Seeing is believing

Pinot grapes produce unusual colours but superb flavours

Judging from the names of grapes, the vignerons of France suffer from congenital colour-blindness. The Pinot comes in three varieties called "white", "black" and "grey", the first of which is green, the next a reddish purple, and the last a subdued grassy yellow. "Blanc", "noir" and "gris" have stuck, with the Italians making Pinot Grigio into a household name. Yet one of the most interesting features of the Pinot grapes - the Pinot Noir in particular - is their colour.

Unlike the Bordeaux varietals, the Pinot Noir never produces a dark purple must and can even be used, as in champagne, to make white wine. It lends itself to those "onion-skin" rosés that were drunk, suitably watered, in the restaurants routiers of my youth. And in Burgundy it produces red wines that range in colour from the pink to the scarlet, always enlivened by a genial translucency.

Corney & Barrow's selection for September reminds us that there is life for the Pinot Noir outside Burgundy, but maybe less life than there is within the duchy's boundaries. Sure, the Lurton brothers, who could produce a passable wine from cloudberries in Lapland, have done more than justice to the Pinot Noir from the vineyard of Les Salices in the Minervois, just north of Carcassonne.

Entitled to call itself only vin de pays d'Oc, this cheerful wine has enough of the berry-fruit aroma and mouth-filling taste of the Pinot Noir to compete successfully with the lesser Burgundies from the Mâcon. It washed down our cheese omelette with a businesslike approach to what is, after all, the greatest challenge that any wine must face, eggs having an incorrigible antipathy to tannic acid.

Still, Les Salices does not have what Chanson Père et Fils have managed to put into their generic Burgundy - namely, the colour, flavour and aroma of the soil. This "Cuvée Voltaire" is a distinguished Burgundy for the price, with a fullness of fruit and mineral structure that would permit the wine to develop further in the bottle.

We drank it with roast lamb, which it suited perfectly, the red wines of Burgundy having a grease-cutting edge to them which has encouraged the rich cuisine of the region. Although this is a generic wine, it bears comparison with many of the overpriced single-vineyard products.

Jacques and François Lurton have produced, from their Argentinian Bodega, a passable Pinot Gris, though we preferred the rival from La Tunella, the great estate in the Friuli region of north-east Italy, where grapes ripen slowly and are treated in ways that owe much to the Austrian taste and to the Austrian industriousness that once prevailed in these parts.

This is a full and aromatic wine, perfect with food . . . and it passed the egg test with flying colours - incidentally more yellow-green than grey.

Roger Scruton is a philosopher and countryside campaigner as well as an author and broadcaster. Widely regarded as one of Britain’s leading right wing thinkers, his publications include the Meaning of Conservatism. He has also written on fox hunting.

This article first appeared in the 29 September 2008 issue of the New Statesman, The crash of 2008