In the last twenty years the popularity of Pinot Noir has soared. This finicky grape is at the height of its popularity and intrigues many wine aficionados. Many regions attempt to master this varietal, only a few succeed. France remains its most reputed terroir, but luckily producers from cooler areas in the wine world are crafting wines that show good concentration, elegance and potential. Obviously terroir/vineyard location is key. Most of the Pinots evaluated in this tasting come from some of the best sites on the planet.
At Les Conseillers du Vin, we decided to taste a selection of high quality pinot producers that would help us better understand and appreciate the many expressions of this finicky grape. A group of 15 experienced tasters analysed 8 Pinots from around the world in the usual blind tasting format.
Results: To establish the order of preference of the tasting panel, 3 points were awarded to a first place vote, 2 pts for a 2nd place vote and 1pt for a 3rd place vote.
It was very close, but four (4) wines stood out: first place went to the Gevrey Chambertin Vieilles Vignes 2014 from Frédéric Magnien (23 pts); the 2015 Felton Road Block 3 from Central Otago came in second with 21 pts, followed by Shea Vineyard 2012 Pinot from Willamette Valley Oregon (19pts) and the 2011 Prince Edward County Pinot from Norman Hardie (Ontario) came in fourth with 15 pts.
Since this selection of wines was from very different regions there was no common thread in these eight (8) wines. It should be noted that the Gevrey Vieilles Vignes 2014, which came in first, is from a producer (Frederic Magnien) that crafts red Burgundies with more depth and concentration. Unfortunately the Bindi Pinot from Australia was showing some premature aging. For most of the participants the pleasant surprise of the tasting was the Norman Hardie 2011 PEC from Ontario. For many the disappointing wine of the tasting was the Sancerre from Domaine Vacheron. One wine seemed disjointed and out of sync, the Chilean 20 Barrels Pinot from Cono Sur.
My top three : 1- Gevrey Chambertin VV Frederic Magnien, 2-Felton Road Block N-Z, 3 –Littorai Les Larmes from California and special mention to Norman Hardie 2011 from PEC in fourth spot. See my tasting notes below.
The wines : Order of blind tasting: prices are in Can $
1- Sancerre 2015 Domaine Vacheron, Loire, France (Group score: 0 pt) Price: 45$
Unfortunately its very pale colour and lightness did not appeal to the majority of tasters. Finishing last with 0 points it was categorized as a disappointment by many. Some red berry scents. Fresh, very light bodied with a slight bitter finish. My rating: 87/100
2- Pinot Noir 20 Barrels 2014 Casablanca, Cono Sur, Chile (Group score: 2 pts) Price: 30$
This Chilean Pinot felt disjointed/out of sync. Oaky with dark berry scents and alcohol on the nose. Very firm tannins, surprising sharp acidity, this Pinot seems out of balanced. Atypical for this grape. My rating: 86/100
3- Pinot Noir Block 3 2015 Central Otago, Felton Road, New-Zealand (Group Score: 21 pts) Price: 95$
One of the stars of the tasting, it finishing second. Charming ripe berry nose with hints of oak and smoke. This very youthful Pinot displays mature fruit and a fine structure. A very flavourful Pinot with excellent aging potential (4 to 6 years). My rating: 92/100
4- Pinot Noir 2011 Prince Edward County Norman Hardie, Canada (Group score: 15 pts) Price: 45$
A very pleasant surprise, this fine effort from the very cool climate of PEC district showed great balance in a very elegant and refined style of Pinot. Some believed it was from Burgundy. Very pale colour. A very enjoyable light bodied Pinot with red berry and animal scents. My rating: 89+/100
5- Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes 2014 Frederic Magnien, Bourgogne (Group score: 23 pts) Price: 67$
Frédéric Magnien usually produces wines with more depth and concentration. This fine effort from the elegant 2014 vintage confirms the house style while respecting its terroir. The preferred wine of the tasting displays dark colour, a ripe Pinot nose and good extract with a solid structure for aging (4 to 6 years). My rating: 93/100
6- Pinot Noir Original Vyrd 2011 Victoria, Bindi, Australia (Group score: 8 pts) Price: 115$
This Aussie Pinot shows obvious evolution. Only the participants that enjoy very evolved wines chose it in their top three. Orange brownish colour with a light nose displaying slightly oxidised scents. A very high acidity announces a wine that is thinning out. My rating: 86/100
7- Pinot Noir Shea Vyrd 2012 Willamette Valley, Shea Wine Cellars, USA (Group score: 19 pts) Price: 75$
A bit in the oaky/smoky style, this Oregon Pinot displays a very firm structure with lots of ripe fruit and a slight hot finish. For now a bit austere, it might improve with a few additional years of bottle aging (3 to 5 years). My rating: 88/100
8-Pinot Noir Les Larmes 2014 Anderson Valley, Littorai, California (Group score: 8 pts) Price: 80$
From a great California Pinot producer! Nice deep ruby colour. Lovely nose displaying dark berry scents with hints of warm spices. Lots of ripe fruit flavours with surprising fresh acidity. Good structure and length. Great Pinot with excellent potential (4 to 7 years). My rating: 91+/100