One of the attractions of Pinot Noir collecting and consuming is the adventure of discovery. There is a certain smug one-upmanship that comes from revealing an unheard of maker or vintage to your salivating Pinot associates, that you just can’t get from a Shiraz or Cabernet.
Now that the more obvious cool climate regions of the world – Burgundy, Oregon, Marlborough, Central Otago, Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Valley and Tasmania – have been colonised by Pinot Noir makers, and we Pinot pilgrims have beaten a path to their cellar doors, there is a search on for new Pinot horizons.
Southern England, United Kingdom
Sam Weaver, winemaker at Marlborough biodynamic estate, Churton, told The Drinks Business that the next Pinot frontier might just be Southern England.
“It is geologically similar to Burgundy and as unfortunate as the effects of global warming are, we could see more favourable climatic conditions in this area than other parts of the world.
“Southern England already produces fantastic still and sparkling white wines, so Pinot Noir could find a nice home there.”
About four thousand acres of Southern England and Wales – predominately in Kent, East and West Sussex – are planted to early ripening varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and one of the region’s leading Pinot producers is Hush Heath Estate in Staplehurst, with its Hush Heath Manor Pinot Noir.
Planted in 2002 the Pinot Noir was originally intended for Hush Heath’s sparkling wines, however a warming climate and the company’s growing winemaking experience has seen Pinot Noir produced for the last three vintages.
The 2015 Manor Pinot Noir tasting note describes it as “light and fresh with ripe red berry”, a touch of peppery spiciness, raspberry and mint that lingers on the finish. It’s a wine that should be “enjoyed in its youth” the winemaker says, and it goes well with game, in particular roast pheasant (very south England!)
But according to Sam there is still plenty of Europe left.
“What has been happening in Central and Eastern Europe is very exciting – think Hungary, Romania for example. They have a tradition of winemaking for centuries but with recent investments in technology, they’ve been able to make huge leaps forward in wine production,” Sam says.
Etienne de Montille of Domaine de Montille, whose family has been in the business of making wine in Volnay since the 17th Century, agreed that while Burgundy is the historical “heart” of Pinot Noir, there are still many undiscovered areas for Pinot Noir – even Hokkaido.
Japan boosts some great experimental vineyards and while Hokkaido is known for volcanoes, natural hot springs and ski resorts, it is also the country’s number one wine-producing region.
Wine production in Hokkaido began in the 1960s and the combination of cool and dry summers and large day/night temperature differences make it an ideal location to grow European varietals.
Hokkaido wineries producing Pinot Noir include Grace Wine Chitose Winery, Nippon Seishu Yoichi Winery, Okushiri Winery, Housui Winery and Yamazaki Winery.
Western Cape, South Africa
The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay is located on the south coast of the Western Cape of South Africa and its English translation of “heaven on earth” is an apt description of one of the world’s most beautiful wine regions.
Held in high regard for its Burgundian-styled Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and its maritime climate, it’s the home of wineries such as Bouchard Finlayson which has established a global reputation for its flagship – the Galpin Peak Pinot Noir – since 1989.
The 2013 vintage’s tasting note describe the wine as confident with a firm and polished profile of flavours without being overstated.
“It is classically old world with good ageing potential – peppery spice with blackberry and cherry notes, ending in a harmonious and long earthy finish.”
The Pinot Noir pairs beautifully with red meats, fish, poultry, game birds, tuna and cheese.
Hamilton Russell Vineyards, one of the most southern wineries in Africa, is also a specialist in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay varieties.
The winery’s proprietor, Anthony Hamilton Russell, described the 2015 as an extraordinary Pinot Noir vintage.
“It started two weeks early and finished after four weeks (on February 20th) instead of our customary seven weeks,” he said.
“The grapes were extremely healthy with thick skins and an unusually low juice content and the resulting wines are fuller, more sumptuous and concentrated than the 2013s and 2014s.
“Full ripeness was achieved surprisingly quickly and this happened despite the average maximum temperatures for the crucial months of December, January, February and March – being lower than our long term average of 25°C. This makes 2015 cooler (surprisingly) than the celebrated 2013, 2012 and 2009.”
He describes his Hamilton Russell Vineyard 2015 Pinot Noir as “clean, lifted, dark and wild, but with sweetish fruit, a cinnamon, clove and nutmeg spiciness and the low pH and high acidity, provides a good drying cut.”