A Pinot Noir from Oregon is John Ducker’s wine pick for this month.

Perhaps echoing the grumbling of the Euro-sceptics on our own shores, the vignerons of France seem none too happy with the latest wine edict from Brussels which came into force on January 1st this year.

The new EU liberalization that now extends to the whole of French wine production allows a brand-new category of wines to be sold from non-region-specific areas – potentially undermining (or so is the fear) the entire and treasured Appellation Controlée System – the painstakingly fought-for criteria of quality wine production involving suitability of grapes, terroir, soil, vine site and exposure, let alone strictly enforced planting regimes.   The planting and growing of ‘whatever’ previously unauthorized grapes for wine production ‘wherever’ across the board will now be summarily regarded as legal, unless the EU authorities accept on appeal that there’s good reason to stop it.

Stiff opposition against what the winemakers themselves see not only as the risk of an inevitable glut in the market but also as a debasement both of quality and tradition has forced the hand of the EU authorities to limit production of ‘Vin Sans Indication Geographique’ (VSIG) wines.  These are currently limited to the equivalent of the existing stock – just 1%. – though French fears for ‘mission creep’ by Brussels remain fairly lively.  ‘Storm in a wine-glass?’ – or Brussels ‘tail’ now unfairly wagging the pedigree French wine dog?   Watch this space!

Meanwhile, rest easy: we’ll continue to show you some of the best traditionally-produced wine on an international basis from vineyards which have classic, specific, and officially named status – and although French VSIG wines may have made the headlines here, they would be excluded as candidates for this ‘Wine of the Month’ page for this very reason!


My February choice, though not vinified in France itself, is Planet Oregon Pinot Noir 2013 from the cool, fertile Willamette Valley region of Oregon in the USA.

Pinot Noir

This officially recognized natural Pinot Noir-growing territory has a well regarded reputation for fine wines based not only on Pinot Noir itself but also on Chardonnay.  Distant stylistic echoes ‘across the pond’ of Champagne and Burgundy, perhaps?  Maybe you became better acquainted with this grape variety at the Wine Education Service tutored tasting in Holborn, held in January.

For all its fine, highly sought-after qualities when produced under ideal circumstances, the clonally diverse Pinot Noir is known familiarly by winemakers as ‘the heartbreak grape’.  The vine’s tendency to bud and ripen early in northern climates makes it vulnerable to damage by spring frosts, and it is notoriously prone to attacks of mildew.  In hotter climates it often comes forward too quickly and, being thin-skinned, the grapes can quickly shrivel or burn under hot sun.  Wherever it is grown, the delicate Pinot Noir is always a challenge…. and when that challenge is met, as in temperate Oregon where nowadays there is a much wider range of clonal material to play with than formerly, there’s a real opportunity for an American classic wine to shine, offering real pleasure in the glass.

For the fullest background details of Planet Oregon Pinot Noir 2013, I can do no better than refer you to the producer’s website: www.sotervineyards.com – one of the most comprehensive and informative wine websites I can remember seeing and which includes downloadable tech-sheets on all their wines.  Well worth a visit.

The wine’s appearance in the glass is a beautifully soft rich cherry colour, tapering to a clear edge at the extreme margin, and with the overall translucency typical of classic Pinot Noir – the wine throwing up a light clear glycerine swirl on the sides of the glass, prompting me to look at the label to check the alcohol level – no more than 13% abv. here.  The nose offers some very persuasive macerated cherry/red berry-fruit nuances, and the fragrant palate follows directly in tandem, displaying not only shapeliness but also a very fresh, youthful pure-fruited character with nothing ‘confected’ in any way.  There’s no hint of overstatement here, this is a wine with both class, restraint, and pin-sharp balance, focused on presenting the most unaffected expression of  Pinot Noir.  Given the wine’s freshness of character I think it probably comes into the 3-5 year drinking bracket.

Food matches?  The traditional French ‘steak-frites’ might be one suggestion, but equally I think Planet Oregon 2013 Pinot Noir would be a perfect match for a classic veal dish such as the one given below:

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN                             USA  (Oregon- Willamette Valley)

NAME OF WINE                                         Planet Oregon Pinot Noir 2013

STYLE                                                            Youthful 100% Pinot Noir wine

PRODUCER                                                  Soter Vineyards

ALCOHOL                                                    13% abv

RETAILER                                                    The Wine Society

PRICE                                                            £ 16 . 00


Veal Escalopes with Smoked Ham and Comté Cheese

A slightly simplified version of a recipe originating in the Franche-Comté region of France:



2  eggs, beaten

2  tblsps oil

30g   flour

150g breadcrumbs

salt  .  pepper

4   veal escalopes x 120g each (beaten out very thinly)

4  thin slices Comté cheese

4   thin slices cooked smoked ham

150g  butter


  1. Season the flattened escalopes well with salt and pepper and lay thin matching sized slices of cheese, then smoked ham on top of each one , pressing down well.
  2. Dust all over with the flour, shaking off any excess, then dip into beaten egg, then finally coat each side well with breadcrumbs.
  3. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill for about 10 minutes.
  4. Heat a third of the butter in a large pan, and add the breadcrumbed escalopes one at a time, cooking them over a gentle flame for about three minutes on each side until they take on sufficient colour and the cheese melts properly.
  5. Drain each one on kitchen paper and keep warmed through while dealing with the remainder.
  6. Melt the remaining butter in a small pan and cook over a gentle flame until it has turned nut-brown.  Pour over the escalopes on the serving plate.

A purée of celeriac or parsnips goes very well alongside this dish.