WINE: Why would you drink unwooded Pinot?

Haute Cabrière launched an unwooded Pinot Noir 2011 yesterday, the affable father-and-son Van Arnim team claiming it is likely South Africa’s first unwooded Pinot Noir. I love drinking Pinot but most of the time its price tag puts the variety out of my reach.

The Haute Cabrière Unwooded Pinot Noir 2011 sells for R79, but if I’m honest I won’t be buying this one. This Franschhoek winery focuses on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in their various excellent bubblies and still wines, so they are positioning this wine as their “further commitment” to Pinot Noir. Cellarmaster Takuan von Arnim said they wanted to showcase the grape’s natural red fruit flavours in an elegant yet vibrant style. Hence no malolatic fermentation or barrel maturation.

haute_cabrire_-_unwooded_pinot_noir_2011.jpg Unfortunately I believe Pinot needs a bit of a wood to enhance its silky tannins and coax out its gentleness. Drinking this wine solo and slightly chilled, I thought of candyfloss and cherries, but it lacked something on the mid palate. Wood! Admittedly it improved immensely when paired with creamy mushroom soup and other smart food, but then Pinot Noir generally partners a variety of smoked to braised to creamy dishes with ease. I couldn’t help thinking that a slightly chilled Rosé would do just as well – because it is also a lightweight red.

Last night I remembered another uncomplicated Pinot Noir I picked up at a supermarket. Two Oceans Pinot Noir 2010 retails for around R30. Sourced from youngish vines, the wine goes through malolactic fermentation in stainless steel and has a dash of oak chips. We drank it slightly chilled with an uncomplicated spaghetti topped with mushrooms, toasted cashews, pesto and Parmesan. It hit the spot, and offered everything you’d expect in a supper wine, without a hefty red wine weight. We’ll buy it again, not merely because of the price.

But what do I know? At the launch I sat next to the wine buyer for Ultra-Liquors, who assured me that Haute Cabrière Unwooded Pinot Noir will sell, because wine drinkers follow brands. And let’s not forget how entrenched the Haute Cabrière brand is, thanks mostly to the popularity of Haute Cabrière Chardonnay Pinot Noir. That pink-tinged, very pleasant white wine probably inspired women to start bookclubs, just to have an excuse to pour another glass.