Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In Search of the Perfect Pinot

Last night’s wine class focused on Pinot Noir, that difficult and ever-stubborn grape.  When I say difficult and ever-stubborn, I mean two things:

Pinot grapes - Nums!
1    That it’s reportedly a challenging grape to grow, harvest, and make delicious wine with on a consistent basis.  It’s so difficult, that even the most famous villages in Burgundy have bad years.  It's a very sensitive grape, and loves warm days and cool nights, on east-facing slopes if possible.  We might say that Pinot is the Scorpio of the wine zodiac – usually your friend, very loyal to limestone, but one bad storm or cold 
spell and it just doesn’t let go of that all summer long (get over it already!). 

2    That I find Pinot to be stubborn in the glass and challenging to enjoy. Part of this is due to the inconsistency of the wine produced, even by top growers.  You can never be totally sure that one bottle will taste the same as the last bottle by the same producer, and that seems to be true the world over.  Part of my challenge, however, is due to my own tastes in wine.  I’ve definitely found great Pinots that I love since beginning my studies, but many of them – old world and new – don’t appeal to me. 

      Last night was a challenge, therefore, in many ways.  We had some good bottles, but more disappointing ones overall, I would say.  My favourite Pinot of the night was... a Barolo!  Ha!  *sigh* I have a Pinot problem. 

Our new world selection didn’t do as well as I’d hoped; I like a few Pinots from Willamette Valley in Oregon, but the one we had last night wasn’t a great example.  We also weren’t able to taste a Pinot from Central Otago this time because the LCBO is... well, it just is.  However, the wines from Burgundy were appropriately awesome, and my two faves of the evening were Domaine Daniel Rion et Fils Premier Cru Les Beaux Monts Vosne-Romanée 2009, and Domaine La VougeraieLes Cras Premier Cru Vougeot 2005.

Les Beaux Monts Vosne-Romanée had a deep ruby colour and a pink quartz rim.  It was very pretty in the glass, very shiny, very juicy-looking.  It smelled like cherry, smoke, fennel, strawberry tea, and earthy baking spices.  In the mouth it tasted classically Pinot (which is often something I don’t enjoy, but this time I did – I must be growing as a person), with sharp cherry, tea and orange peel shifting into fresh strawberry and then pie flavours.  The palate had a very interesting flavour evolution, so that the finish was deliciously baked and the high acidity left my mouth feeling clean and ready for another sip.  I shall dream of tasting this bottle again someday ($75 at the LCBO)! 

Les Cras Vougeot was deep ruby in the glass with a pinky-orange rim – coral, I suppose – and looked appealing.  The nose was full of sweet cherry, smoke, strawberry, fig, and forest.  It was a complex nose, and I felt like I smelled a new scent every time I went back.  On the palate this wine had darker flavours; plums, figs, cherries, mocha, and rosemary.  The tannins were round and polite, and the acid was nice and high and juicy.  Delish!  I shall also dream of this bottle (99 buckaroos)!

Next week: Chardonnay!


  1. Wow. I love Pinot. You didn't get to taste any California ones? Or German? Or Italian? Or South African? Or... Anyway, poop.

    Do you recall what the Willamette Pinot was?

    I find Pinot recognizable in the glass from place to place though there are very different stylistic changes from place to place. California pinots are thicker than Willamette; Burgundy has a differing texture all together, though can also often have more acidity than I expect. But still there is a kind of underlying profile I can often recognize there.

    You said your favorite Pinot was a Barolo? But that's made with Nebbiolo? So, what the heck you mean by that??!!

    It's interesting you don't like Pinot. And I recall you not being into Cabernet Franc too. I'm tracking these things. Looking for common threads in your palate.

  2. We did taste Californian, German, Italian, Canadian, etc. Pinots, these two were just my favourites. Our instructor included a Barolo to illustrate the similarities between Barolo-style Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir in the glass, but the big differences on the palate (since we're learning how to succeed in blind tastings and find the strong varietal characters that set the grapes apart) and it was the one wine that tasted best to me.

    That said, we had wines that I scored highly because of technical correctness, etc., but they weren't my favourites. I get to be subjective in my blog, if not in wine class. So I liked *these* Pinots, while I find the larger portion of Pinots to be difficult and not always as delicious as I want them to be.

  3. Oh! I hope my comment didn't read as pain in the ass. Of course you get to subjective--I was just curious how it all worked out for you in that subjective sense. And then was curious how broadly you tasted in class too. You mentioned Willamette and a few other places so I was wondering where else you tasted.

    Also, I'd figured what you say there was what you meant--that you'd tasted a Barolo for comparison, but I couldn't tell for sure in the post itself. So, I asked.