The best Pinot Noir in the world: Richard Esling, January 30

Jackson Estate Pinot Noir Vintage Widow 2015
Jackson Estate Pinot Noir Vintage Widow 2015

The best Pinot Noir in the world – no mean accolade and one that was given to Jackson Estate Vintage Widow 2015 Pinot Noir, from Marlborough in New Zealand.

The wine achieved the coveted IWSC Trophy for Pinot Noir in 2019 at the International Wine & Spirit Competitions Award ceremony.

Up against competition with other Pinot Noir wines from 90 different countries around the world, judged by 100 different judges, the Jackson Estate wine came out on top.

As modern pioneers, Jackson Estate has been in the business for over 25 years, quietly getting on with hand crafting beautiful wines with elegance, finesse and longevity. The company combines advanced wine-making techniques with an old-world, or European, approach.

The climatic conditions of Marlborough mean that the temperatures are similar to those in Burgundy, home of Pinot Noir ‘par excellence’. In these bright but relatively ‘cool’ climate conditions, the grapes have the advantage of a long slow, ripening period, which intensifies the flavours. The average daily temperatures during summer is nearly 24 degrees Celsius, but clear cool nights keep acid levels high in the grapes, essential for obtaining top quality wines.

The Jackson Estate has been run for over 160 years through five generations, Adam Jackson having chosen to settle on the site in 1855. The vineyards have been developed primarily on sites with moderate to low fertility and a noticeably stony, sandy loam topsoil overlaying deep layers of free-draining shingle, such as that found in the Wairau Valley.

Each parcel of handpicked fruit is gently destemmed into small open top fermenters, retaining a large proportion of whole berries. The young wine spends a few weeks on its skins before being pressed and run into a mixture of new and older French oak barrels for maturation. The wine is then bottled without fining or filtration.

Vintage Widow is so named after the families who are often forgotten at harvest time, as the workers strive to make the perfect bottle of Pinot Noir. In terms of flavour, black forest fruits and red cherry dominate the aromas, interwoven with subtle dried herb and cinnamon spice. Well ripened tannins and balanced acidity frame a densely fruited and textured palate, full of lush pinot fruit with a whisper of barrel smoke.

Distributed by Gonzalez Byass, famed for their sherries but also agents for several other top wine producers, this iconic wine is available through Ocado – an excuse if ever one were needed to place your next on-line order, or sign-up if you’re not already a customer. Act before February 18, and the normal price of nearly £21 per bottle is reduced to £15.74.

Currently both the 2014 and 2015 vintages are on the market. A fabulous combination is pairing with grilled lamb chops or slow-roast shoulder, but if you can find it from your butcher, farmed rabbit cooked in a mustard sauce with wild mushrooms is a match made in heaven.

Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Follow him on Twitter @richardwje.

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