I hadn't planned to do a Pinot Noir post to coincide with International Pinot Noir Day today, but it's a good opportunity to spread the love, not least because I was bowled over by the two Akitu wines below, especially the A1 2018, and by the latest Craggy Range Aroha. There's also an amphora-fermented Pinot from Shropshire, which is a revelation and a triumph. Who knew England could do this? And there are two Burgundies I wanted to highlight, although the delightful, mature Santenay-Beauregard that I've included has, frustratingly, just run out. A third Burgundy I was going to include, a Givry Premier Cru Clos Jus 2018 from Domaine Mouton has also now run out, but the 2019 is expected fairly soon (at Tanners Wines), so I'll be tasting that.
It's worth giving some background to Akitu before I launch into the tasting notes. The 12-ha vineyard is in Wanaka, the northernmost of Central Otago's six sub-regions and lies at 380m – high for the region – on schist soils. It was planted in 2002 and 2003 by Andrew Donaldson, a Central Otago native who got to know red Burgundy when living for many years in the UK, and is entirely given over to Pinot Noir – six different clones (Abel, 777, 115, clone 5, 667 and 114) – all used for still wines, two reds, A1 and A2, and the Pinot Noir Blanc, which I haven't tasted. It was more than a decade before Donaldson launched his first wine (A1), which he named after an old Maori word for peak or summit, referencing the ancient mountains of Central Otago, including the view from the vineyard. The difference between A1 and A2 is the percentages of different clones, the proportion of whole bunch (it's all whole berry and whole bunch) and the amount of new oak.
Akitu A1 2018, Central Otago, New Zealand
All six clones, 53% Abel. 38% whole bunch, the rest whole berry. 15% new oak. Harvested March 30– April 6. Bottled March 28, 2019.
Glistening, but by Central Otago standards, relatively pale ruby colour. Very fragrant and expressive – lifted floral notes and sweet red berries on the nose. Gliding, silky palate with tannins that barely show themselves, but give a fine-framed structure; lovely fruit purity, vibrancy and spiciness – ginger, cumin, cinnamon – and a delicate savoury edge. Harmonious, long and fresh from start to finish. Drink now to 2030. Good with duck friton, spiced roast duck legs, straccetti di manzo (strips of beef, rocket leaves, Parmesan) and Comté. 14.5%
Akitu A2 2017, Central Otago, New Zealand
Five clones (114 not included), 66% 777. 24% whole bunch, the rest whole berry. 12% new oak. Harvested April 23–May 2. Bottled March 29, 2018.
Deeper colour than A1 2018, but not deep for Central Otago. Intensely perfumed and exuberantly fruity with red and black cherries and strawberry. Succulent, precise and clean-lined with a fresh cranberry tang; supple tannins; good acidity. Not as refined as the A1 2018 but immediate and very appealing and has potential. Drink now to 2026. Food: as for A1 2018 above. 14%
Craggy Range Aroha Pinot Noir 2019, Martinborough, New Zealand
From an excellent vintage. Hand harvested; 63% whole bunch fermented, the rest destemmed, with indigenous years in a combination of open-top stainless steel and open French oak cuves. Aged in French oak barriques (36% new) for 14 months.
Vibrant colour. Intense floral perfume of roses and peonies. Beautifully expressed fruit - raspberry with strawberry, plum and a delicate cherry-kernel undertow. Generous, fleshy and succulent, but with energy and definition and a gossamer-fine texture. Still showing youthful toasty sweet oak, but in balance with the primary fruit, so that fruit and oak will evolve together. Already developing savoury complexity. Already harmonious. Drink now to 2029. 13%
rrp £70, should be with retailers soon
Hencote Amphora Pinot Noir 2018, England
A wine made only in the best vintages using the best grapes from a 7-ha vineyard on a ridge overlooking Shrewsbury in Shropshire –not a county known for its wines, but on this showing Hencote is clearly an English winery to watch. It was established by the Stevens family in 2016 and they now have 23,000 vines across eight varieties, which their experienced South African winemaker turns into 30,000 bottles a year. The grapes for this wine were harvested on October 29, fermented on skins with whole bunches in amphora, pressed, then matured for 10 months before being bottled on October 17, 2019. Total production: 1123 bottles.
Pale garnet. Very pretty aromas of dried-strawberry, raspberry, rose, Chinese 5 spice and autumnal earthy sweetness. Light bodied but layered, with delicate peppery grip and appetising freshness. Focused,complete and satisfying. 11.5%
£45, Hencote Estate
Dalrymple Pinot Noir 2019, Pipers River, Tasmania, Australia
Red basalt soils on slopes overlooking the Bass Strait. Whole bunch fermented in small open-top fermenters. Aged for 12 months in French barriques, 30% new, the rest 1–3 years old.
Ripe, dark cherries with a hint of clove on the nose. Plummy, smooth palate with interplay between intense dark-cherry fruit, savoury forest-floor and saline freshness. Layered and balanced. Versatile with food: took lamb shanks with pomegranate molasses, honey, mint and lemon in its stride. 14%
The Society's Exhibition Marlborough Pinot Noir 2020, New Zealand
During Covid travel restrictions, potential components were sent to The Wine Society by Brian Bicknell of Mahi and blended by buyers Sarah Knowles and Toby Morrhall.
Vivid, generous, pebble-smooth and brimful of vivacious plum and cherry fruit and the lightest brushstroke of oak. A real crowd-pleaser and good value too.
£14.50, The Wine Society
Cavit Brusafer Pinot Nero 2017, Trentino Superiore, Italy
Produced in tiny quantities from Cavit's best, hillside Pinot Noir vineyards on glacial limestone and volcanic soils. All hand picked and destemmed. Aged for 20 months in French oak barriques.
Fading, quarry-tile colour. Lifted, sweet, floral fragrance – rosehip, wild strawberry and a suggestion of warm, spicy patisserie. Lively cherry fruit with a nuance of wild herbs polished and sweetened by smoky, nutty toasted oak. Not for oak-phobes but others will love it. Good with ham/gammon with homemade mustard or cumberland sauce, with duck and roast vegetables and a good choice of Pinot Noir for a barbecue. 13%
Sorcova Pinot Noir 2020, Romania
Juicy, round, plum, kirsch and raspberry flavours with a whisper of spice and oak and a soft, fresh finish. Good value at its full price and very good at the offer price.
£6.39 on offer until August 24, then £7.99, Waitrose
Domaine Nicolas Perrault Maranges Premier Cru Clos des Loyères 2018
From a vineyard planted in 1973 in Maranges, the most southerly cru of the Côte de Beaune. Whole bunch. Aged 22 months in barrel.
Mouthwatering cherry, cranberry and juniper aromas and flavours. Intense, elegant and clean-lined with fine, chalky tannins and well-integrated spicy oak.
£24, The Wine Society
Domaine Chanson Santenay-Beauregard Premier Cru 2014
From 3 ha on very stony soils at the top of a hill and from a tricky season that was saved by a sunny, warm September. 15 months' ageing in oak casks.
Mature, pale garnet colour. Nut-sweet, evolved nose with cedary spice and hedgerow berry and red fruit sweetness and freshness. Light-bodied with the silkiest of textures (acids and tannins subsumed). Elegant, nutty sweet-earth, mature flavours but still beautifully fresh. 12%
rrp £29, but no known stockists currently
Photographs by Joanna Simon