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There's something of a fashion to find the most rare and unusual wine styles these days – the more obscure and arcane, the better. But forget Nascetta from Langhe or Humagne from the Valais, the most rare wine in the world is good, proper Pinot Noir for under £15 a bottle – that's the real holy grail.
I can think of perhaps three bottles in the entire world that qualify and at £12 per bottle, Grace Bridge is most certainly one of them.
To qualify for this most prestigious accolade isn't just a matter of price. It is also vital for the wine to exhibit the characteristics of Pinot Noir that are typically expressed in its origin. It must also be of good quality, of course, which is perhaps harder to define. For the purposes of Pinot Noir specifically, I think this should include ageability, light body, high but integrated acidity, little if any tannic grip and flavours that are more like red fruits than black with appropriate secondary characteristics – that is, floral, sweet spice and earthy aromas rather than leathery, piquant spice and medicinal ones.
The 2013 vintage of Scotto's Grace Bridge Pinot ticked all those boxes when I tasted it this week thanks to importers Flint and their retail arm Stannary St Wine Co. This outfit is, perhaps tellingly, best known for its burgundy portfolio, and while I wouldn't say that Grace Bridge tastes Burgundian, it is certainly at home among a list of producers who excel at Pinot Noir. I scored the 2013 vintage 17 out of 20 and described the flavours as cranberry, cinnamon and some herbal character that may be due to a proportion of whole-bunch fermentation. It has the typically ripe fruit of California but avoids being confected or sickly.
A minimal percentage of Syrah and Alicante Bouschet were included in the blend of this Lodi-based producer – presumably to deepen the colour – and the fruit is a blend from Monterey and Sonoma counties. It is matured in old 225-litre barriques. I also enjoyed the 2012 vintage when I tasted it last year, describing it in much the same way – though scoring it only 16.
The Grace Bridge brand is available in the UK and US, according to wine-searcher, but the producer Scotto also exports to Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, South Korea, Sweden and Ireland. Their website has a handy form allowing you to request local stockist information.