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WWBG: Affordable Pinot Noirs

By BethesdaNow.com

Friday - 3/28/2014, 1:35pm  ET

WWBG

Editor’s Note: This column is sponsored by Georgetown Square Wine and Beer (10400 Old Georgetown Road).

When Pinot Noir is good, it’s very good. When it’s bad, you want to return it since you probably paid good money for it.

A good Pinot has delicious cherry, strawberry, ripe blackberry and earthy flavors. Pinots also contain a perfectly light amount of silky tannins that make it a great food wine. Pinot pairs with a variety of dishes — ethnic and classic cuisines — due to its light body style.

The Pinot Noir grape is widely considered to produce some of the finest wines in the world.

Grown around the globe, it’s a very difficult wine to cultivate for winemakers. The grapes tend to produce tightly packed clusters, which leads to difficulties with rot and bacteria. Pinot Noir grapes also have very thin skin that is easily damaged or punctured.

Makers of Pinot Noir must be tireless and diligent when it comes to growing these fickle grapes. With all the extra precaution winemakers must take to grow quality Pinot Noir, the price inevitably rises.

You can find a decent Pinot for less than $15, but most of the time those wines have grapes sourced from a number of different vineyards and regions.

Winemakers will basically buy cheap grapes from different vineyards, make a Pinot blend, then slap a catchy label on the bottle. Some are pretty good, but below I’m going to recommend some great value Pinots that are sourced exclusively from high quality producing Pinot regions:

Schug Pinot Noir 2011 -- Carneros, CaliforniaSchug Pinot Noir 2011 — Carneros, California

California’s Carneros region is arguably North America’s best place for Pinot Noir. With Carneros varieties usually averaging $30 dollars or more, Schug Winery is able to produce an outstanding Carneros Pinot at around $20.

It’s a complex wine with a rich bouquet of flavors that includes cherries, strawberries, currant, followed by a spicy texture and long silky finish. Enjoy it with lamb, duck and even grilled fish.

Wildewood Pinot Noir 2010 -- Willamette Valley, OregonWildewood Pinot Noir 2010 — Willamette Valley, Oregon

It’s difficult to find a top quality and good value Pinot from California. It’s even harder to find one from the Willamette Valley. Oregon Pinot prices have skyrocketed in the past few years, to the point where they’re almost unaffordable.

Thankfully, we have discovered this Oregon gem. Wildewood delivers quality juice from one of the world’s best Pinot growing regions at less than $20. Scoring a 94 point-rating from Wine Spectator, this wine is a must try.

Antonin Rodet Bourgogne 2012 -- Burgundy, FranceAntonin Rodet Bourgogne 2012 — Burgundy, France

If you’re new to wine, you may not know that French law doesn’t allow winemakers to put the grape of the wine on the front of the label. They assume you know which grape is allowed to be grown and bottled in each region of France.

In Burgundy, winemakers are allowed to use only Pinot Noir grapes for their red wines. Burgundy red wines are some of the most expensive and sought after wines in the world. Prices can reach four digits for a great vintage of a small chateau. Add in the strict winemaking laws of France and truly affordable Burgundies are not an easy find.

Antonin Rodet Bourgonge is one of those rare value Burgundies for less than $20. With flavors of black cherry, chocolate and licorice, this dry style Pinot is a great companion for the dinner table.

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