Pinot Progeny Wines a Good Pick

Pinot fans should try these "offspring" that share many of the same qualities as Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is an ancient grape varietal that has spawned hundreds of progeny by mutation, or natural and manmade crossings. Most of these are obscure grapes limited to European locales, but many have emerged as great grapes. If you’re a fan of Pinot, you should sample some of these.

While none in my opinion reach the heights of great Pinot Noir, they’re often more satisfying. Some of these descendents share the delicacy of their ancestor, some possess the characteristic black cherry aroma so associated with Pinot, and others are thicker, richer and more rustic.

Gamay, Paul Durdilly
Beaujolais, 2010, $13
Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais, is similarly textured to Pinot Noir. Its intense fruit flavors are like the lovely Grenaches of France’s Rhone region. This shows bright, sappy raspberry fruit with loads of verve. Chill slightly and sip with steak sandwiches.

Pinot Meunier, Domaine Chandon
Carneros, California, $32
Pinot Meunier, along with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, is one of the three major grapes in Champagne. It possesses an elegant texture but is earthier and more herbaceous. Absolutely lovely with salmon and a mushroom theme.

St. Laurent, Sattler
Burgenland, Austria, 2007, $20
St. Laurent is a direct descendent of Pinot Noir, crossed with a now obscure varietal named Gouais Blanc. Sattler’s version shows deep plum and tomato aromas with a thick yet bright texture. This is a great wine with all things beef.

Pinotage, Southern Right
Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa, 2009, $26
Pinotage is a crossing of Pinot Noir and a grape called Cinsault. Most have a viscous texture and strong aromas of roasted fruit. Southern Right produces the most elegant version I’ve tasted; a rich wine well suited for barbecue.

Available at Madison’s finer wine stores. If unavailable, most purveyors will special order from their wholesalers if requested. Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.

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