A difficult but interesting Pinot Noir

Anyone who reads my column regularly will know that I am passionate about Pinot Noir, from Burgundy to New Zealand’s South Island, from Chile and South Africa and anywhere else in between where good Pinot is produced.

Here in Portugal we have some notable examples, amongst them Dirk Niepoort’s pricey but excellent Pinot Noir from the Douro, the closest yet to a Burgundy, the richer Californian-style Pinot from Campolargo in the Bairrada, or my personal favourite when it comes to value for money, Sant’Ana Pinot Noir from the Mafra hills to the north of Lisbon.

I’m always on the lookout for new Portuguese Pinots and picked up a bottle of this 2013 Aneto at Apolónia, priced at €17.95.

I had fairly high expectations, considering the quality of the other wines made by this producer in their high-altitude vineyards and the track record of winemaker Francisco Montenegro, previously of Quinta Nova before setting up his own winery in 2001.

Pinot-curious wine lovers will no doubt pick up a bottle as I did and I have two tips in order to enjoy this wine which packs a mighty 15.5% of alcohol:
1) Buy two bottles and drink one very quickly, by which time you will be too drunk to worry about what the second one tastes like.
2) Open it one day in advance, decant and leave to oxidise slightly whilst evaporating off some of the excessive alcohol.

OK, the first idea may be a little extreme and there are far cheaper ways to get drunk, but the fact is that I opted for option 2 and, by the following day, the wine had softened to the extent whereby the alcohol fumes did not distract the nose from the lovely underlying notes of dark cherries, leather and hints of chocolate.

In the mouth, the wine is medium- to full-bodied, very rich for a Pinot Noir, with good acidity and solid, well-rounded tannins. All in all there is a very nice wine lurking under all that alcohol, a wine that will benefit greatly from a few more years of bottle-ageing as well as decanting at least a few hours ahead of drinking.

By PATRICK STUART [email protected]