Considered by many to be the finest wine grape of all time, pinot noir is a quirky grape from France’s Burgundy region whose best wines can be expressive and absolutely captivating. However, it is a fickle grape to grow and it can be famously difficult for vintners to produce inexpensive pinot noir that tastes anything like pinot noir.
Most red grapes don’t display their distinctive flavors until they get quite ripe, needing a lot of warmth in the vineyard to develop the necessary flavor compounds. It can be hard to tell the difference between wines made from grapes like merlot, Malbec, or zinfandel, for instance, if their fruit hasn’t ripened fully. This pattern plays out in reverse in pinot noir, whose signature earth tones and red berry flavors are most apparent when the fruit is grown in a cooler region and picked at an earlier stage of ripening. Pinot noir’s unique character and magic can melt away into a generic jamminess if the grapes get too much sun.
That’s one reason why pinot noir looms large among top-tier wines over $40 yet has little representation in the under $20 bracket and why it’s so delightful to find a wine like this cheeky offering from the balmy south of France. This unpretentious pinot noir is not trying to be fancy or intellectual, just tasty, but it nonetheless succeeds at capturing some of this grape’s elusive charms at an incredibly low price. While its fruit is clearly rather ripe, a combination of superior vineyard sites in the foothills of the northern Languedoc and careful winemaking yield a sassy, sappy red wine that still tastes like pinot noir. The wine is packed with playful red raspberry and wild strawberry flavors, with a bright, herbal undercurrent reminiscent of tangy rhubarb preserves.
Fat Bastard Pinot Noir
$9.99; 14.2% alcohol
PLCB Item #5939
Sale price through 6/27 — regularly $11.99
Also available at:
Total Wine & More in Claymont, Del. - $9.97, www.totalwine.com/