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Best Pinot Noir (for the money)

IntoWine asked our panel of experts to share their best pinot noir recommendations (for the money):

Finding a good, value-priced Pinot Noir—i.e., for $20 and under--has been a real challenge over the past decade, when the demand for Pinot Noir grapes has driven up the price growers charge to producers, leading to higher and higher consumer prices. Significantly lower yields in vintages like 2010 and 2011 haven’t helped either. And although a lot of Pinot Noir has been planted each year since the Sideways phenomenon made the grape the wine world’s hottest commodity, those plantings and the speed with which they get mature enough to be the source of wine (minimum three years) have still lagged behind demand.

The best sources for Pinots at this price level in California have been La Crema (their Monterey appellation bottling is usually $20 or less) and Cambria Estate Julia’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley ($20 or less). The lowest priced, decent Pinot Noir I’ve tasted from the State in the last few years has been the Mark West, simply a California appellation, for about $11.

The real value source for characterful Pinot Noir these days, however, is New Zealand. They can be a bit more of a challenge to find on U.S. shelves, but are well worth the hunt, for both quality and value. Some of the best recent releases I’ve tried, that can be had for $15 to $20, are from Coopers Creek (I especially loved their Razorback bottling from Central Otago), Saint Clair, Stoneleigh, Te Kairanga and Wither Hills. You’ll find a delicacy, lightness and good acidity in these Kiwi Pinots that make their value pricing no contest when compared to similarly priced domestic Pinot. - Richard Jennings, IntoWine.com Featured Contributor and the Founder RJonWine.com

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