- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Cono Sur, Pinot Noir “Vision,” Colchagua Valley (Chile), 2006, $15

At the start of the new year, America’s pinot noir passion remains unabated, with virtually any wine made from this enigmatic grape variety flying off store shelves and restaurant lists, no matter that many prices have become grossly inflated.

Yet, because demand is severely taxing supply, quality overall is declining, with more and more wines tasting unbalanced, sappy and unpleasantly hot. Since this is especially true with American renditions, you’ll likely need to look in unexpected places in order to find good pinot at an attractive price.

Here’s just that. This affordable wine hails from Chile, a hotbed of high-quality cabernet sauvignon, but not a place usually associated with pinot noir. The wine, however, offers ripe cherry fruit, a firm structure (due to necessary acidity), and a sweet but not saccharine-tinged finish. For $15, you can’t do much better.

Because it is literally thin-skinned, pinot noir proves tricky in the vineyard and winery. When the wine turns out right, the result can be deliciously versatile at the supper table.

With unobtrusive tannins, pinot can complement poultry and seafood (salmon and tuna are especially good partners), but its rich flavors enable it to match equally well with pork, veal, and heartier meat dishes. This particular wine’s ripe character renders it more robust than many, so don’t fear trying it even with beef or lamb. (Imported by Vineyard Brands.)

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