(photo credit: MCT)
The grape variety Pinot Noir is usually the queen to the king Cabernet
Sauvignon. Cabernet made its name in Bordeaux but also seems to succeed wherever
it is planted. Pinot Noir at its legendary best is in the Côte d’Or region in
Burgundy, where the wines are named after the vineyard or village rather than
the grape variety. Though planted everywhere, true success is harder to
This thin-skinned, early ripening grape variety can produce young,
fruity wines with aromas of strawberries, raspberries and cherries. Red fruits
dominate as opposed to the black fruits associated with Cabernet. A Pinot Noir
is unlikely to have the depth of color or power of a Cabernet, being more
elegant and subtle.
The lighter style of Pinot Noir is an ideal
accompaniment to salmon and tuna, proving that red wine can partner
The problem is that a great Burgundy red wine is hard to find.
However, once you have tasted one, you will never forget it. Firstly, the
haunting perfume with a hint of red summer fruits and violets, then an earthy,
gamey complexity, which sounds almost trite when you try to express it in words.
Truffles, wild mushrooms, wet leaves and forest floor are common descriptions.
Finally, you will remember the smooth, silky texture.
Burgundy, the best Pinot Noirs are made in New Zealand, in parts of California
and Oregon. The fastest improving and best value Pinot Noirs come from Germany,
Austria, Switzerland and the Alto Adige region of Italy, but don’t look for the
words “Pinot Noir” on the label. In Germany it is known as Spatburgunder, in
Austria and Switzerland as Blauburgunder and in Italy as Pinot
Unfortunately, Pinot Noir is an elusive animal; but because of its
uniqueness, it is every winemaker’s dream to make a great Pinot Noir. Israel is
really too hot a country for this variety, but commendable attempts are made in
the higher vineyards of the Golan Heights and Upper Galilee, and lately in the
The first winery to make Pinot Noir wines in Israel was
Domaine de Latroun at the Latrun Monastery. The wines were quite nice in a light
sort of way but did not have any pretension to quality. The country’s pioneering
winery with Pinot Noir was the Golan Heights Winery. It planted the variety 20
years ago and spent 10 years experimenting before releasing its first varietal
wine. In the meantime, it found use for Pinot Noir in its traditional-method
sparkling wines, where the Pinot Noir was blended with Chardonnay.
best Pinot Noirs in the country are available from Tomer Gal and Hadas Ezer’s
Burgundy Wine Collection in Tel Aviv. They are the specialist importers of
Burgundies to Israel. With regard to Pinot Noirs that are kosher, the best is
the Prix Reserve produced by Ernie Weir’s Hagafen Winery in Napa Valley,
California. New Zealand’s Goose Bay also produces a good kosher Pinot Noir.Local Pinot Noirs
The best local ones are as follows:
Up to NIS 40 Barkan Classic Pinot Noir 2009
Cherry color, light and
fruity. Good entry-level Pinot made by Barkan, Israel’s second-largest
From NIS 40 to NIS 70 Galil Mountain Pinot Noir 2009
Best of the easier drinking Pinot Noirs. This one is bright, with an aroma of
raspberries and strawberries and is full of flavor.
Produced by Galil
Mountain Winery, from vineyards in Upper Galilee.
Gamla Pinot Noir 2008
Soft, fruity with cherry red color and with generous berry notes.
is the second label of the Golan Heights Winery.
From NIS 70 to NIS 100 Vitkin Pinot Noir 2009 (NK)
A Pinot Noir produced
by the Vitkin Winery from Judean Hills vineyards. Vitkin is a specialist in
unusual varieties like Carignan, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc.
Pinot Noir is the latest addition to the portfolio; slightly spicy and oaky but
backed by good fruit.
More than NIS 100
Vineyards Pinot Noir 2008
One of the best Pinot Noirs produced in Israel to date
by Ella Valley, from its Judean Hills vineyards. It illustrates the elegant
fruit characteristic of a Pinot Noir, with a gentle oak treatment, which
enhances the wine without obscuring the fruit. Only a few thousand bottles
produced. The winemaker studied in Burgundy.Yarden Pinot Noir 2006
Noir in a fuller bodied style in which the evidence of oak aging is quite
prominent. A nose of red berry fruit, sweet vanilla and a taste of ripe plums.
This was the pioneering quality Pinot Noir in Israel, produced by the Golan
Heights Winery from their cooler Golan vineyards.
NK = Not kosher
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine in
international and Israeli publications.