DRC fascinates me. Itís Pinot Noir, and thereís nothing magical about the way it is made: just solid traditional winemaking. Yet these wines are astonishingly expensive, to the extent that the price bears little relation to the production costs.
Look, thereís some margin to be had here. Iím sure itís not cheap to make DRC: the vineyards need to be tended carefully, and there needs to be rigorous selection of fruit after harvest. But itís not as if the guys there have secret knowledge that no one else does, nor that they have skills that are unique (although they are evidently on top of their game). Itís something about the place that sets DRC apart. If other people could make wines as good as DRC, then they would, because whatever effort it took they would be able to recoup the cost many time over because their wines would be highly sought after.
OK, letís add a bit of perspective. I concede that some people may be making wines as good as those in the DRC line-up. Domaine Leroy springs to mind. Perhaps a few others. [How do we define Ďas good así? Thatís an additional complication.] Also, even if a newcomer performed to the same level as DRC, would the market reward them the same? Probably not. Thereís something special about the DRC brand; it has a magic of its own. Itís also likely that as we taste DRC the label does influence our perception in a positive way (Iíve only once tried a DRC wine blind; on all other occasions the label has been seen).
But having said this, wouldnít it be wonderful to find other patches of land that yielded such magical Pinot Noirs at prices normal people could afford to drink? This would be a nice discussion topic.
So where makes really good affordable Pinot Noir? Iím not necessarily talking about sub-£10, which restricts the field a little too much, but more sub-£20. Currently, New Zealand would be my first choice, and particularly Central Otago and Wairapa (Martinborough), although Marlborough isnít doing too badly. Hereís one that has recently impressed:
Waipara Springs Premo Pinot Noir 2005 Waipara, New Zealand
Destemmed, cold soak, minimal plunging, wild fermentation and extended skin contact: the result is a lovely Pinot Noir. It has a powerful, aromatic nose showing ripe, sweet and smooth berry fruit with a touch of coffee-ish roasted oak and some sweet spices. The palate is smooth and elegant with a lovely texture to the sweet fruit, which is backed up by some spice and silky tannin. I think this is a baby that will need a little time to show its best, but there's real quality here and the oak will be absorbed nicely. Very good/excellent 93/100 (Hellion Wines)