Print this page

10. GRAPE VARIETIES Number one: Pinot Noir - Part One


 Pinot Noir makes the greatest wines in the world. Tantalisingly, frustratingly, it also makes second-rate wines as well. In addition, wines made from this grape are moody – they can be sensational one day, and a few months later they can refuse to sing. It is the grape responsible for all great red burgundy.


  The wines are pale and light in colour because the grapes themselves are thin-skinned, and the colouring matter comes entirely from the skins (the juice is clear – as an illustration, most champagne contains Pinot Noir as part of the blend), so some drinkers will never get on with the wines because they're after something more assertive, and, I would say, more obvious.


 Pinot Noir is suited to cool climates – if the weather is too warm and sunny, blunt, dull, jammy wines result, which lack finesse and excitement, and it is the excitement in the best Pinot Noirs that leaves tasters gasping, speechless. To cite some examples of wine drinkers who have appeared in print on the subject of Pinot Noir –


Jancis Robinson's Oxford Companion to Wine – "It is a tribute to the unparalleled level of physical excitement generated by tasting one of Burgundy's better reds that such a high proportion of the world's most ambitious wine producers want to try their hand with this capricious and extremely variable vine."


Maurice Healy in his book Stay me with flagons – "This was nearly twenty years ago; but I still remember the magnificent shock of that bouquet, rich in mellow perfection, and entirely free from the infirmities of age. I took one sip; I closed my eyes, and every beautiful thing that I had ever known crowded into my memory. In the old fairy tales the prince drinks a magic potion, or looks into a magic crystal, and all the secrets of the earth are revealed to him. I have experienced that miracle. The song of armies sweeping into battle, the roar of the waves upon a rocky shore, the glint of sunshine after rain on the leaves of a forest, the depths of the church organ, the voices of children singing hymns, all these and a hundred other things seemed to be blended into one magnificence." He goes on to say, "I, a devotee of Bordeaux [claret], solemnly declare that the three greatest bottles I have ever tasted were all from Burgundy."


Anthony Hanson in the first edition of his book Burgundy – "A fine wine will have a lovely colour, attractive bouquet, and the balance, flavour and smoothness to be expected of it. A great wine will have all these things, but in addition something to make the pulse race, to make one exclaim: 'How can it smell and taste like that? That is amazing!' A fine wine may remind one of flowers or spices or fruits, but there is something animal, often something erotic about great Burgundy."