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Monday, 26 April 2021

The CWB Non-Burgundy French Pinot-Off

Two French Pinots that are not Burgundies

Burgundy will tell you that Pinot Noir is fickle, pale, elegant and expensive.

While all of this is true to a greater or lesser extent, other parts of France will invite you try Pinot's charms more reliably and more affordably.

There was a time when it was only Burgundy's white grape, Chardonnay, that had successfully gone around the world and become everyone's favourite "glass of white".

Now, increasingly, the red Pinot Noir is finding more areas to its liking - even if, being thin-skinned, prone to disease, and liking only cooler climates, it is never an easy grape to grow.

Its thin skin means paler, softer wines and this perhaps explains its popularity; with low colour and tannins, it occupies something of a middle ground between red wines and white in much the same way as other popular styles, such as rosé or kiwi Sauvignon.

Food-friendly yet easy-drinking, approachable in youth but with the potential to age, Pinot seemingly has it all.

These two Pinots are both from non-Burgundy France, and specifically from warmer climates than the Côte-d'Or.

They have more alcohol, colour and depth than many a red Burgundy - and a much lower price tag.

Calmel & Joseph Le Domaine Le Sentier 2019, Pays d’Oc, France (£14) ripe black cherry fruit with raspberry, spice and something slightly herbaceous; fresh and savoury with very fine but persistent tannins. Well-made, precise and elegant.

Improves with some aeration.


Match with tuna tartare or roast duck.

Calmel & Joseph say of their wine: An appealingly cherry red. Aromas of red and black fruit and pomegranate seeds announce a wine of great freshness and superb tension. An impression confirmed in the mouth that opens with fresh summer fruits such as wild cherry and finishes on more spicy, peppery and floral notes. A poised and magnificently balanced wine.

Louis Latour Pinot Noir Les Pierres Dorée (£20-22, Whitebridge Wines, Bakers and Larners of Holt, Mr Wheeler, La Zouch and The Drink Shop.com)

Les Pierres Dorées, (‘golden stones’) is a small sub-region of Beaujolais about 40km north west of Lyon, often referred to as ‘Little Tuscany’ thanks to its steep hills and landscape dotted with golden stone buildings.

The soils here are clay and limestone, very similar to those found in Burgundy. The vineyards are planted at the same altitude as Burgundy, so the grapes can ripen, yet retain their critical, natural acidity. This very specific terroir, coupled with ample sunshine, a warm climate and cool night-time temperatures give the wine its incredible aromatic complexity when vinified with Maison Louis Latour’s signature elegance.

Dark for a Pinot, with a complex, toasty nose of roasted spices and dark fruits; elderberry and dark plum with oaky spice and mint; cassis and cherry fruit; grippy and persistent. Savoury and complex with a full mid-palate.


Improves significantly with aeration and will repay some cellaring.

Match with slow-cooked breast of lamb - recipe here: The Cambridge Wine Blogger: Slow Cooked Breast of Lamb - And a Pinot Noir

Louis Latour says of this wine: The calcareous soil rich in iron oxide which confers him a very particular ochre color, as well as altitude, contribute to produce this surprising wine which associates richness and freshness with a beautiful aromatic complexity. Bright and intense red colour with red-garnet lights.

On the nose, we discover a gourmet blend of flowers, red berries and soft spices. On the palate, it is crunchy, round and ample. The Pinot Noir from the Pierres Dorées terroir off ers a wine with a great freshness, underlined by concentrated black fruits aromas with a superb length. 

Vinification notes This region offers beautiful argilo-calcareous soils, the plots selected by Maison Louis Latour form two islands and are situated on the villages of Morancé and Theizé. With a continental moderate climate, vineyards benefit from an ideal period of sunshine but the temperatures are relatively fresh between 280 and 400 meters in altitude. Traditional vinification. 10 to 12 months ageing stainless steel vats and oak barrels  

Pro reviews of  Les Pierres Dorées:

JancisRobinson.com (2016) - 16 pts Sweet red fruit and a good herby note – great flavour definition here, and it finishes with fragrant floral character. Light and short, but satisfies the Pinot flavour criteria. (RH)

Wine Spectator (2015) - 88 pts Balanced and fresh, with cherry, ground spice and currant notes, this medium-bodied red shows undertones of mineral and herb through the tangy, lightly tannic finish. Drink now through 2020

James Suckling (2016) - 89 pts An attractively light and charming pinot noir with some nice, warm and dry tannins. There is also friendly acidity for this often-tart category. Drink now or in 2019. 

Pro reviews of  Le Sentier

Jancis Robinson  (18/03/2020) Certified organic. Single vineyard. From their own property. Smells like cherry pie and stick cinnamon. Dry but ripe. Tannins like a comfortable cup of proper builder’s tea. Neither too much nor too little. Touch of green in the flavour (not the texture). Light-bodied, neat, pointed on the finish. Exceptionally good for a Pays d'Oc Pinot. Tamlyn Currin 16.0 / 20

Jamie Goode: Organically farmed Pinot Noir. Aromatic cherry fruit nose with some cedar and spice notes. The palate is supple and sweetly fruited with plums and berries, a touch of raspberry, and some savoury cedar spice notes. It’s nicely balanced with some savoury grip on the finish. Amazing to have a Pinot Noir this fresh and balanced from a warm climate. Lovely weight, finishing dry and grippy. 91/100 (£14 UK retail)

Highlights: high-end wines from Calmel & Joseph – wineanorak.com

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