Review: Moselle Les Hautes-Bassières Pinot Noir, Château de Vaux 2016

This is an extremely nice, supple, elegant pinot noir from Alsace. I gulped it down alongside some Burgundian escalopes a la Keith Floyd.

Ah, Floyd, lovely Floyd.

I wrote about the lovely Keith Floyd (who, I’m aware, was perhaps not consistently lovely as a man to live with in real life — but, by god, was lovely on camera in his heyday) as an inspiration for restarting this blog. Today’s wine, a fabulous Pinot Noir from Alsace with a ludicrously long name, was an excellent accompaniment to a recipe cribbed from one of the low-fi Floyd clips that the BBC hasn’t yet snatched away from those of us without TV licenses:

I made something akin to the above, but with pork rather than veal. Floyd’s culinary reference point is Burgundy, and the closest I could muster (without straying too far into the costly zone of my wine rack) to Burgundy was a Pinot Noir (same grape, you realise) from elsewhere in France: Moselle Les Hautes-Bassières Pinot Noir, Château de Vaux 2016 (The Wine Society, £13.50 — link is to the 2017, as they’re out of stock of 2016 now).

And, Christ, it’s good.

Snatch it to your nose and you’re enveloped in a heady musk of solvents, fruit and sand. To me it smells oh so magenta. Your own pretentious synaesthesiac mileage may vary.

Straight out of the bottle, it still had a certain stalkiness and petulance, but we hoofed it into the decanter and coaxed away its sulkiness. If you’re drinking the 2016 as well, I suggest you do likewise (or else hold onto it for a few more years, you patient, sensible, tedious old fart). It has that blooming, fruited warmth of a bloody good cherry brandy (dry, rich, complex; not some hideous confected crap) but absolutely no sentimentality or flab. There’s a wonderful steely edge of acidity that stirs your tastebuds into action like a riding crop to the arse of a shambling pony.

Then your pony effortlessly breaks into this sinuous, viscous canter of fruit and spice and warm, long, lovely, friendly alcohol.

I love this (amongst other things — so many other things) about Pinot noir: its ability to be both dancingly light and ridiculously powerful. It’s so goddamn honed. A featherweight boxer of a wine.

And it went delightfully with my pork escalopes — thank you for asking: that acid cutting elegantly through the cream and butter. I’m sure Floyd would have approved. And opened a second bottle.

A beautiful, elegant, lithe Pinot Noir — with a glimmer of filth in its eye

… is elegant and lithe and beautiful and charming as you like — but with that little glimmer of filth in its eye.

Close-up of the yellow label of a bottle of 2007 Pinot Noir from Martinborough VineyardsOkay. Let’s sprint through this one, shall we?

Pinot fucking noir. To get one thing out of the way: I love pinot noir. Christ alive, I love it. And this pinot noir is bloody delicious.

That’s probably all you need to know, isn’t it?

In case you’re still reading — rather than bombing down the A1 towards Stevenage in a hijacked articulated lorry in order to ramraid The Wine Society’s warehouse — I’ll give you a bit more. (And, um, they’ve sold out in any case. So save yourself the criminal record.)

It’s got that brilliant pinot noir tautness — a lithe-bodied, gymnastic suppleness — that I find goddamn bewitching. Then add that little spatter of muckiness. Oh, that sweet little spatter. Because this wine is as elegant and lithe and beautiful and charming as you like — but there’s that hint of filth in its eye. Goddamn.

So, yes, there’s the mellow red fruit, the ripeness. And there’s the earth, the muck, the sex.

Yup.

Rating ★★★★★ 5 stars (outstanding)
Grape Pinot Noir
Region Martinborough
Price £25 or so from The Wine Society (no longer available, sadly, but you might want to try the ‘second wine’ from the same producer); or Majestic has the 2009 for £30; £24 each if you buy a couple. Which you should.

Alsace Pinot Noir, Kuentz-Bas Collection 2005 review

… will help you avoid meting out acts of equine violence should you be confronted with the prospect of a Pinot Noir Twitter shindig

Closeup of this Alsace Pinot Noir's label: gold and brown, with a simple crest and typographic focus

Way back — way, way back — there was some kind of pinot noir ‘event’ on Twitter. ‘Let’s all drink pinot noir,’ the governing philosophy of said event seemed to be, ‘and pretend that doing so has some kind of higher purpose or conceptual justification.’

Well, Old Parn doesn’t necessarily need conceptual justification to wrench the cork from a bottle of PN. But one doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, does one? (Or, in the words of Young Parn, many years ago, one doesn’t knock a gift horse in the mouth. Which would be even more churlish.)

Anyhow. Conceptually justified to the max, I took out the above-depicted half bottle of Kuentz-Bas. And rather fine it was, too: poised and sharp, cialis online to buy fruited and taut. Its colour was pale, russet-tinged. Once it’d been out in the glass a while, it really bloomed and softened. Relaxed.

(A little like that gift horse did, once it realised I wasn’t about to crack it a swift uppercut to the jaw.)

Verdict

Supple and smooth, with a tiny gruff stemminess at the back of it. Beautiful to hold in your gob. Light, effervescent.

It is an absolute avalanche of joy to be able to buy a wine like this in a half bottle. Thank you, once again, Wine Society; thank you. And thank you, Pinot Noir Day. Or whatever your name was.

Rating ???? 4 stars (very good)
Region Alsace
Grape Pinot Noir
ABV 13%
Price £7.50 for a half bottle from The Wine Society

The Wine Society’s Chilean Pinot Noir review

… is just the kind of wine into whose welcoming alcoholic embrace you’d yearn to tumble after a day of bubblewrap and despair

A closeup of the magenta-dominated label of the Wine Society's Chilean Pinot Noir. The label bears an image of a flower.

I’m on my way to London. Right now. Yeah, check out my power-commuting ass.

(Poor beast. He really doesn’t like the motorway traffic. I knew I should’ve taken the camel instead.)

Jokes, jokes. I’m actually on a bus. A bus enchanted with the sweet, sweet magic of wifi. When I boarded this bus, accompanied by a suitcase big enough to bury me in (although, I like to think, aesthetically unfit for such a purpose: let it be noted that I’d prefer my final place of rest not to possess zips and expandable compartments), I chirpily remarked to the driver that I had ‘all my worldly possessions’ with me.

That, dear reader, was what is known in the trade as a downright fucking lie.

Because — I have discovered — the sum total of Old Parn’s worldly possessions is roughly equivalent in volume to the sum total of the worldly possessions of the dragon in Beowulf.

(Although drastically inequivalent in terms of fiscal value.)

So you may well imagine (if you have nothing better to imagine, you poor, impoverished sod) the innumerable hours of box-stuffing, newspaper scrunching and cutlery-sorting that have lately consumed my evenings. As I BUBBLE-WRAP MY LIFE.

(Or rather — let’s keep this metaphor on its toes, shall we? — as I decide that large portions of my life will probably survive the journey without bubblewrap, because I can’t be arsed with that nonsense.)

Wha’? Uh, sorry, I think I just nodded off, there. You were saying something? Wine? What? You say this is a blog about wine? Uh. Right. Okay. Jesus. Have some patience, won’t you?

Because what I was leading up to (if you’d just let me finish) was this: should you find yourself bubblewrapping your life, what you’re going to need is a welcoming alcoholic embrace into which to tumble, at the end of the tedious, tedious day.

And The Wine Society’s Chilean Pinot Noir gives a pretty comforting embrace.

First up, let’s talk price. Because people keep saying these are straitened times (though I guess they might actually, on reflection, be saying that these are straightened thymes, and I’ve been reading a wholly unintended economic subtext to what are in fact observations of niche culinary trends. It would explain why they were waving a bunch of unusually rigid herbaceous offcuts in my face at the time).

YES, LONDON, YOU ARE LUCKY TO HAVE ME. There ain’t no suitcase big enough to bury my puns.

In any case, this wine is very, very good value. It’s relatively soft. Pinot Noir can (especially at a price like this) be on the austere side. Not so here. It’s pretty ripe, y’know? Fruited, gobfilling. Very accessible. It’s a wine that gives of itself generously; no haughtiness.

To be fair, it doesn’t have anything to be haughty about — it’s not a fine wine, not a highly-strung Pinot Noir racehorse. But you probably don’t need me to tell you that Pinot Noir racehorses don’t come with a price tag like this.

So should you find yourself — drained and desperate — at the end of a day of packing, I urge you to tumble into the welcoming arms of the Society’s Chilean Pinot Noir.

As opposed to tumbling into the dark, hypnotic maw of that large open suitcase in front of you…

Rating ★★★★ 4 stars (very good)
Region Leyda Valley
Grape Pinot Noir
ABV 14%
Price £6.95 from The Wine Society

Momo Pinot Noir 2008, Marlborough review

… is stuffed with more fruit that a small child at a pick-your-own fruit farm. But matures a hell of a lot more quickly

Closeup of the logo on a bottle of Momo Pinot Noir from New Zealand. A simple typographic logo with lots of white space. Gill Sans is the font, or something like it.

Another day, another pinot noir.

This time, it’s from New Zealand — Marlborough, specifically. And quite a different specimen from the last pinot noir to cross our threshold, the restrained, poised Palataia Pinot Noir from Germany. A good few quid more expensive, too, I might add.

Momo is a far more extrovert manifestation of the pinot noir grape. Like a small child on the way back from a Pick Your Own fruit farm, it’s stuffed with red fruits. Unlike the small child, though, Momo isn’t going to start bawling for your attention in about an hour with a stomach ache. Thank Christ.

Instead, give it an hour in the open air and it’ll get a fair bit more serious. Some bitter undertones develop, a savoury, lasix water pill reviews smoky complexity. Which is most welcome.

Texturally, it’s delightful: that silky, silky pinot noir seduction. And whilst it may be accessible, thanks to all that fruit, it’s far from simplistic. As well as the smokiness, there’s pepper, cinnamon, roses, soil. And a smidge of caramel (but only a smidge).

Verdict

A very enjoyable, stylish kind of wine. Nothing, I must say, to set the Parn palate ablaze — but very creditable, very accessible. Closer to an airport paperback than a penguin classic, admittedly. But a pretty good airport paperback.

What’s more, it’s a wine you’d have to work a lot less hard to love than a squealing toddler with an upset stomach and a stained mouth.

Rating ??? (3 stars)
ABV 14%
Price £11.95 from The Wine Society

Palataia Pinot Noir 2009 Review

… won’t blast you with fruit & veg like some crazed pyromaniac greengrocer. No; it’s lean, discrete, introverted. And in disguise.

A closeup of the label of Palataia Pinot Noir from Marks & Spencer

A little illustration of wine marketing, here. Look at the label above. Notice something? Or, rather, don’t notice something?

Yeah. We don’t know where this wine comes from. Sure, we know it’s made of Pinot Noir. But nowhere on the label (no, not even in the blurby writeup on the back) does it state its country of origin. No: this is a wine in disguise. It’s adopted a generic, vaguely South American-sounding brand name; our only clue is a mention of the region: Pfalz.

That’s because — yep — it’s a red wine from Germany.

And this fact, alas, is apparently a stigma to rank alongside infection with pneumonic plague.

That’s a shame, that is. Because — on the evidence of this wine — we have nothing to fear.

This is very much an Old World-style Pinot Noir. By which I mean, it’s lean, discrete, introverted. It won’t blast your gob with salvos of fruit and veg, like some rampaging pyromaniac greengrocer. Which is a relief.

Instead, it’s bitter, herbaceous, intensely savoury. It tastes — and feels — distinguished.

It’s not bereft of fruit, by the way. Indeed, to an unusual extent, this is a wine that actually tastes grapey. But I’m talking the whole package: grape skins, grape pips, grape stalks.

Verdict

Not at all bad, then. The wine’s downfall, as far as I’m concerned, is its lack of length: a mouthful is over relatively quickly; it doesn’t linger much. This gives it a tendency towards emptiness on its own, so I’d pair it with food (something simply-cooked, not too bolshy).

But Pinot Noir isn’t easy to produce. Especially in this (far more unforgiving) style. Especially at this price.

Credit to M&S, then, for carrying an unusual, serious, good value wine like this. It’s just a shame it has to appear in disguise.

Rating ★★★ (3 stars)
ABV 13.5%
Price £8.49 from Marks & Spencer

Corriente Del Bio 2009, Pinot Noir

… is serious, poised and (at time of writing) rather good value

A bottle of Corriente Del Bio Pinot Noir from Marks & Spencer

I thought I’d crack open a bottle of this M&S Pinot Noir. It’s reduced right now, y’see, from £8 to a mere 6 — a bargain to which my attention was drawn by Fiona Beckett’s Credit Crunch Drinking.

Now, if you fervently adore pinot noir in the way that I do, your eyes will already be lit up at the prospect of a bottle for £6. But is it good?

Yeah, it’s pretty good. Serious, proper stuff. It doesn’t have that over-veggy, slightly composty thing that some cheaper new world PNs do. And it’s silky light, laced with becoming aromas of orange zest — though I’d like a little more body, please.

(But then, I’m a scrawny wee runt.)

Thanks to relatively prominent tannins, it also has that somewhat austere cranberry dryness. Best with food, I’d say.

Verdict

Not at all bad, M&S. For £6, this is definitely worth a try. It wouldn’t, though, be my £8 pinot noir of choice. I’d take the Wine Society’s Chilean Pinot Noir any day. And use the spare £1 to BUY SWEETS.

But if the notion of a serious, poised kind of wine for £6 grabs you, haul ass down to M&S soon. It won’t be on offer for much longer.

Rating ★★ at full price; ★★★ at its current price
ABV 14%
Price Reduced to £5.99 at Marks & Spencer (usually £7.99)