If you were reading Purple Teeth this time last year, you may have heard of my weakness for Oregon Pinot Noir (and Pinot Noir in general).
Pinot Noir is that thin-skinned fashion model of a grape, a pain to grow, needing tender loving care and exactly the right conditions. Perhaps that's why it's so beloved of wine afficionados.
For me, simply, it's the first red wine I really "discovered". The cool climate of my Swiss home was limited to growing this red wine grape, along with it's many whites. It's not that I'm a wine snob, or fashion victim, honestly. My second excuse is that one of my closest friends in Switzerland was from Oregon. And yet, I've still not been there.
I know, it's a tragedy.
Oregon Pinot Noir is a tough thing to be a fan of, unless you live in Oregon. Not much makes it to the UK and what little does is usually at least as expensive as a good Burgundy (the spiritual and natural home of Pinot Noir), so what would be the point?
Oregon's wine production is a paltry 1.8 million cases a year, and while the huge majority is Pinot Noir, at less than 1% of US Wine production to California's 88.5%, it's not exactly giving Gallo Family Vineyards any cause to lose sleep. In fact, Gallo Familiy Vineyards probably produce more wine than the entire states of Oregon and Washington combined. But enough of them and back to our story.
It's been tough to get hold of Oregon's finest export. Until now.
I strolled into my local branch of M&S on the 4th of July and found Underwood - an IWC Gold Medal winner at "just" £13. Trust me. For a gold medal winner from the International Wine Challenge, that is a snip. While I often peruse the shelves of Marks and Spencer, I don't buy a large proportion of my wines from there. There was no "thinking about it" with this one - I got the last bottle on the shelves. Seems I'm not the only one to spot a bargain in Maidenhead. The cool coastal climate of the Umpqua Valley, at this price? A must try.
From my experience as an associate judge at the International Wine Challenge, I know that these gold medals are not given out lightly. A wine must be truly representative of it's type, and a great example, to qualify for any sort of medal. M&S seem to be stocking more and more niche and quality wines, these days. I'll continue my habit of perusing the shelves each time I'm in.
There's enough tannin to create a balanced wine, but it's so soft, you have to look for it - ideal for those who dislike heavy tannic reds.
What would Mr "only full-bodied, tannic wines need apply" Purple Teeth make of it?
"Its a style I like," he said, "not especially complex but really drinkable". He then went on to finish his glass before me, as if to prove the point.
I think I can now safely say I've made a Pinot Noir fan out of my hubby. At last!
The wine smells delicious, too. Bury your nose in the glass to find all the expected Pinot Noir scents of wild strawberry, ripe raspberry & some smoky, earthy notes.
This carries through onto the palate along with hints of blueberry, and an unsweetened summer berry compote. It's sharp, a little tart, and crying out to help your meal along. We drunk it alone, then added a little vintage cheddar which worked pretty well. It's probably a natural pair for grilled mushrooms and fillet steak, or a venison burger with some redcurrant jelly.
(Real world pairing: it was also quite nice with cheese flavoured crisps!)
It's sold under screwcap, which is pretty unusual for USA quality wines, but this doubtless protects M&S from cork spoilage. The wine drinks well now, so why keep it?
If you've heard the hype about Oregon terroir but have balked at paying £25 a bottle, now is your chance to see what all the fuss is about, for around half that price.
I wish I'd discovered it a week ago when M&S had their 25% discount on any 6 offer in place.