Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. In 2012 she was honored as a Dame Chevalier de L'Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne.
updated Jun 4, 2019
Since the movie Sideways in 2005, sales of Pinot Noir have skyrocketed throughout the world and especially in the United States. Unfortunately, unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, it is difficult to make high volume, inexpensive Pinot Noir that still smells and tastes like Pinot Noir.
So can you get quality at under $20 a bottle?
What is Pinot Noir?
Native to Burgundy, where it reaches its apogée in the Grand Cru vineyards of the Côte d’Or, Pinot Noir is a particularly challenging and costly variety to cultivate.
It requires a relatively cool climate — not too cold and not too hot. Quality drops drastically when yields are too high. Pinot Noir demands so much more of the vine grower and the winemaker, both financially and in man-hours. It is a very old variety and prone to significant mutation, resulting in much greater number of clones than say, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.
Pinot Noir should never be described as powerful. The beauty of Pinot Noir wines lies in their elegance, finesse, perfume, silky tannins, and bright fruit character. Pinot wines are seductive, drawing you in with their captivating bouquet. With age they can develop complex aromas and flavors of earthy truffle, leather and dried herbs.
While Burgundy may be the benchmark for top Pinot Noir, today there are a number of other regions producing impressive wines. These include parts the cooler parts of California such as Russian River Valley, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Cruz Mountains, and Santa Maria Highlands and Carneros; New Zealand (particularly Central Otago); and Oregon.
Is cheap Pinot Noir available?
Given the high costs of production, good Pinot Noir wines do not come cheap. We only have to browse the shelves in any reputable wine store and see that most carry a price tag of above $50.
With this in mind I went shopping to see what I could find for my more realistic budget. Having tasted a few examples below $10, I decided I needed to up my budget. So I gave myself an upper limit of $20. I visited a number of stores in New York and ended up with a selection of twenty wines to try.
On Sunday evening, I tasted through all the wines (blind, so as not to be influenced by producer or provenance). Happily, almost all of the wines smelled and tasted like Pinot Noir. For the most part they were clean, with decent fruit character, balanced and not overly oaked.
However, they lacked the complexity that only really great Pinot Noir can deliver. But for the price, I was more than happy with most of the wines. They certainly delivered on both quality and value. As you will notice, Burgundy itself does not feature much. If my budget had been up to $25, I could have included quite a number of excellent regional-level Bourgogne Rouge, a category that is improving all the time, especially the 2005 and 2006 vintages.
While I tasted some good wines from California, my preference, at this price point is New Zealand. Their cooler climate enables a more restrained Burgundian style.
I hope that some of these reviews are useful, the next time you go shopping for Pinot Noir. I have also included a number of wines that I recently tried at a tasting of New Zealand wines in New York City.
Best Pinot Noir under $20
• 2005 Crossroads Destination Series Pinot Noir, Hawkes Bay – $16.99 – Vivid and rich cherry, cranberry and raspberry flavors and aromas with toasty spice and leather notes. Smooth tannins, and plumpish mouth feel. Lingering sweet spicy finish. (16.5/20)
• 2005 Yering Station Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley – $16.99 – Cheery red berry, plumy, cherry nose. Light, but inviting. Refreshing with lots of ripe cherry berry flavors and sweet spicy finish. Medium length. (16/20)
• 2007 Tamar Ridge, Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir, Tasmania $16 – Appealing cherry berry, strawberry and raspberry fruit character with complimenting spicy and savory notes. Elegant with smooth tannins, lots of fruit, and a long finish. (16/20)
• 2006 Delta Vineyard Pinot Noir, Marlborough $16.99 – Concentrated red and black cherry with pretty floral notes of roses and violets and inviting woodsy notes. Smooth, silky tannins and persistent, elegant fruit across the palate. (18/20)
• 2007 A-Z Pinot Noir, Oregon $17.99 – Freshly made black cherry, strawberry and raspberry jam aromas with notes of char, underbrush and smoke. Juicy fruit on the palate with a nice mix of sweet and savory spices. Smooth tannins. (15/20)
• 2007 Castle Rock, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast $12.99 – Fruit forward, and packed with juicy, ripe red cherry aromas and flavors. Light, soft tannins. Easy drinking with a sweet spicy cherry finish. (15.5/20)
• 2006 Fleur Pinot Noir, Carneros $17.99 – Appealing mix of characteristic Pinot cherry and earthy, roasted meat, leather notes. More savory than sweet. Good oak integration and hints of pepper and char on the finish. (16/20)
• 2006 Mac Murray Ranch, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast $14.99 – Earthy, black cherry and plums with notes of cracked black pepper, charry smoke and sweet spice. Appealing smooth mouthfeel and long length. (16.5)
• 2005 Joseph Drouhin, AC Côte de Beaune Villages, Burgundy $18.99 – Persistent fresh black cherry, wild strawberries and forest fruits aromas and flavors with hints of spice and dried herbs. Well balanced. (16/20)
• 2007 Blason de Bourgogne Pinot Noir, AC Bourgogne , Burgundy $14 – The palest of all wines tasted. Delicate red cherry and freshly picked strawberry aromas and flavors. Light, simple but pleasing and easy to drink. Served lightly chilled, would be a lovely aperitif or serve with a first course. (14.5/20)
• 2005 Edition Maximilian Pinot Noir, Rheingau (Germany) $12 – Pretty with ripe, yet elegant nose of red cherry, lingonberry with some black pepper, spicy notes and lifted rose petal notes. Smooth and silky on the palate with lovely a pretty sweet cherry lingering finish. (15.5/20)
• 2007 Lindemans Bin 99 Pinot Noir, South Eastern Australia $7 – Characteristically a lot more fruit forward with jammy, ripe red and black fruit aromas and flavors – cherry, strawberry with distinct mint, cola and sweet spice notes. Smooth tannins and medium length. Great value but not as elegant as some others.(15/20)
• 2006 Louis Jadot Pinot Noir, AC Bourgogne, Burgundy $14 – Restrained on the nose, showing more of a black cherry and plum character and notes of black pepper and tar. Quite classic regional Burgundy with smooth tannins, food friendly, correct but won’t knock your socks off. (14.5/20)
• 2007 Saint Clair Vicar’s Choice Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand $18 – Earthy, plumy, black cherry aromas and flavors with an overlay of spice, cola, cracked pepper and roasted meat notes. (15.5)
• 2007 Mud House Pinot Noir, Central Otago $16.99 – Lovely lifted aromas of ripe black cherry, wild raspberry and enticing savory herbs. Silky tannins and a long fruity finish with a neat spicy kick. (16/20)
• 2007 Roaring Meg Pinot Noir, Central Otago $19.99 – Inviting perfume of red and black cherry, with floral notes. Elegant and silky across the palate with lots of cherry, raspberry freshness mingling with meaty, cola and earthy spicy notes. (17.5/20)
• 2007 Babich Pinot Noir, Marlborough $18 – Brimming with bright red cherry -berry fruit. Easy drinking and straightforward. Well made everyday wine. (15.5/20)
Pinot Noir and food
Another great aspect of Pinot Noir wines is their affinity with many different foods. The high acid and relatively lower tannin makes for perfect pairing with fish dishes such as grilled salmon, roasted halibut or swordfish steak.
They also work amazingly with lighter meats such as chicken, veal or turkey – no wonder so many people choose Pinot Noir to compliment the Thanksgiving mainstay. Additionally, I cannot think of anything nicer than a glass of good Pinot Noir with a succulent roast leg of lamb.
So, with all this selection to choose from, Pinot Noir lovers can continue to enjoy their favorite grape at affordable prices.
Until next week enjoy!
Pinot Noir is rated as the healthiest wine because of the high levels of resveratrol. It is made of grapes with thin skin, has low sugar, fewer calories, and low alcohol content. Sagrantino made in Italy contains the highest concentration of antioxidants and is packed with tannins.Does Trader Joe's have Pinot Noir? ›
Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes grown in this part of Sonoma County. This dark-ruby red is well-structured, with notes of wild strawberries and ripe raspberries. It is bright, elegant, and complex, with a nice acidity that creates a clean, smooth finish.Is meiomi 100 Pinot Noir? ›
Meiomi Pinot Noir is vinted and bottled by Meiomi Wines in Acampo, California, USA. Fruit for this wine was sourced from vineyards in Sonoma, Monterey and Santa Barbara for this 100% Pinot Noir blend.Who makes Kirkland Pinot Noir? ›
Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California. Available exclusively at Costco for $12.99. Like many of the Kirkland Signature wines, it is cellared and bottled by DC Flynt MW Selections. The wine is made for Costco by winemaker Nancy Walker of Vintage Wine Estates.Is pinot noir anti-inflammatory? ›
varieties Fetească neagră and Pinot noir cultivated in a Romanian wine region have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative effects.Should pinot noir be refrigerated? ›
Should You Put Pinot Noir in the Fridge? Yes you should put pinot noir in a fridge, preferably a wine fridge. While you can keep it at room temperature, you'd better serve it cold so people can fully appreciate its superb acidity and mild alcohol content.Where is the best Pinot Noir? ›
France. The world's most sought-after Pinot Noirs are grown deep in the heart of France's Burgundy region, aka the Côte d'Or, or "Golden Slope." Vineyards like Grand Cru and Premier Cru produce highly sought-after red wines of immense structure, elegance, and complexity.Why is Pinot Noir so special? ›
Pinot Noir is one of the world's most popular red wines. It's made from black-skinned grapes that thrive in a narrow spectrum of cooler climates. It's also notoriously difficult to grow. When done right, it produces lighter-bodied wines of elegance, complexity and longevity.Who makes Trader Joe's Pinot Noir? ›
The Trader Joe's Platinum Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir 2020 seems to be produced by a Carneros winery that knows Carneros Pinot Noir, not a small point. Carneros Pinot Noir sells from $15 to $70 and up.How much is Meiomi Pinot Noir at costco? ›
Costco sells Meiomi for less than $16 at the location near me.
However, popular wines, such Meiomi, Cupcake Red Velvet, Menage à Trois and Apothic Red, exceed the EU standard with residual sugar levels at 12-16 grams per liter.What happened to Meiomi? ›
Meiomi Pinot Everywhere and not a Drop to Drink
And again the price was falling fast. Now it sells for roughly $16.00 a bottle. It turns out, Constellation Brands, a Fortune 500 International Beverage conglomerate bought Meiomi for $315 million. A hefty price for a single brand with no vineyards included in the price.
You may have heard a rumor that the Kirkland Signature™ brand vodka sold at Costco is actually GREY GOOSE® Vodka, just in different packaging. We can definitively put this myth to rest. This viral claim is completely false, and GREY GOOSE® Vodka does not produce nor privately label Kirkland vodka.What brand owns Kirkland? ›
Costco generates nearly one-third of its sales from its Kirkland Signature label. Retailers have been sued for creating products that too closely resemble national brands.What is Kirkland Signature brand? ›
Costco's Kirkland Signature brands are well-known for their high quality and low cost. Nationally-known companies like Starbucks, Duracell, and Reynolds are among the manufacturers for Kirkland products. Kirkland now makes up over 30% of Costco's total revenue.Is pinot noir good for blood pressure? ›
Myth: Red wine lowers blood pressure.
Fact: There's no definitive evidence that red wine lowers blood pressure. In fact, alcohol actually raises blood pressure.
Red wine. Red wine contains a compound called resveratrol, which has potent anti-inflammatory effects. Studies show that red wine consumption is associated with a reduced risk of knee-related osteoarthritis. It can also cut risk factors contributing to rheumatoid arthritis.Is pinot noir good for your kidneys? ›
Even though both red wine and white wine have similar impacts on health but red wine has a slightly higher composition of vitamins and minerals which boosts the condition of the kidneys and reduces the risks of chronic kidney diseases.How long will Pinot Noir last after opening? ›
Low-tannin reds, like pinot noir and merlot, will last for two to three days but higher tannin wines should be delicious for up to five days after opening, as long as you treat them with care.What is the best way to drink Pinot Noir? ›
Perfect Temperature: Pinot noir is best served slightly chilled at about 55°F. Don't Decant: Pinot noir is read to be served out of the bottle and does not necessarily need to be decanted. The Right Glass: Drink your pinot noir from a large, bell-shaped glass to best enjoy its nose or aroma.
Store wine in a cold, dark place.
Place your open, re-corked bottles in the refrigerator (or a dedicated wine fridge if you have one). If you don't like the taste of cold red wine, remove the wine bottle from the fridge about one hour before serving. It will be back to room temperature by the time you pour it.
You're a hard worker and enjoy being successful at everything you do. You make smart decisions and are respected by those around you. Even though you take your work seriously, don't get it twisted- you know how to let loose and have fun too!
Pinot Noir is a great wine for sipping and snacking. It's a lighter bodied red, which is guarenteed to go well with various cheeses and meats.Is Pinot Noir better than cabernet? ›
Pinot Noir wines offer crunchy red fruit with softer tannins and a crisp, fresh edge. Cabernet Sauvignon is better for heavy dishes featuring roasted meat; choose Pinot Noir for lighter dishes that use cream sauces or herbal rubs. Here's what you need to know about Cabernet Sauvignon vs.Is pinot noir the healthiest red wine to drink? ›
Pinot Noir is considered the healthiest red wine you can drink. Unlike many of the reds on this list, Pinot grapes have a thin skin, so Pinot Noir has low tannins but high levels of resveratrol.What is the healthiest red wine to drink? ›
Many wine experts consider pinot noir to be the healthiest red wine because it contains the highest concentration of resveratrol. Pinot noir also contains fewer calories than other red wine varieties and may be less likely to cause heartburn thanks to its relatively low tannin content.What is the most healthiest alcohol to drink? ›
However, if you are going to drink, having red wine in moderation is a healthier choice than other alcoholic drinks. This is due to its high levels of antioxidants called polyphenols, which have been linked to better heart and gut health.What is the healthiest alcohol for your body? ›
Red Wine. Red wine is widely recognized as one of the healthiest alcoholic drinks out there. Poon notes that it's "relatively low in calories and also offers some health benefits."9 She adds that red wine is rich in antioxidants such as resveratrol and proanthocyanidins and can promote cardiovascular health.Which red wine is most anti-inflammatory? ›
Malbec. As an especially thick-skinned variety, Malbec claims higher antioxidant levels than other red wines especially in terms of resveratrol. This variety has two to four times the amount of anti-inflammatory, health boosting antioxidants than other popular red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.