I’ve had some great feedback on a couple of articles lately that highlight quality bottles under $25. First, my published piece for TASTE Magazine called Top Tier Cabs Under $25. Then, Global Chardonnays: 5 Under $25. Today, we’re taking a look a varietal that ignites passion across the globe – pinot noir!
It’s difficult to find Burgundy (aka la crème de la crème French pinot noir) for under $25. If you’re seeking value, look for bottles from other corners of the globe that have a cooler climate. Pinot Noir has thinner skin than most other varietals, so warm or hot climates risk burning the grape skins. It needs daytime heat to ripen, however the most successful growers are those near a moderating cooling effect such as a large body of water, cooling winds or morning fog.
Because of pinot noir’s thinner skin, it often results in a lighter bodied wine with lower tannin. In spite of the grape needing some pretty specific growing conditions, pinot noir can be fairly versatile when it comes to pairing with food. It also shines when blended as one of the three official varietals used for Champagne or as a single varietal rosé.
For this article, I’m exploring pinot noir under $25 that are widely available in both BC and Alberta. Here are 5 bottles for you to try that come from ideal climates to grow such a finicky and precarious grape.
The latitude of Hungary is a cool 47ºN, making it near 50ºN limit of where vines can comfortably grow. For some perspective, here in the Pacific Northwest – Walla Walla, WA sits at 46ºN while the Okanagan has some of the most northern vineyards in the world at 49ºN.
This Pinot Noir entered the Western Canadian market about 8 years ago to dazzling reviews from local critics. It consistently over delivers for its price and is one of my go-to suggestion for anyone wanting any red wine for under $15.
Light-bodied, perfect with a slight chill. Black cherry and raspberry flavours with a hint of cocoa and a touch of smoke and cedar.
VOLCANES DE CHILE RESERVA PINOT NOIR
D.O. Casablanca, Chile
Wait, Chile? It’s hot there, isn’t it? Yes, it is. The average temperature year-round is about 27ºC. However, the Casablanca Valley is only about 30km from the Pacific Ocean which provides cool, misty mornings. That, coupled with the volcanic matter in the soil (which helps retain humidity and withstands the day’s high temperatures) makes it the perfect pocket to grow mineral driven white wines as well as pinot noir. This wine isn’t named Volcanes for nothing. Chile is home to nearly 3,000 volcanoes providing wine growers with ample idyllic soil.
Red fruits and berries are dominant with a subtext of black tea and herbs. The wine is aged 6 months in 2nd and 3rd use French and American oak, providing a bit of depth with a body edging towards medium and layers of black spice on the finish.
Okanagan Valley VQA, BC
British Columbia is fast becoming known for making world class pinot noir. It’s second only to merlot in regards to red varietals planted (1,020 acres according to bcwine.com).
Gray Monk is one of the original wineries in the Okanagan, so they’ve had a few decades to perfect their pinot noir. This one comes from various vineyards up and down the Okanagan Valley, with bright red cherry and currant aromas. Barrel fermentation and aging provides some evolving notes of earth and delicate spice. Incredibly balanced acidity makes this a stellar food-pairing option.
Marlborough, New Zealand
In most parts of Europe, pinot noir and chardonnay go hand in hand. Where you find one, you often find the other. However, that’s not necessarily the case in new world regions – and New Zealand is a prime example. NZ is autonomous with sauvignon blanc, and where you find good sauvignon b – you’ll often find some amazing pinot noir!
The grapes for Whitehaven’s pinot noir come from five different vineyards located in the Awatere, Wairau and Southern Valley sub-regions of Marlborough. Each of the vineyards are SWNZ (Sustainable winegrowing New Zealand) accredited.
This pinot noir under $25 is medium bodied with slighter more dominant savoury black spice flavours due to the use of new oak barrels (44%). However, the ripe plum and cherry still shine through with a silky finish.
HAHN PINOT NOIR
Monterey County, California
Founded by Nicky Hahn, each bottle in the Hahn series depicts a rooster. In Nicky’s native language (German) – the word ‘Hahn’ means rooster.
The cool winds from Monterey Bay and the rocky soils help moderate the California heat in this Monterey County Pinot Noir.
Fruit forward aromas with bright cherry and pomegranate. Toasty cedar notes help evolve the palate and showcase soft tannins and smooth acidity. The Hahn website suggests pairing with a rare fillet steak and carpaccio, grilled lobster, brie, milder blue cheeses.