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Our Guide To Pinot Noir

As you may be able to tell from our wine range, our favourite red grape variety, by far, is Pinot Noir. Its combination of red berry perfume, fine texture on the palate and excellent balance is extremely alluring. The grape is tricky to grow and tricky to vinify (which means it is never the cheapest wine offered) but is found widely around the world and is reliably consistent; those who are keen on ‘blind’ wine tastings rarely struggle to spot a Pinot Noir!  

The Pinot Noir family

Pinot Noir is often abbreviated to Pinot and therefore could be confused with Pinot Grigio and Pinot Blanc. These grapes are in fact all related (Pinot Gris/Grigio, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier are likely variants, or clones, of Pinot Noir). But, for avoidance of doubt, if Pinot is mentioned, assume Pinot Noir is meant, i.e the red grape.

As an aside, it is a prodigious variety, being the parent (along with Gouais Blanc) of other famous grapes Chardonnay, Aligote, Melon de Bourgogne (the grape now found in Muscadet), Gamay, Pinot Precoce (often found in the UK’s cool-ish climate) and many others. So, if there is one grape to know, it’s Pinot Noir!

Styles of Pinot Noir

Generally, Pinot Noir is one of the few grapes you can spot from the colour in the glass. It’s noticeably lighter in colour than other wines found in the same region/country. It’s possibly confused with a Beaujolais or Valpolicella, but otherwise, the low colour intensity is a bit of a giveaway.

Pinot Noir tends to have red fruit aromas and flavours in the glass. Think strawberries, raspberries, cherries and cranberries. Warmer climates might provide black fruit characters such as blueberries or cherries, or even some dried fruit characters. But red fruit notes are the telltale sign you may have a Pinot noir in your glass.

In addition to this, Pinot Noir wines are often aged in oak barrels, but are not usually in new oak barrels. The new oak is what gives the wine a particularly spicy or toasty character, and often this is reserved for Cabernet, Merlot or Syrah, the fuller-bodied red grapes.

With age, Pinot Noir’s character becomes even more interesting, taking on earthy, mushroom or gamey characters. And when the ‘whole-bunch’ technique is used in the cellar (where the stems of the bunches are kept in the fermentation vats for several days), a lovely herb/lavender character can present itself in the glass. Pinot Noir is never dull!  

It’s also a thin-skinned grape which translates into wines with low tannin. This is why you may hear winemakers suggesting you chill your Pinot Noir in summer. Wines with low tannin such as Grenache or Pinot tend to chill down well, whereas thick-skinned, high-tannin grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon taste bitter at cooler temperatures.

Pinot Noir is also a grape which has high natural acidity, so there is frequently a fresh quality to the wine, a lightness and elegance relative to other good reds. It makes a delicious food match. Try a fruity Pinot Noir such as Ata Rangi’s Crimson with duck, turkey or chicken, with mushroom risotto or a charcuterie platter, and it will wow! It’s extremely versatile and tends to be the wine that will please a crowd over a Christmas dinner, for example.

Where do you find Pinot Noir?

Pinot Noir remains the sixth largest red grape variety in the world. But, Burgundy is Pinot Noir’s homeland, where it’s the largest red grape by far, and is responsible for 39.5% of all grapevine plantings. You can also find good examples of Pinot Noir in Alsace, the Loire Valley (where it tends to make very good Sancerre Rouge and Rose) as well as the Languedoc (see our Altugnac Pinot Noir for a light, refreshing and remarkably good value Pinot).

Head into Germany and particularly the Ahr and Baden regions for further fine Pinot (it is known as Spatburgunder in Germany). Or to Eastern Europe for light, fruity and ultimately more simple versions. But for serious Pinot Noir outside of Burgundy, the most exciting areas, in our opinion, are the following:

Oregon and particularly the Willamette Valley regions such as Dundee Hills and Eola-Amity: Try Drouhins’ delicious Pinot from Dundee Hills or Cristom’s Marjorie Vineyard from Eola-Amity),

California, where with Sonoma Coast and Santa Barbara are highlights: Try La Crema or Hirsch if you are keen to splash out.

Victoria, in South Australia: Curly Flat, Bindi, Kooyong and Yarra Yering are all great examples.

New Zealand: Central Otago and Martinborough such as Valli, Felton Road or Ata Rangi

Generally, the high acidity of Pinot Noir is valued for sparkling wines. So, it’s a major component of almost all great Champagnes, as well as many of the English traditional method wines that have broken onto the wine scene of late, such as Exton Park or Nyetimber. Plus, Franciacorta (try Ca del Bosco), Tasmanian and Californian Sparklings, Cape Classique from South Africa and others.

It’s not an easy grape to grow, which restricts plantings of Pinot Noir to certain wine regions. This, plus the fact that it’s difficult to extract tannin and flavour from Pinot Noir grapes in the cellar, means it’s often referred to as ‘the Heartbreak grape’! It has thin skins and buds relatively early, therefore is susceptible to disease and frost. This usually means low yields, which never pleases the grape grower. It also loses freshness and precious acidity quickly in a warm climate, so you’ll find that most of the climates above are on the cooler side, or at least sheltered from the fiercer temperatures of other warmer wine regions. Making Pinot Noir is a real labour of love, but is definitely worth it!

To try some of these wines, please see our full range of Pinot Noirs here

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How Rosé wine is made

One of the questions we are asked most often during our wine tastings is how Rosé wine is made. Here, our Director Vicki outlines the basics.

Well… there is an easy way to make Rosé. This is to blend white and red wines together just before the wine is bottled. But, this is not seen as the best way to make a good Rosé wine (exceptions are Champagne and some Sparkling wines).

As is so often in life, the best way is also the hardest way!

In this case, to make good still Rosé, you can extract the colour from the skins of red grapes and use this to turn the juice of the grape (which is almost always white in colour) pink! This happens by pressing the grapes to draw out the red colour from the skins, and/or allowing the grape skins and juice to macerate together (often known as ‘skin contact‘).

In fact, it’s also possible to create a very light style of Rosé from a few different white grapes such as Pinot Grigio. Naturally, this grape has a slight pink tinge to its grape skin. With the right amount of maceration time, it will show a gentle pink or orange hue in the glass. This very light-coloured wine is traditionally called Ramato in Northeast Italy. Ramato literally means ‘copper’, as in a copper colour (rather than the slang for the local police, in case you were wondering!).

However, the complete answer to making Rosé wine is actually more complicated. If that has sufficiently answered your question about making Rosé, we are happy to help. But, if you’re interested in a deeper dive, see below for the long read.

Decisions decisions decisions

Depending on the desired style of Rosé, there are plenty of decisions the winemaker can make. So let’s dive into the technical side of Rosé…

The raw ingredient: great grapes in great places!

For Rosé wine-making, the first thing to look at is the grapes…

Generally speaking, the red grapes that already grow well in an area would also be used to make Rosé. So, you’ll find the red grape Pinot Noir is used for a Sancerre Rosé in the Loire Valley of France (It’s just too chilly to ripen, say, Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah here). And, Zinfandel is used for many Californian Rosés, as this is a red grape that thrives in much of this that state. In Europe this is often part of the wine laws. The Sancerre appellation is a good example; Pinot Noir can make Red or Rosé wines if the name Sancerre is on the label.

Often a blend is best

There are plenty of Rosés that are a blend of different grapes varieties. One good example is a Bordeaux Rosé, where the red grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot form the main blend. (See our Chateau Haut Rian Bordeaux Rosé for a particularly juicy example).

There are also some Rosés where red and white grapes can be macerated and pressed together at the start of the winemaking process, before fermentation. For example, while red grapes are usually needed for that famous pink Provencal colour, plenty of Cotes de Provence wines also contain the white grape Rolle (known in Italy as Vermentino). This gives a refreshing citrus character to the Rosé. Whispering Angel and Miraval both contain this Rolle grape. And just to the north, the Rhone Valley appellation of Tavel permits up to nine different grapes to be used in the blend, of which three can be white: Picpoul, Bourboulenc and Clairette. Try Chateau d’Aqueria for a great example of Tavel.

The different grapes will give different qualities to the wine. Pinot Noir has thin grape skins and therefore less colour, giving a lighter tint to the wine, along with good natural acidity and freshness. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have thick grape skins and therefore more colour potential as well as more tannin and structure. And in warmer regions such as the South of France, the white grape Clairette is naturally high in acidity, which balances the richer, fatter character of some of the red grapes in the blend.

In many cases, the grower harvests grapes for Rosé wines earlier than grapes destined for a winery’s red wines. This ensures the acidity level in the grapes destined for Rosé is higher. This is an important component, as we all love the freshness often found in Rosé wines.

The technical bit, there are actually at least four different ways to make Rosé wine in the cellar

Earlier, we talked about pressing the red grapes and/or macerating them to move some of the colour from the skins into the juice. But in reality, the Rosé-making lines are a little blurred (and not because we have drunk too much Rosé, we promise). So, read on….

Method One: Direct Press Rosés (known in French as Rosé de presse)

For this method, the red grapes are harvested, taken to the winery and then pressed, promptly separating the grape skins and juice. There is minimal contact between the juice and the skins, and so only a light pink colour results. This is particularly the case if only the very first juice that flows from the press (known as the free-run juice), is kept.

Note, this is similar to how white wine is made, where the pressing happens early in the winemaking process and there is little maceration.

In most cases the grapes are destemmed (the grape stalks are removed) and crushed gently, before going to the press. This helps the extraction of red colour, although with some of the best Champagnes, for example, even these two steps don’t happen, and the whole bunch of grapes goes straight to the press. This means extremely gentle treatment of the grapes and a pale colour.

You may also see the words Vin Gris (translating to ‘grey wine’ in English; it really does sound better in French!). This is a Rosé with a particularly pale colour. It’s not a legal definition but typically is made from the juice that runs from the grapes after they are crushed, before they reach the press, or immediately after pressing.  

Method Two: Skin Contact or Maceration

This really is a variant of the above, however the juice and skins are kept in contact for longer, anywhere from a couple of hours up to two or three days. This means the wines are often slightly pinker and with a little more tannin and structure than a direct press Rosé. This skin contact can either happen prior to pressing, often at cold temperatures with what’s known as a ‘cold soak’ (a maceration at around 10-15 degrees to extract the red pigment from the skins of the crushed grapes) or after pressing, before the juice is separated from the skins.

Method Three: Saignée (pronounced sane-yay, from French word ‘saigner’ meaning ‘to bleed’)

Traditionally, a Saignée Rosé (or Rosé de Saignée in France) is a sort of offshoot of the red winemaking process. The grapes are crushed and then the maceration begins as with a red wine. The longer time of contact and increased extraction between the skins and juice creates a deeper, darker style. Most importantly, around 10-20% of the juice is then separated or ‘bled off’. The separated portion is the Rosé. This leaves behind a much more concentrated red wine, so Saignée is a method of ensuring that your red wine has lots of flavour and structure.

This method was used to concentrate red wine in terms of tannins and flavour in Bordeaux amongst other key red wine regions. Often, because of the length of maceration and extraction, the colour and tannins are also increased in the Saignée portion, i.e the Rosé. Many Tavel Rosés are still made in this way, where the deep red colour, full body and firm structure are part of the style.

Note, Saignée Rosés are usually dry wines. An important point to remember is that a dark colour in Rosé does not, despite some assertions, necessarily equal sweet!

Method Four: Blending

As mentioned previously, blending is the easiest way to create Rosé. This method literally is blending white and red wines together. Contrary to what some might say, this method is allowed worldwide, although, with the exception of Champagne, French wine appellations usually forbid it. The highest profile example of wines that are a blend of white and red are some Champagnes, such as Moet et Chandon or Nicolas Feuillatte (in France you may see a reference to a Rosé d’assemblage). Anywhere between around 5 and 20% of red wine is added to the white before finally sealing the bottle. Some estates such as Louis Roederer or Billecart-Salmon decide against this, and use the skin contact method, as above, or the direct press method such as the English Sparkling estate Exton Park.

Other Styles

Today, much Rosé is made in a dry, light, pink style, in stainless steel tanks at cool temperatures which keep the berry fruit character and freshness. But, there are some notable exceptions:

Try Garrus by Chateau d’Esclans (maker of the aforementioned Whispering Angel) which is aged in oak barrels, or Rioja’s Tondonia Gran Reserva Rosado, which is aged in American oak barrels for four years. Both have a more complex, savoury style and the latter has a brick red hue, as the ageing process is so long and oxidative (i.e. with lots of oxygen swirling around the wine).  

For a sweet Rosé, try a Rosé d’Anjou or Cabernet D’Anjou. If you are keen to experiment, the Brachetto d’Acqui from Piedmont is both sparkling and sweet!

Another style, the Rosé blush, can be confusing. Originally it referred to very light colour Rosés; however, it was adopted by Californian wine producers for their sweet Rosés made from the red Zinfandel grape.

If you are feeling thirsty, see our full selection of Rosés here

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Our Wine Cases to Send as Gifts for Christmas and Beyond

We’re busy putting the finishing touches to our tasting/Christmas dates and are looking forward to sending these out very soon.

In the meantime, a friend asked recently if we also send cases of wine out as gifts (rather than on a subscription basis)…the answer is a resounding yes! Please see below eight ideas for individual cases for Christmas wine gifts and other occasions. From Champagne and English Sparkling to Bordeaux, Brunello and more, in half bottles and some full bottles too.

Christmas Wine Cases

Merry Mix of Six – This festive gift box features a selection of full-bottle (75cl) seasonal wines to be enjoyed over Christmas. This Hamper includes a Nyetimber Classic Cuvee, A Mano Bianco, a Billaud-Simon Chablis, an Esporao Monte Velho Tinto, a Bourgogne Pinot Noir and an Izadi Rioja Reserva.

The Christmas Case of Twelve – Celebrate the 12 days of Christmas with this selection of nine different half-bottle (37.5cl) wines full of flavour. There are 2x bottles of Veuve Fourny Premier Cru Champagne, Izadi Rioja Reserva and Bourgogne Chardonnay. There is also a Leon Beyer Cremant, Quinta do Crasto Douro Red, Chateau La Tour de By, Chateau Haut Rian Bordeaux, Carmes de Riuessec, Chateau Rieussec and Vintage Port.

The Christmas case of Six – Another great selection of half-bottle (37.5cl) wines is on offer here inside a rustic wicker basket, great as a gift at Christmas. The hamper has Veuve Fourny Premier Cru, Izadi Rioja Reserva, a Bourgogne Chardonnay, a Chateau La Tour de By, a Chateau Haut Rian Bordeaux and a Chateau Rieussec 2018.

Mainly Red Advent Case – This festive case is ideal for celebrating the 12 days of Christmas with a different half-bottle (37.5cl) wine for each day. This case includes 10 red wines and 2 whites with mystery wines labelled for the 12 days.

Other Wine Cases

Le Petit Tour de France – This Mix of 4 half-bottle (37.5cl) French wines includes varying drinks showing off the great wines of France. This case includes a Domaine Sautereau Sancerre, a Chateau Le Pey Medoc, a Bourgogne Chardonnay and a Delas Cotes du Rhone L’Esprit.

Favourite Whites – Taste the 6 favourite white wines from half-bottle (37.5cl) bottles with wines from Italy, France, New Zealand and Portugal. Includes an Esporao Monte Velho Branco, a Marlborough Sauvignon, a La Giustiniana ‘Lugarara’ Gavi di Gavi and more!

The Champagne Case – A case of bubbly, great for a Christmas party or as a gift all year round. Includes 6 choice half-bottle (37.5cl) of champagne, providing a taste experience for novices and wine-tasting connoisseurs alike.

Tuscan Reds from Bolgheri to Brunello – A range of Tuscan half-bottle red wines, great as a gift for fans of this popular Italian export. Includes a Capezzana Barco Reale, a Tenuta Guado al Tasso II Bruciato, Chianti Classico and more!

Delivery is free at £100 or above (there is a surcharge for Scottish Highlands), and we deliver anywhere in the mainland U.K. Add a personal message at checkout, and we will also handwrite a gift card.

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The Little Fine Wine Company wins Decanter World Wine Award

The Little Fine Wine Company wins Decanter World Wine Award

Solely in the UK, there are over 50,00 different variations of wines you could possibly choose from. In turn, this makes it almost an impossibly difficult decision to pick the best and favourite one for you. However, here at the Little Fine Company, our main priority is to provide you with the best of the best half bottles of wine, separating you from the big-name mass-produced brands that can often charge over-the-top prices. From roses, reds and whites to sparkling and even non-alcoholic wines, we are always keeping an eye out for new high-quality variations in which we can add to our fine wine selection.

Coincidentally, the LIttle Fine Wine Company and its dedication to providing tasters with unfamiliar yet outstanding wines has resulted in us winning a number of rewards, including some from the prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards. Take a look below to find out why we continue to be amongst the best Wine Clubs currently out there!

The Little Fine Wine Company wins Decanter World Wine Awards Best Subscription Wine Club for the second year in a row

I founded the company in 2018, the website went live in 2019, and things went a little mad in 2020! The last year and a half have been a rollercoaster, but we’re really proud of the work we’ve done with the wine club and in introducing clients to fine wines in little bottles! We have several subscriptions, including a regional focus (a different wine region each month with an optional, free-of-charge tasting included). Subsequently, we managed to win the Best Subscription Wine Club award at the prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards, something we are incredibly proud of due to the short time period we have been operating. Most of all, big thanks to those who have supported us thus far; it’s been a pleasure!

The Judges Say

‘A category that continues to grow and become ever more competitive yet producing a repeat of the result in the 2021 Retailer Awards. Little Fine Wine champions its niche with aplomb, featuring an excellent range of half-bottles and a highly personal service’.

How does the Wine Club work?

Our Fine Wine Focus club is a monthly subscription. Each month a different wine region is featured. Customers receive wines, tasting notes and a corkscrew on signing up, plus an optional tasting with me (Director of the company/Master of Wine) and one of the winemakers represented.

There is no obligation to take the case every month; you skip the case if you don’t wish to explore a particular region. We always email at least 5 days prior to the next renewal to let customers know the next set of exact wines. They can add further wines with no extra delivery cost, or amend their subscription, or request a quote for 75cl bottles. Delivery is the next working day.

We also have a ‘Classic’ subscription, bi-monthly or quarterly: a more traditional, rolling subscription to try wines from around the world. That is £66.95/6 half bottles and includes tasting notes, a corkscrew, delivery but no zoom tasting.

What are the benefits of becoming a member of your Wine Club?

Explore fine wines accessible in half bottle, and find favourites

Learn about different regions

Between 1-3 wines monthly are only available to Wine Club members

Subscription offers a saving compared to the value of the wines and delivery (varies every month, usually between 10 and 20%).

The optional tasting is free; we think it’s the best opportunity to spend time, live, with a key winemaker other than visiting the region itself. This year has included Severine Schlumberger (Alsace), Stephen Chambers (Rutherglen), Pieter Walser (Blank Bottle, South Africa). The recording is available afterwards.

Customers can add on wines from our 170-strong range (from £5.95 to £90/half), without paying for delivery. We also provide a quote for the full bottles too when the halves are not enough!

They also find out about limited wines and special offers first

What information do you provide to customers as part of their membership?

  • Food & wine matching
  • Tasting notes
  • Yes, sent out electronically
  • Info on regions and producers  
  • Info on grape varieties  
  • Wine maps

What is your cancellation policy?

Cancel anytime at all, no problem, and through the website yourself (no need to ring us nor email us and wait for our response). It’s immediate. We always write to subscribers five days prior to renewal so they can decide whether to skip or cancel, but they don’t tend to!

The wines need to be:

  • Delicious
  • Great quality
  • A ‘top ten’ wine of its region/type/price bracket and ideally (O)organic, although this is not always possible
  • Typical for where they are from, so you can get to know the region well each month

Do we host any wine events? 

Yes, the virtual tastings that I mentioned above. There is now a live/hybrid option as part of this club so that the members can all meet each other (the live event is twice a year). The first was at Christmas and was a success. This is therefore being repeated later in the summer, as sometimes it’s just better to meet face-to-face!

We won Best Wine Club 2021 at the Decanter World Wine Awards, which was brilliant and we couldn’t have been happier. We didn’t want to change what was working, and we have had a low cancellation rate, so believe that customers are happy.

We’ve added bimonthly options to our quarterly club for flexibility and frequency.

Transit cases are cardboard (no plastic airbags/wrap); just one box rather than double-boxing, unlike some subscriptions, with electronic tasting notes. To minimise paper use, there is no paperwork sent (other than a handwritten gift message). Delivery is the next day. There is always an email from the team to confirm that the wine has been dispatched; we find it’s a small but personal way to contact/service customers.

Why choose the Little Fine Wine Company?

We are proud providers of some of the highest quality wines from various vineyards from all over the globe without charging you the sometimes extortionate prices of some mass-produced brands. When it comes to our half-bottled wines, this is where we specialise in picking some of the best vinifications in order for you to expand your palette and test the multitude of grape and terroir combinations.After winning  ‘Best Subscription Wine Club’ at the 2021 Decanter World Wine Awards, we aim to repeat this feat at the upcoming Decanter World Wine Awards 2022 after another impressive year of providing our customers with a host of the finest wines out there.

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Autumn Wines

Autumn Wines | The Little Fine Wine Company

New Wines for Autumn

We’ve stocked the shelves with new wines from France, Portugal and beyond, ready for Autumn drinking.

Below, you’ll find some of the best Autumn wines, such as a traditionally made Cremant sparkling (a great addition to the fridge) and impressive Loire Valley and Saint-Emilion reds. We have added two zesty whites under £10. Plus, full bottles of Louis Roederer Champagne; it’s perfect as a gift or for entertaining. And for something unique: a flavoursome, aged Madeira from the 1999 vintage.


As the nights start to get colder, let’s take a look at some of the great Autumn wines available right now. Autumn wines typically have a warming quality, great for taking the chill out of short Autumn nights. Here are some half-bottle wines you can try out as popular wines shift from chilled Summer flavours to warm, spiced flavours. 

Crisps, refreshing Loire Valley Whites

Jean-Francois Baron Muscadet Sur Lie 2020 – Crisp, bone dry and refreshing, with a slight saltiness too. This is excellent value and the ideal wine to match an autumn vegetable risotto or soup.

Domaine des Bruniers Quincy 2021 – A Sancerre-like Sauvignon Blanc at a very good price. Mouthwateringly juicy, a great wine to match butternut squash stew or curry with a chilli kick.

New Autumnal French Reds

Domaine Filliatreau Saumur-Champigny 2019 – Peppery, refreshing red with medium body, delicious forest fruits and herb flavour and firm acidity. Brilliant to match herb-encrusted lamb or nut roasts.

Petit-Figeac Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2016 – Structured Bordeaux from 41% Cabernet Franc, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon and 23% Merlot. Cellar till 2030, or decant now to enjoy with beef dishes. Alternatively, sip over a cool Autumn evening.

Traditional Method Sparkling & Champagne

Leon Beyer Cremant d’Alsace Sparkling – Traditionally made sparkling at an attractive price. Made from the Pinot Blanc and Pinot Auxerrois grapes, and aged for 2 years. It’s perfect for keeping in the fridge ready for a treat!

Louis Roederer Collection 243, 75cl bottle – For great Champagne, Louis Roederer has always been our favourite. A brilliant wine never disappoints, with finesse and flavour from 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. A fine gift and great for entertaining.

From Muscat to Madeira

Chambers Rutherglen Muscat – Full, fruity and decadent! This luscious fortified wine gives Tawny Port a run for its money. Try with a cheese and fig or nut board (particularly blue cheese), chocolate desserts or meat plates.

Justino’s Madeira Colheita 1999 – Decades old, this mellow, layered Madeira is the perfect gift when looking for something unique. Sweet but with plenty of acidity to prevent it from being heavy. Try with chocolate torte, shortbread or coffee desserts, or as a digestif


Those looking to try out any of the Autumn wines mentioned can find them available here at The Little Fine Wine Company. Whether you want to try a taster with our selection of half bottle wines or to get a full size bottle for an upcoming dinner party, you can find some of the best Autumn wines here.