Wine Talk: Every winemaker’s dream

Once you’ve tasted a great Pinot Noir, you’ll never forget it.

grapes311 (photo credit: MCT)
(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 find.
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 fish.
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.
Apart from 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 Nero.
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 Judean Hills.
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.
The 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 winery.
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.
Gamla 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.
This Pinot Noir is the latest addition to the portfolio; slightly spicy and oaky but backed by good fruit.
More than NIS 100

Ella Valley 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
Pinot 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.

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