Pinot Noir is one of my favorite grapes, and this delicious little value from Jean-François Mérieau in the Loire Valley is one of my latest favorite sippers.
I've always been a huge fan of Pinot Noir's elegant and restrained fruit, it's high acidity and delicate nature. Not all Pinot's are grown, vinified and raised to fit that description, and since the indie film "Sideways" found the mass movie going/wine drinking audience almost ten years ago, droves of wine growers and makers the world over have jumped on the Pinot Noir bandwagon, stealing market share with, too often, not so great representations, especially on the low end.
That film was, at the time, the bane of my existence. As a hard working and hungry wine rep, I spent many evening and Sunday afternoon hours pouring tastes of my wares into little plastic cups for my retail accounts - whose thirsty patrons had all seen the film, it seemed - I was asked too many times, didn't you love the movie? Much of America had never heard of Pinot Noir before Sideways. Merlot, however, had been so popular for so many years the grape had practically become its own brand. And them there was, Miles, a grumpy drunk, played by Paul Giamatti, who professed to HATE Merlot. Despite his dour outlook on life and general asshole demeanor, viewers connected with Miles' snobbishness and joined his jihad against Merlot. Ironically, the coveted 1961 Cheval Blanc, which he winds up drinking alone in a McDonald's from a styrofoam cup, is a prestigious and expensive Bordeaux comprised mostly of Merlot. Author Rex Pickett, who wrote the novel Sideways, which the movie was based on, weighs in on the film's effect on the merlot business in this Town&Country article.
Meanwhile, at my tasting table on a cold Thursday night, I couldn't pay customers to just try the Merlot I was pouring. It was laughable how many patrons turned their nose up at the stuff. You just know they bought it by the case before that damn movie came out. Though Pickett does make a good point in his article, that the market was flooded with cheap, candied Merlots with zero integrity and one-note flavor profiles before his novel changed the business. And truth be told, I had my own deeply seeded prejudice against the variety. But now, instead, we suffer through Pinot Noir parodies attempting to stay on-trend.
Fortunately, there are importers like Jon-David Headrick bringing small-production wines made with organically grown fruit, minimal intervention, and soul, to save us. Thank you, JD Selections.
Les Hexagonales Pinot Noir 2011
A bright, easy drinking Pinot with cherry fruit and alluring minerality. No oak allows the purity of the grape and the chalky soils it was grown in to show through and start a conversation. Oh, itsn't that lovely and interesting. Let's finish the bottle and open another. Try it with light meats, roasted or braised, or comfort foods like Butter Peas and Bacon or Chicken Soup with Butternut Squash and Cornbread Waffles. Pick one up for about $16.