the purest pinot noirs on Earth. The pinot is considered “top level” and is made in small barriques; the yeasts she uses for fermentation are exclusive to Austria’s warm Neusiedlersee region, famous for its lush reds. Expect to pay about $55 for a bottle.
2 Mouton Noir O.P.P. (Other People’s Pinot) 2010
At around $17, this beautiful pinot is within reach of the common man. Grown in the lush Vineyards of the Great Northwest, Mouton’s 2010 is widely considered one of the best ever produced in Oregon. Seattle wine writer James Fink calls it “a lively, interesting and unique Pinot.” The Willamette Valley vintner says to watch for earthy, spicy, floral, herb-framed flavors of cherry with gingery wood spice tones.
1 Roaring Meg 2006
From legendary New Zealand vintner Mt. Difficulty, which is named after a mountain in the country’s Central Otago region, Roaring Meg is matured in French oak barrels. Wine writer Neal Martin describes its “lovely fresh, cranberry-scented nose with touches of red cherry and red currant” and recommends drinking it over two to three years. You can add this amazing red to your wine cellar for the bargain-basement price of about $20.