• By: Kate More

Look to the Southern Hemisphere for top-notch pinot noir

If you like California pinot noir but aren’t thrilled that a decent one costs over $25, you are not alone. Affordable pinot noir is notoriously hard to find, and especially if your search is limited to the Northern Hemisphere. Instead, thrifty drinkers should turn their gaze south to Chile and New Zealand.

For a delicious new world pinot noir under $15, pick up the Cigar Box Pinot Noir, $13 at the LCBO.  This pinot noir comes from Leyda Valley, Chile, a buzzworthy little region with vineyards planted just miles from the Pacific Ocean. Leyda cranks out killer cool-climate wines, specifically pinot noir with major value.

The factors that help the Cigar Box Pinot Noir stand out are three-fold: the grapes are hand harvested, they're from a single vineyard, with old vines. Not to knock the Golden State, but if this was California, the price would be doubled.

In the glass, this easy sipper has notes of black cherry, violets, vanilla and leather, and would pair well with veal or roast chicken. Although the Cigar Box Pinot Noir would be great any day of the week, I get a date night vibe — crack it open when the kids go to bed!

A solid runner-up from Casablanca Chile, is the Cono Sur Organic Pinot Noir 2018, $14.30 at the LCBO.

For a food-friendly new world pinot noir under $25, New Zealand is your best-bet. Kiwi pinot noir is that ideal middle of the road pinot, when you want something fruity but with enough savoury character to pair with food. New Zealand pinot noirs are a nice sidekick for dinner because this wine won't stomp all over your palate with heavy tannins. They work from start to finish; hors d'oeuvres to the main course.

Just like the more popular sauvignon blanc, New Zealand pinot noir is grown on both the North and South Island, with terroir differences between both.

On the North Island, the stand-out region is Central Otago. Otago wines are bright and distinctive with bold aromatics and nuanced flavours. In the wine industry, Central Otago is becoming a cult favourite, and despite it being a relatively new growing region for pinot noir, Otago has six sub-regions emerging with terroir distinctions. Also on the North Island is Wairapa, with just one per cent of pinot noir production. Despite its miniscule output, Wairapa produces New Zealand’s most hulking pinots, featuring more black fruit and savoury flavours.

The majority of Kiwi pinot is growing on the South Island in Marlborough along with a ton of Sauv Blanc. Broadly speaking, Marlborough pinots are going to be more easy-sipping with fresh cherry notes.

Hailing from New Zealand’s South Island, the Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2018, $20.95 at the LCBO, follows suit. Like all great pinot noirs, the Oyster Bay is a lovely trio of fruit, earth and spice with notes of cranberries, strawberries, mushrooms, toffee and cinnamon. The tannins are fine with balanced acidity, giving the wine an overall impression of elegance and tang. Pour this with grilled salmon or roasted duck and root vegetables.