By Celia Strong
The world of Pinot Noirs is probably one of the most complex and confusing in the wine world.
As we’ve discussed in the past, this a particularly difficult grape to grow and to make into wine. It is more susceptible in the vineyards to soil and climate subtleties and to vine diseases.
For years, the icon for good Pinot Noir wines has been the Burgundy region of Eastern France. There is also a huge range of styles of Pinot Noir.
But other styles have shown themselves over recent years in California. Oregon, Argentina, Chile and New Zealand. That’s bad news for wine drinkers because as more is learned about Pinot Noirs, their prices have risen. Sometimes, the higher prices mean something, sometimes not. Our lesson today has a “not” wine to learn.
Louis Latour is one of the very best producers of French red Burgundies and some of the best and most expensive Pinot Noir wines in the world.
Like other producers, the Latour company has expanded its resources to vineyards outside the official Burgundy boundaries. According to French wine laws, these vineyards may not be as good soil and climate sites, but that doesn’t mean they cannot make good wines from the grapes grown there. Really good wines.
One has to trust the expertise of a company like Latour to know good soils and climates, and how to make good wines from them. It’s not like they’d put their centuries old reputation in jeopardy to make an “ungood” wine!
For background, Maison Louis Latour has over 200 years of history in the Burgundy region. The family has been growing grapes since the 17th century. The house was founded in 1797. Today, they own 125 acres of vineyards, a massive holding in the region.
In 1997, Maison Latour was admitted to the Hénokiens, an exclusive club for family owned businesses with at least a 200-year history and still owned and operated by the family and still with the founder’s name.
In 1979, the Latour company decided to make a Chardonnay wine from vineyards outside the official Burgundy region. The Ardeche area was chosen for its clay and limestone soil. For Pinot Noir, outside of Burgundy, they chose the Var region. This region was formed in 1790, at the time of the French Revolution. Latour’s goal was to make a top quality but still affordable Pinot Noir wine: Domaine de Valmoissine.
This domaine is located on the site of an ancient monastery. The area is the truffle hunting capital of Provence. The vineyards are 1,640 feet above sea level with lots of sunshine during the summer months, but still cool nights and limited spring frosts.
All of which lands us at our wine for this week: Latour Domaine de Valmoissine Pinot Noir.
This wine is 100 percent Pinot Noir. The average age of the vines is 15 years. The vineyards have a southern exposure, with clay and limestone soil. But the vines are pruned to control their yields, which means more flavors in fewer grapes.
Many of the grapes are hand harvested, which allows for more control of the maturity and ripeness of each and every grape, factors that show themselves in better quality wines.
The grapes are fermented in open vats, and the wine is aged 10 to 12 months in stainless steel.
The Valmoissine Pinot is elegant with remarkable finesse. It is fruity with cherry and berry flavors with hints of truffle and expresso. Absolutely true to its variety. It has a soft, silky texture in your mouth, and soft tannins that make it a food wine and a sipping wine.
Some critics have said this is the best Vin de Pays Pinot Noir wine that anyone produces. And, even better, that some Burgundian Pinot Noirs would be lucky to taste this good. Pretty high bar to hit!
So, our lesson is not only a new wine, but a new perspective. As good as the highest level wines are, most of us can be really happy with better than they have to be “lesser” levels.
Truly, there are Pinots and then there are Pinots.
For $11.99! Enjoy.
Celia Strong works at Bill’s Liquor & Fine Wines on Lady’s Island.