This is the sort of wine label that would have made me despair and reach for the Australian a few years ago.
French labels aren’t quite as complicated as Italian – or even German or Spanish – labels, but often feature enough confusion to drive away all but the most adventurous of non-expert wine drinkers. The key first step is identifying the grape. As long as you can do that, you’re alright; and here it’s shining through from the middle of that collection of French words: “Pinot Noir“.
I actually ordered this wine via room service during a recent stay in the Town Hall Hotel in East London; but while perusing a menu at your own pace (without the prying eyes of waiters or fellow shoppers watching over you) can be less stressful than other wine-buying situations, it still won’t help you if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
This is where Google comes in handy. A quick search (because Google does not condone the use of its brand-name as a verb!) will at the very least give you an idea what it is you might be ordering; but more often than not you’ll be able to find somebody else out there who’s drunk the wine and been good enough to air their opinions online. Such are the joys of the internet.
I actually didn’t do that, because of the three red wines available via room service I had no doubt that I wanted the Pinot Noir to wash down the oily plate full of meat (AKA dinner) I was also ordering. In any given situation, unless there’s a needy meal to match with my wine, I’m likely to opt for the Pinot Noir, as it is – all-in-all – my favourite grape.
This wine didn’t disappoint. It was fruitful and flavoursome – much more so than its 12.5% alcohol would suggest. The aroma was… interesting, shall we say: vegetal to the point of almost being fetid – with a touch of bad cheese or tired feet in there; but this was more than compensated for by a great-tasting dry tang of sour cherry and blackcurrants, and a savory, subtle finish. The wine was a touch darker than many Pinots, and very, very drinkable. There are some interesting and variable tasting notes on cellartracker: if there’s a consensus it seems to be that it’s an easy-drinking uncomplicated wine, light on oak and tannin, and definitely French.
The “Vin de Pays” part of the label indicates that the wine exists somewhere in-between top-class AOCs and bottom-of-the-barrel table wines in the French classification system. This doesn’t guarantee you a bog-standard wine, mind you; many bargains can be had from areas whose produce is just as good but – for one reason or another – but not as well-recognized as a local AOC neighbour. Wine-searcher.com gives us detail Wikipedia doesn’t quite stretch to in indicating that this wine is “from the Doubs, Haute-Saone and Jura departments of north-eastern France”. If you know French wine, you’ll know Burgundy deals predominantly in Pinot Noir, and this is essentially a cheap version of that.
Cheap, though? Well…
The estimated going rate is £10, but it cost over four times that when I bought it. I would never normally pay so much for wine, even in a restaurant/hotel, but I was babysitting and unable to rush to the nearest newsagents for a bottle of Cono Sur or Concha y Toro.
Needs must when the devil drives (you to drink), and I couldn’t face Strictly Come Dancing without something to exercise my brain.