By Rose Murray Brown MW    Published in The Scotsman 21 November 2015

Why do we love Pinot Noir so much?  It can be so seductively juicy with cherry fruit flavours, soft tannins and smooth lush textures – but so often cheap Pinot Noir can be mean, thin and disappointing.

My first tip at this price range is to avoid Burgundy, but head to other regions in France (Limoux in southern Languedoc or Auvergne in central France are two examples).  Alternatively, give Eastern Europe another chance, where revitalised vineyards in Bulgaria and Romania can offer tantalising glimpses at bargain prices with a couple of bottles. 

There are also odd flashes of genius at this price level from Germany – Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s are both now listing good value German Pinot Noirs worth seeking out.  Bizarrely, Italy has about the same amount of Pinot Noir planted as Burgundy – whilst much of it ends up in fizz blends, there are a few unusual Pinot Neros from  north-east Italy (see below).

If you are keen on New Zealand Pinot Noir, we did find a few decent ones at this price under £12, but to be honest you usually you need to pay more for a good authentic Kiwi Pinot experience.  My hot tip from the New World (not exactly news, I know) is to head to Chile which stormed our tasting with such great value high quality examples.

Aldi Pinot Noir ChileCHILE: ESTEVEZ RESERVA PINOT NOIR 2014 (£4.99 Aldi)
Alcohol: 13.5%       
Pinot Noir under a fiver – I am not sure how Aldi have managed it but they have a couple of very decent Pinots at this price – and this is one of them (the other is French).  Expect robust hefty cherry fruits and a sweet jammy palate.  It hails from Chile’s Central Valley and proves what astounding value Chile can offer too.  What this Pinot lacks in elegance, it makes up with rombustious rich ripe fruits.  GOOD VALUE BUY

Casa Silva Pinot Noir ChileCHILE: CASA SILVA COOL COAST PINOT NOIR 2012 (£10.95 Woodwinters, Edinburgh & Bridge of Allan; Michael Jobling Wines, Newcastle; Averys; Portland Wine Co; Duncan Murray Wines; Roberts & Spiegel; Stainton Wines; Vesuvio; Fullers Brewery; The Wine Tasting Co)
Alcohol: 14.5%
Licquorice and pomegranite with hint of spice on the bouquet, lovely smooth rounded ripe fruit palate and even spicier on the palate, with an elegance and refreshing acidity rarely found in Chilean Pinots.  Grapes are grown just eight kilometres from the Pacific ocean in Paradones – where the cold ocean wáter from Antartica creates heavy fog during summer days keeping temperaturas cool on the granite soil vineyards.  Matured for a year in 2 year French oak, this is the face of modern Chilean Pinot Noir – attractive label and weighty bottle – an all-round winner.  STAR BUY

Alcohol: 13.5%
Another popular wine with tasters who usually prefer restrained Old World Pinot Noir styles.  More mineral, less overt ripeness than other Chileans.   The giant Concha y Toro firm make their Maycas range north of Santiago in the captivating Limari valley from the San Julian and Quebrada Seca vineyards. limestone and clay.

Alcohol: 14%
Cool as a cucumber wits and pin-sharp balance – that is what you need for a ‘Hanging Ten’ daring surf move – and for making good wine from the tricky Pinot Noir grape in the Californian sun.  This affordable Californian Pinot is made by the Kautz family in Lodi’s Sierra Hills, but it is - curiously - bottled in the UK.  Plenty of ripe raspberry and cherry aromas, creamy succulent smoky palate with a hint of vanilla spice.  Bring out the sticky ribs.

ITALY: CA DI ALTE PINOT NERO 2013 (£9.99 Valvona & Crolla, Edinburgh; Harrisons Fine Wines, Crieff; Kirkness & Gorie, Orkney; Fine Wine Co, Musselburgh)
Alcohol: 12.5%
A refreshing change from the raft of sweet jammy Pinot Noirs in our tasting.  This Italian example from Colli Berici near Vicenza (hence the Palladian label) really surprised our tasters – it has a lovely richness, plenty of deep cherry fruit flavours and a bit of structure on finish.  Winemaker Alberto Marchisio is not trying to made a Burgundy look-alike (he even bottles it in a straight-shouldered Bordeaux style bottle), but offers us a different style of the tricky Pinot Nero grape.

Bulgarian Soli Pinot Noir The Wine SocietyBULGARIA: SOLI PINOT NOIR 2012 Edoardo Miroglio (£9.95 The Wine Society
Alcohol: 13.5%
I have been a fan of Italian Edoardo Miroglio’s wines for sometime (his Mavrud and Merlot are also very good).  This textile merchant hails from Piedmont, where he trained in winemaking with Luca Sandrone in Barolo.  Now Miroglio owns 220 hectares, a winery and swish wine hotel in southern Bulgaria – of all places – where he has invested a mere 22 million euros.  Very pretty elegant Pinot with light morello cherry fruits, a dash of liquorice and coffee, hint of French oak – serve this to your wine loving friends and see if they can guess its origin.  STAR BUY

Alcohol: 13%
Germany is the world’s third largest Pinot Noir grower (after France and USA) – found in their warmer regions of Baden, Rheinhessen and Rheinpfalz where it is called Spatburgunder.  Quality is now very high, but much of the best is drunk in the country – and if it is exported it is often pretty pricy.  I was thrilled to see Sainsburys listing their first German red at an affordable price.  It’s light in colour, but has a gentle ripe raspberry flavoured palate with soft and silky texture.  M&S also do a light-styled Pinot Noir from Pfalz región (Palataia Pinot Noir £8).

NEW ZEALAND: MOST WANTED PINOT NOIR 2014 (£10 Sainsbury’s, (£8 on offer), Booths)
Alcohol: 13.5%
Many Kiwi Pinots under £12 tend to have a sweet jamminess (you need to pay more in New Zealand for good Pinot).  This is a touch drier and more elegant than others in our tasting.  It hails from the enchanting, but little-known, región of Nelson – just an hour and a half’s drive from famous Marlborough in South Island.  Like Marlborough Pinots it does have lots of lush cherry fruits, with vanilla oak notes from its short ageing, but it is more restrained – a good match for duck.

FRANCE: PUY DE DOME PINOT NOIR 2012 Cave de Saint Verny (£7.99 Majestic Wine)
Alcohol: 13.5%
Matched against some cheap limp (under £12) red burgundies in our tasting, this robust £8 Pinot Noir from the heart of the wild Auvergne countryside showed up quite well and was picked as the favourite French example.  Vines are grown in high altitude vineyards with black volcanite andesite lava near Clermont-Ferrand in central France.  Rich morello cherry fruits, quite earthy prominent acidity, note Majestic are selling the 2012 vintage (other merchants have 2013 & 2014) – it reminded me of a good Beaujolais Cru.

Alcohol: 12.5%
For those who like a light style of Pinot Noir.  Oddbins’ main wine buyer Ana Saungui actually comes from Romania, so she was keen to include wines from her homeland which are so often get overlooked by other retailers.  Quite right too.  It is not as complex as Burgundy, but it is a bargain at £7.  Made by top Romanian winery Cramele Recas, this is a very pretty, soft textured, juicy simple Pinot Noir ideal for quaffing on its own or with a light salmon dish.


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