by Anthony Hamilton Russell

Why I love Pinot Noir

I have two big loves. Pinot Noir the variety, and that is an unconditional love. And Pinot Noir the wine, which is a conditional love.

As a variety, Pinot Noir is in my opinion the most articulate communicator of the personality of site and soil. It unlocks all the ancient mysteries of a particular site with an uncompromising honesty. If the site has little to say, so will the wine. If the site is a privileged one, then, in the right hands, the story the wine tells is a deep and intellectual one. Almost spiritual. For those of us with the privilege of owning our sites, and having a strong emotional connection to them, their story told through Pinot Noir can be particularly moving. I love the grape unconditionally for this ability. Each year a different story, but each year the essence of a particular place with a new interpretation. Beauty unseen by man alone, unextractable by man alone, but possible through this remarkable grape.

As a wine, I confess to respecting (often greatly), but not particularly enjoying, much of what is made from Pinot Noir outside Burgundy. As a straight varietal expression, this thin-skinned relatively unstructured grape which tends towards simple red fruit, can aspire to an unchallenging, low-brow prettiness and ease, but not much more. Only in the right place and right soils can this grape transcend the variety and become the complex, tensile, intellectual, fine literature of wine. This happens around the world in pockets, (still) overwhelmingly in Burgundy. But when Pinot Noir is great, it is to me, unmatchable. It transcends the idea of fruit and becomes an almost primal savoury expression, connecting us to all that is ancient and of the earth. It is, in this state, deeply uplifting. I love aged Bordeaux which usually reminds me of a cold Atlantic sea shore after a storm with sea-weed on the beach. Great aged Burgundy reminds me of old mankind and caves occupied for millennia. A connection with our primal roots and a real joy.

Leave a Reply