Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Au Bon Climat, Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir, 2009

Au Bon Climat (or 'ABC' for those of us too lazy to bother with the full name) is one of the few US wineries to have a really significant presence in UK wine shops. Others, such as Stag's Leap, Frog's Leap and Beringer pop up here and there, but ABC is certainly the most prevalent of them. One factor for the lack of American wine on UK shelves is that the Americans are (with some justification) proud of their wines, and as a result they are priced accordingly.

Clocking in at anywhere between £19 and 40+ ABC's range in the UK is pleasantly diverse, although I always seem to see more Pinot Noirs than anything else. I have a bottle of their Chardonnay somewhere, which I will taste and review sooner or later. Having recently visited Wine Country in California, I have been lucky enough to try a respectable number of American wines. I have a real soft spot for Californian Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, but if I'm on Pinot Noir I tend to aim for New Zealand or Burgundy as they tend to have more distinct styles and characters. I tasted ABC's 2009 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir alongside a mix of Burgundies and New Zealand PNs (blind, of course) and here's what I thought:

Nose: An appealing nose starting with a touch of oakiness which is almost instantly followed by heady aromas of raisin and strawberry jam. There's a smidgen of minerality and it's a perfectly pleasant nose so far.

Palate: Light and smooth, ABC has nice fruitiness with a hint of sharpness at the back. The fruitiness is very light and sweet, closer to strawberry than anything else, and this could explain the purpose of the sharpness as it tends to restrain the potentially over-sweet taste. On a re-taste some caramel came through and there's a velvety smoothness that makes this an almost dangerously drinkable Pinot Noir. There is, however, a slightly unappealing tickle of acid in there.

Body: A very well-balanced wine. No single flavour dominates or unbalances affairs and they lie together in a pleasant harmony. It's extremely smooth and (as expected with a Pinot Noir) it's not a heavy wine - the two of these factors combine to make a very enjoyable wine.

Finish: Not a great deal of development, but reasonably length and a nice mellowing of flavours. The acidity fades, which is a big bonus.

Conclusion: I'm fond of juicy, light Pinot Noirs and so this went down well with me. One complaint could be that there didn't seem to be an awful lot of complexity considering this is a £20 wine. My feeling is that I would be delighted with it had it been cheaper, but I feel that it is a tad over-priced as things stand.

Points: 85.

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