So what makes Pinot Nero Italian? The terroir of course. Almost all of the wines I tried during this tasting hailed from the Alto Adige, that northern-most province of Italy's center that is blessed with gorgeous mountain valleys fit for vines from floor to hilltop. Pinot expresses something unique in this region because of those hillside vineyards and the climate, which often calls for a sweater at 600 meters even in the heart of summer.
Though it can be cool at night, daytime temperatures in an Alto Adige summer are plenty warm. This shift in temperatures, known as a diurnal shift, allows for the full ripening of the fruit without the development of any jammy flavors. In fact, one of the issues many people have with Alto Adige Pinot Neros is that lack of fruit, which even I can see as a fault sometimes. When Pinot Nero lacks the requisite fruit flavors, the wines tend towards pronounced forest floor and earthy flavors, but when producers capture the fruit, there is a clarity and brilliance to it that very few other Pinot Noirs can compete with.
Find out who captured that fruit!
2008 Castelfeder Glener Pinot Noir 13% $21
This is deep, intense and layered on the nose, with floral notes, gentle green herb elements and a really nicely done edge of wood spice. This is really beautiful in the mouth; rich, soft and supple, with clear, ripe red cherry fruit and edge of earth, integrated tannins. Totally seamless and wonderfully pure, this finishes with good length to the gentle spice, mineral and herb elements, ending with a touch of peppery tannins offset by notes of dried lime peel. 91pts
2009 Terlan Pinot Nero 13.5% $25
Nice intensity on the nose, with very attractive dried herb, wild cherry, spice and mineral aromas and a mineral top note. This really opens up on the palate with intense, juicy wild cherry/wild strawberry fruit framed with herbal, floral and chamomile notes. The texture is so supple yet firm, with nice mineral and leather tones emerging on the back end. Clear and unmistakably Pinot Noir. The finish is lean and elegant, with pure, slightly creamy strawberry flavors and a finale of strawberry seeds. 91pts
2009 Caldero Saltner Pinot Noir 14% $28
This is fruity and floral on the nose. Very meadow-after-a-rain scented with gorgeous citrussy grapefruit rind and bitter orange rind-edged wild cherry fruit, wrapped up in modest, warm oak spice. Big fruit on entry though with fine clarity. The wood tannins add some structure but are covered by the sweet, almost jammy wild cherry fruit and strawberry top notes. Spicy on the finish, with really fine clarity to the black cherry pit flavors that lead to a spice and mineral finale. 91pts
2008 Zemmer Pinot Nero 13% $18
Licorice and tree bark accent the black raspberry fruit with a deep note of Bergamot orange and a little camphor. Soft and sapid, with bright, juicy black raspberry/black cherry fruit. There's a nice stemmy, herbal note on the mid-palate, with very good fruit intensity through the transition to the moderately long finish, ending with a hint of iron. This really offers lovely complexity and richness. 89pts
2009 Alta Luna Cavit Pinot Noir Vigneti delle Dolomiti 12.5% $12
Minor smoke notes and firm minerality greet the nose, backed up with strawberry and cherry fruit and a suggestion of dry wood. Rather medium bodied, this offers up a nice blend of cranberry/strawberry/raspberry fruit in a modestly rich, bright style. Shows off a hint of wood spice on the palate, then gains a modestly richer impression of tobacco leaf and mocha on the moderately long raspberry/strawberry finish. Fairly reminiscent of village Burgundy. 87pts
No Mas Por Favor!
Photo courtesy epeigne37 via Flickr/CC