The art of Pinot tasting
Pinot Noir is often referred to as the Holy Grail of wine. It is the most difficult grape to grow, and just as difficult to produce in the winery, but when successful, Pinot Noir makes the most elegant, complex, and perplexing wines in the world. Pinot not only makes great red wines, but is also a major contributor along with Chardonnay in the Champagne blend. Pinot has a tough life, it has very thin and fragile skin, but only grows well in cooler climates. Only those winemakers that are ambitious enough and are willing to baby their wines even try to produce it. There are only a few places in the world where it is possible to try and even fewer where it succeeds.
Burgundy, France is the first and still finest Pinot producing region in the world. Great Burgundy does not come cheap though. In fact, it is the most expensive wine in the world. A single bottle of 1927 Domaine de la Romanee Conti was recently sold on auction in Miami for $59,250. If you don’t want to take out a mortgage on your next bottle of Burgundy, here are a few buying tips. For good value Burgundy, look to wines from the Cote Chalonnaise and the Cote Maconnais. They may not have the deep complexity of great Cote de Nuits. Also, there are so many regions in Burgundy to explore, it is a good idea to pick a producer and try all of their wines one by one, and remember to take notes. I recommend Louis Jadot, Joseph Drouhin, and Faivley.
Oregon is the second great region in the world for Pinot production. The climate in the Willamette Valley is cool and ideal for great Pinot Noir. The wines in Oregon show true pinot flavor and character. They are often lighter and more elegant than those from California. One of my favorite is the Domaine Drouhin Laurene, which often shows flavors of lavender, spice, and fig.
In California there are a few regions that produce fine Pinot Noir as well. Most notably, is Santa Barbara. These Pinots are usually a little fuller in body but still maintain the finesse that is so essential. Longoria and Alma Rosa have consistently been some of my favorites. The Russian River Valley is also known for great Pinot Noir, though some feel that the climate is a little too warm and has a tendency to overripen the grapes.
Pinot Noir is not meant to be powerful like Cab or spicy and dark like Syrah. Pinot is a wine of elegance, balance, finesse, and complexity. Happy Pinot hunting.
Zev Rovine is the sommelier and resident cheese monger at the Spotted Frog Bookstore Cafe and Wine Bar where he teaches weekly wine classes. His wine education comes from the American Sommelier Association in NYC and he tries his very best not to spill the Pinot on the bestseller section. If you have any wine queeries or comments he is easily contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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