Any of my friends, family members or colleagues can tell you I love wine. There is no question about it.
I lived in Stellenbosch, South Africa and worked in a lovely little wine bar and bistro under the tutelage of "Madame Marie". At first she absolutely terrified me but over a number of cups of coffee, on Saturday mornings, and an even greater number of glasses of wine after shift, the fear subsided. She has great taste in wine and I am sure always will do. Our regular customers and the rest of the team, all of whom are even now good friends, at La Fayette were instrumental in awakening my passion. The taste for wine has always been there, my father will tell you it was he who kick started my obsession, but living in the wine lands of South Africa I couldn't help but get excited.
In my formative years I had loved the classic reds, Syrah, Bourdeaux blends, Pinotage, Merlot etc. But in Stellenbosch I discovered the joys, oh yes the joys, of Pinot Noir. Billie, a very good friend of mine introduced me to this delicious and oh so treacherous grape. Check out her facebook page Billie and Butter. I say treacherous because most producers will tell you Pinot Noir is the queen of grapes and the breaker of hearts. Jancis Robinson describes Pinot Noir as "[leading] us in a terrible dance, tantalising with an occasional glimpse of riches in store for those who persevere, yet obstinately refusing to be tamed." I fell in love quickly. Now that I think about it, hardly surprising that I love Champagne too. Pinot Noir being one of the three varieties of grape used to produce Champagne and Champagne style wines.
My introduction was to the New World Pinot Noirs. Big, bold, floral, flavours of cherry and violets but with this completely deep meaty, mushroom-y, barnyard characteristic which when you first taste Pinot Noir can totally throw you off balance. My first favourite Pinot Noir came from Vriesenhof Wine Estate, 2003 vintage. It was soft, smooth, silky with this burst of raspberry and fynbos. Then the farmyard characteristics kicked in and they were bold, meaty and mouth watering. The 2007 for me was a revelation. I could go on forever about the Pinot Noirs from the Western Cape including Haute Cabriere's, Unwooded Pinot Noir. Nothing too complex, just huge helpings of cherry and fresh berries. One of Kyle's favourites. We drank this sitting in the sun looking over the Franschoek Valley from the lawns of Haute Cabriere cellars. Kyle was hooked. He will tell you he loves Oak Valley Pinot Noir 2009, which was delicious even at 10:30 in the morning with the acidity of freshly squeezed orange juice still on our tongues. I don't deny that memories play a huge part in how we feel about wines when drinking them. As I've said before in a previous blog nostalgia invokes emotions, emotions can be the driving force behind our actions and our actions lead to where we are today. I feel this way about my memories of wine.
I have had the privilege to work with some amazing producers of Pinot Noir in South Africa and even more privileged to taste their hard work. I can't even list the wines that I love. Recently, however I was introduced to Creation Wines, Pinot Noir, 2014 at a tasting in London by none other than Carolyn Martin herself. I converted one of my colleagues. He was amazed and said it had even outshone one of the Burgandy's we had tasted earlier on in the evening. Surprised? Not really, South Africa showcases amazing wines that could take on the rest of the world and easily win, but enough about that.
More recently I have been lucky enough to sample some beautiful Burgundys such as Domaine Roux Père et Fils Vougeot 1er Cru Les Petits Vougeots 2012, Bouchard Père et Fils Chapelle-Chambertin 2009. My most recent Pinot Noir experience has been with Domaine Leroy Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Beaux Monts 2007. Delicious! I have also grown to love the Pinot Noirs from Alsace and Germany. They are so light and delicate. Little Nymphs dancing alongside the giants of Burgundy. The list goes on and on that list are a few simple classic Pinot Noirs that I could drink every day as my table wine and also some fantastic new world Pinot Noir from New Zealand, Australia and Chile. I have to thank Trina's Wine shop for giving me the selection to choose from.
So what food do you pair Pinot Noir with? Well now, that is a good question. You do not want huge bold flavours that will overpower the delicacy of the wine. Yet on the other hand you don't want something that lacks flavour and depth. A classic pairing for me is Pinot Noir and duck. Sweet pan fried duck breasts with a dash of Chinese five spice. Or a beautiful piece of seared tuna. Meaty and rich but with a freshness that you don't necessarily get from a piece of steak. Surprisingly something I have discovered recently that goes well with Pinot Noir is beetroot. Beetroot has this deliciously earthy and delicate sweetness that works so well with Pinot Noir. Gently roasted with a handful of fresh rosemary, a dash of balsamic vinegar and olive oil till soft then tossed with goats' cheese, pumpkin seeds, rocket and roasted squash served as a warm salad. Or in a risotto with lashings of mascarpone cheese and Parmesan. Either way the beetroot goes wonderfully well with the wine.
Whatever your taste in wine is I hope you give Pinot Noir a chance. Love it or hate it you can only admit that it is a rich and complex grape with the ability to break even the strongest wine makers heart. I'd love to hear about your favourite wines be they Pinot Noir or something else.
Happy eating and drinking.
Good food is very often, even most often, simple food. - Anthony Bourdain