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Weekend wines: Try an exceptional pinot noir under $20

If you love pinot noir, as I do, then you probably know that it’s not easy to find exceptional examples in the under-$20 range. So I was surprised and delighted the other night when I opened a bottle from New Zealand, Kim Crawford’s 2011 Marlborough Pinot Noir.Kim Crawford has been one of New Zealand’s most visible brands since the winemaker Kim Crawford founded it in 1996 and helped make Ne
Antony Dickson / AFP - Getty Images

If you love pinot noir, as I do, then you probably know that it’s not easy to find exceptional examples in the under-$20 range. So I was surprised and delighted the other night when I opened a bottle from New Zealand, Kim Crawford’s 2011 Marlborough Pinot Noir.

Kim Crawford has been one of New Zealand’s most visible brands since the winemaker Kim Crawford founded it in 1996 and helped make New Zealand synonymous with sauvignon blanc. These days, the country’s sauvignon is ubiquitous, with dozens of brands available in the United States.

While pinot noir has become New Zealand’s signature red, it is grown in much smaller quantities, tends to be on the more expensive side and, in general, is less available here.

Kim Crawford’s pinot is the exception. There’s plenty of it exported to the U.S. and, at about $18, it’s also an excellent value wine that can compete easily with comparably priced pinot noirs from California and Burgundy in France.

The reason for this is its impressive complexity. With a core of concentrated and spicy cherry, it has a pronounced earthy quality, along with tobacco and fennel notes. Despite its light color and moderate 13.5 percent alcohol, it was a perfect match with slices of peppery sirloin steak, a wine that beckons for another sip and another glass. Imported by CWUS Imports, Rutherford, Calif.

Edward Deitch is a James Beard Award-winning wine critic. Find many more of his wine reviews and commentary on his blog, Vint-ed.com, and follow him on Twitter