Pinot Noir is, undoubtedly, one of the fussiest and most difficult of all the major wine grapes to grow. Plant it somewhere too cold and it simply won’t ripen, too warm and you get coarse, jammy flavours and the ‘sweet spot’ between these two can be perilously small. It thrives, of course, in its French homeland, Burgundy, and there are some delightful examples elsewhere, including in Germany, Chile, New Zealand and the cooler parts of the USA (especially Washington State and Oregon but, despite the film ‘Sideways’, less frequently in California in my experience).
Obviously, you can forget much of Australia – it’s just too hot, although there a few areas where the cold Antarctic winds and tidal currents make the climate far cooler (and so Pinot Noir friendly) than you might expect from the latitude. Among these are the Great Southern region of Western Australia and Victoria’s Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula. On the other hand, surprisingly, there is one part of Australia where it’s so cool that growers need to seek out sheltered spots with good exposure to the sun to ripen their Pinot Noir at all. That is the island state of Tasmania, about 100 miles south of the mainland which is, in fact, on the same latitude as New Zealand’s Marlborough region.
And it’s from Tasmania that Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir (Wine Society, £14.95) comes. I tasted it recently: a typical Burgundian ‘farmyardy’ nose greets you but this is followed on the palate by lovely raspberry and cranberry flavours, a hint of cinnamon and a really long, crisp finish. Given the price of good Pinots from elsewhere, I thought this was excellent value for money and an ideal match for our pan fried duck breasts with a honey and thyme sauce.
But, before I make you too hungry, I’ll end with a wine trivia question for you: what is the most westerly Designated wine region (Appellation Contrôlée or local equivalent) in mainland Europe? I’ve just enjoyed a wine from there and I’ll tell you about it next time.