From €10.99, £9.95, also available in the US
Bargain Pinot Noir is thin on the ground. Indeed, cheap Pinots tend to be either thin or unappetisingly sweet and syrupy. But this is a fine example from the pretty hills north of Limoux, the sparkling wine town in the far south west of the Languedoc described in Limoux's little bargains.
James and Catherine Kinglake left Britain to try their hand as Languedoc vignerons in 2003 (see Pursuing a dream – as vignerons) to live in the house pictured below.
I have followed their progress with interest over the years. Rather than make fizz, they have been producing varietal still wines, including some fine Chardonnay that is also good value and some increasingly convincing Grüner Veltliner that has to be sold as L'Exotique GV because the Austrian vine variety is not officially sanctioned by the local French wine regulations.
These Limoux hills are highly suitable for Pinot Noir, as was proved many years ago at Domaine de l'Aigle at Roquetaillade, now part of the Gérard Bertrand empire. For reasons that make no sense to me, the red wine grapes sanctioned for the Limoux appellation are not Pinot Noir but a mix of Bordeaux and Rhône grapes, which is presumably why red Limoux is a rather minor player on the world wine stage – and why this delicious Pinot Noir has to be sold as an IGP Haute Vallée de l'Aude.
Both Richard and I tasted Dom Begude PinotNoir 2014 IGP Haute Vallée de l'Aude separately and were won over by it. Our two tasting notes, from our massive compilation of nearly 200 Languedoc tasting notes are below:
JR: Pale cherry red. Pale rim. Obviously a delicate touch in the winemaking. Light vegy spectrum of Pinot scents and very refreshing too. There's a good core of just-ripe fruit underneath. This is already a good drink and has no surplus fat nor sweetness. Appetising dry finish. Very fine tannins. Good stuff! And, even if not a long-term bet, likely to be VGV.
RH: Quite stalky and sappy, but there's very fresh redcurrant fruit too. Juicy and smooth on the palate, with signature acidity. Light, balanced, good concentration. Pretty impressive!
This is one of those beautifully balanced, lightweight Pinots that should be drunk young and could certainly be drunk cellar cool. On the excellent background notes, James Kinglake commands us, 'You must try this with duck. Fabulous lightly chilled with summer lunches'. I can vouch for the second suggestion and am intrigued by the first.
The wine is just 12.45% alcohol and has negligible residual sugar and very respectable acidity. The vines are grown on slopes at 310 m elevation looking south east over a spectacular green landscape towards the Pyrenees.
About half the blend is made up of the popular 115 clone of Pinot Noir that the Kinglakes planted in 2007 while the other half is from vines planted by the previous owner of the domaine, Bertie Eden, in 1993 and 1999, clones unknown. (The Kinglakes make a special cuvée called Domaine Begude, L'Esprit Pinot Noir from a selection of Dijon clones 667, 777 and 828, also planted in 2007. I very much liked the 2012 and 2011. The 2013 vintage seemed a bit weaker for Begude Pinot in general.)
Kinglake describes winemaking thus: 'six-day pumping over, gentle disk pressing and then 90% fermented in stainless-steel tank, 10% in old barrels'.
I'd suggest drinking the regular 2014 over the next two years. It's currently on sale in the UK at £9.95 and from the estimable Stone, Vine & Sun and £9.99 from Waitrose. (Do take a look at the great old Loire Chenin and Michelin-starred lunch event we are offering, based on bottles amassed by Simon Taylor of Stone, Vine & Sun.)
Although the rosé version is widely available in the US, this 2014 red is just reaching the likes of K&L in California, Old World Wines I Denver and DB Wine Selection in New England.
Wine-searcher claim the wine is also available in Ireland from O'Brien's, but when I went searching for a Languedoc Pinot Noir I was presented with Domaine de l'Aigle at €19.49 rather than the promised Begude at €10.99.