The Ritual Pinot Noir 2015 is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from a Veramonte estate vineyard (Ritual is a Veramonte brand) about 18 miles from the Pacific Ocean in the Casablanca Valley growing region inside the Central Valley of Chile. A quick check of the web showed this Pinot Noir selling for $15 to $20, with it being available in Chicago (on sale, Binny’s) for $13.99. What caused me to choose this wine is I noticed that 2 very well-known, very respected wine reviewers awarded the Ritual 93 and 90 points, excellent scores for a relatively inexpensive Pinot Noir. They are mostly found writing about more upscale wines and do not regularly comment on $15 wine. For me, a high (or a low) wine score doesn’t actually indicate that I am going to like the wine. Taste is subjective and what a top-notch professional wine writer, who tastes scores of wines a year and has an academic approach to wine is looking for in a wine is not necessarily what you and I find exciting. But, what I have full faith in them knowing is that they can identify excellent grapes from a good vintage and expert winemaking. I will take my chances on whether the wine appeals to me, as long as I know that the bottle is deemed to be a top quality effort. The Ritual is composed of a selection of vineyards lots and individual barrel selection. Part of the wine underwent whole cluster fermentation, which basically means they left the grapes on the stems, it’s an old school way of fermenting wine, the rest was fermented the usual way. This Pinot was aged for 11 months in 80% used and 20% new French oak barrels. So what we have is a single vineyard wine, with interesting production techniques, and a solid oak program for a reasonable price. The alcohol content is a stout for a Pinot Noir, but not too unusual these days, 14%.
The color is a little dark for Pinot Noir, it’s garnet red with black highlights, it is see-thru, but just barely. The nose is a joy, it makes my mouth water, ripe red berries, mushroom, dried fall leaves, herbs, faint green pepper, licorice, and the distant scent of baking brownies. This is a Pinot with a good bit of body to it, not over the top, but it has some weight, along with a solid amount of acidity. It tastes of sour cherry and herbs, raspberry and black pepper, and light interesting exotic spice. The mid-palate brings cranberry, orange zest and cigar tobacco, all together it is a blend of ripe fruit and those sometimes strange, but wonderful flavors Pinot Noir is known for. The acidity allows the flavors and textures plenty of room to unfold and it propels the finish on and on.
The Ritual Pinot Noir 2015 does a nice job of staking out the ground between value priced Pinot Noir (many of which in my opinion have doubled in quality in the last 5 years) and the ethereal and expensive Pinot from famous growing areas. It offers a real deal Pinot Noir experience, maybe with a little riper grapes than the stuff from California, Burgundy, or Oregon, but with maybe more flavor than some of those growing regions. The more I sip it, the more I like it.