MICHAEL FRIDJHON: Fickle pinot noir offers a glimmer of hope
Heat, sunlight hours, rainfall and the geology of vineyard subsoils all play a disproportionate role compared with other varieties
It is easy to understand why pinot noir is called “the heartbreak grape”. It is deeply susceptible to the influence of climate, soil and viticultural management. Heat, sunlight hours, rainfall and the geology of vineyard subsoils all play a disproportionate role compared with other varieties — though exactly how and in what way is by no means as certain as some pundits would claim. Coupled to this is the huge weight of the benchmark of the Burgundy heartland bearing down on pinot winemakers elsewhere in the world, but especially in regions where the cultivar is widely planted. All this might be less important than it now appears if the Cote d’Or – that 40km long and about 2km wide strip which is the source of the planet’s greatest examples of what the variety can produce — had remained a fashion backwater. Until 50 years ago, even the undisputed masterpieces from sites in Vosne-Romanee, Chambolle Musigny and Gevrey Chambertin traded for a fraction of the price achieved by the top Bo...