If Bordeaux is the king of red wines, then Burgundy is the queen. But the grapes that go into Bordeaux, principally cabernet sauvignon and merlot, can be grown in almost any environment. Pinot noir, the sole grape of red Burgundy, is much more finicky. It's a testament to that region's exceptional wines that viticulturists and winemakers around the world have zealously attempted to reproduce their success. While it's been an uphill struggle, when our panel tasted pinot noirs from six different regions on four continents, we were impressed. Here are the top picks:
2011 The Crater Rim Pinot Noir, Bendigo Terrace, $23
Pinot noir has found a successful home in New Zealand, but not all regions are created equal. Some of the best come from Central Otago, as this enticing wine proves. The nose offers lovely floral aromas with dark berry fruit, earthy cinnamon and fresh tobacco. The palate is filled with ripe berry flavors along with touches of dark chocolate and cream. This is a world-class pinot.
2012 Evesham Wood Pinot Noir, $24
Oregon's Evesham Wood embraces an elegant style for their wines. This mid-tier Eola-Amity Hills offering definitely over-delivers on its price point with spicy rose, Bing cherry and raspberry aromas, all colored by an intriguing touch of earthy forest floor. This beautifully structured and very well-balanced wine leads off with tart cherry flavors followed by velvety berry. Soft tannins come through on the long finish.
2012 J Vineyards Pinot Noir, $35
It took California winemakers a long time to figure out pinot noir, but in the past 20 years or so, they've dialed it in. This one from J Vineyards is a beautiful example. It opens with aromas of rose petal, soft oak and mocha-laced cherry. Rich but well-balanced, this wine's silky flavors of chocolate-covered cherries and creamy berries fill the mouth and linger on.