When properly produced, there is nothing quite like Pinot Noir -- a silky and elegant elixir.
And these days, it is one of the most expensive and sought-after wines on the secondary market, according to The London International Vintners Exchange, a.k.a. the Liv-ex, a global fine wine marketplace.
"Pinot Noir is the is the Audrey Hepburn of the grape world," says Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, Master of Wine and author of the upcoming Rose Wine: The Guide to Drinking Pink.
Because it can be sophisticated, delicate -- and a slight diva.
Forget divas. How about some heavy metal with your wine?
That's mainly because the grape is difficult to plant, cultivate and cellar. It's not tolerant of harsh conditions. And it really doesn't travel well. It basically gets air sickness, and its aromas shut down.
The Pinot Noir grapes grow in small tight clusters. So there's a higher chance of moisture getting trapped between the grapes and fungus forming.
The French actually call it their "headache grape." But it grows beautifully in Burgundy, which is the east-central part of the country (check out this great column on Burgundy from our very own David Marcus). So when you hear someone order a glass of red Burgundy, know that it's a French Pinot.
Then put your finger on a globe and spin it and you'll end up in Oregon, which also is producing a ton of highly-rated Pinot Noirs these days.
But it requires a very skilled winemaker.
The end result is a lighter-bodied red wine -- think skim milk as opposed to the heavy cream feel of that big Cabernet -- that pairs beautifully with most foods and can be the perfect summer pour.
But some of them almost are unobtainable. Once the Chinese pushed Bordeaux prices through the roof, they moved on to the world's best Pinots, which are now some of the most expensive wines in the world.
Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, often abbreviated to DRC, stands out in particular.
The estate in Burgundy, France, produces 7,000 to 8,000 cases a year of both white and red wine, but its Pinots are world-renowned.
"Prices for DRC have been climbing relentlessly even relative to price rises for the Bordeaux First Growths," says Sarah Phillips, a spokesperson for Liv-Ex.
A case of the 2000 DRC has appreciated 62.8% over the last five years and is now worth almost $170,000 - that's $14,000 a bottle
A case of the 2009 is up 18.9% over the same period and is now worth $185,000. That's $15,000 a bottle.
And that's exactly why it was part of the largest wine fraud in history.
Back in 2011, an Singaporean investment firm purchased 132 bottles of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (DRC) wines for $2.45 million, only to realize they were fakes, made by wine collector and con artist Rudy Kurniawan, aka Dr. Conti, who is now serving ten years in federal prison.
And then Christmas night 2014, more than $300,000 worth of wine was stolen from The French Laundry, Chef Thomas Keller's Michelin three-star restaurant in Napa valley. The majority of the wine stolen was DRC that cost up to $10,000 a bottle.
Thankfully, not all Pinot is that expensive. There are tons of wonderful bottles at reasonable prices produced all over the world available these days. And don't forget it's one of the three main grapes in Champagne -- Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir.
So here are eight of our favorite Pinot Noirs at all different price ranges to help you celebrate this diva.
Kosta Browne Gap's Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010, $140
While not cheap, Kosta Browne is laser focused on Pinot Noir. And it's worth the splurge.
Produced on Sonoma Coast, the 2010 is elegant with a long creamy finish, but any of their Pinots will rock your world. They certainly rock mine.
Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose, $80
We had to throw a Rose Champagne in.
Because nothing is better than a bubbly.
EnRoute Winery Les Pommiers Pinot Noir 2014, $54
It features packed-earth flavor in a generously layered, rich explosion of dark cherry, plum and pomegranate. Along the way, streaks of citrus and black tea provide exotic interludes.
Another favorite of yours truly.
Domaine Faiveley Mercurey Clos des Myglands Premier Cru 2014, $42
While you may not be able to afford DRC, you still have to try a bottle form Burgundy and this is a great reasonably priced one, suggests Christy Canterbury, a Master of Wine based in Brooklyn, N.Y.
You'll get bursts of raspberry and a nice long finish.
Greywacke Pinot Noir 2014, $30
Venture to New Zealand and try this earthy Pinot. It's smooth and plush and has some spice on the finish.
Eminence Road Farm Winery, $20
Our fellow oenophile, David Marcus, suggests you venture off to the Finger Lakes.
On the western edge of the Catskills, the grapes are from sustainably managed vineyards and bottled by hand.
Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Seven Flags, $17
Or maybe South Africa, suggests Canterbury. The country really has stepped up its wine production.
This wine is well-balanced and structured as a good Pinot should be.
From Argentina, it's a light ruby red wine with aromas of red fruit and spice, says Gary Fisch, CEO and founder of Gary's Wine and Marketplace in Wayne, N.J
And for $11, why not?
Now we showed you how to indulge cheaply, here's how to drink wine like a billionaire:
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