The most elegant, over the borders of Burgundy
In a 2016 marked by profound and unexpected global upheaval, pollution, racism, sexism, populism and demagoguery, spending time on "frivolous" arguments seems out of place. Tom Ford has nevertheless said in a recent interview on the Financial Times that “man is a material creature" who seeks solace in the objects that surround him. Some make us feel better and raise our spirit, such as certain fabrics, a new pair of shoes, or in this case, a glass of Pinot Noir.
Miles in the movie Sideways talks about the Pinot Noir and describes it as: Um, it's a hard grape to grow, as you know. Right? It's uh, it's thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It's, you know, it's not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and uh, thrive even when it's neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And in fact, it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world. And, and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot's potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavours, they're just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and... ancient on the planet.
Good Pinot Noir transmits sensations of cherry, raspberry, clove and various red berry fruits, with a good longevity. Overlapping aromatic elegant and silky layers, that time cannot help but soften (within due limits), when it is good is very expensive and when it's not you repent for investing on the wrong producer.
Pinot Noir is for many experts the quintessential expression of terroir. Originally from Burgundy, it is mentioned unambiguously for the first time in 1375 by Philip the Bold that identifies it as "vin de pinot vermeil". Since then the rise of the ancient Burgundian grape was not arrested, decreeing a parallel increase in prices and in terms of international reputation. The Cistercian monks, originally from Cisteaux near Dijon, became the vehicle for the diffusion of such vine throughout Europe, especially in Germany, Switzerland and the rest of France.
Today red burgundy is cultivated with great success almost all over the world, reaching peaks of excellence in the new world (mainly Oregon, California, New Zealand, Australia, Chile and South Africa). For growers it’s an ongoing challenge due to delicacy and fragility, but it can repay every drop of sweat with unmatched finesse and elegance.
Amongst the Cotes de Nuits and the Cotes de Beaune, the area of maximum expression of the French Pinot Noir, the difference is well known between the individual parcels of vines that, within a distance of 20m, decree an astonishing wine variation. One step away from a Grand Cru a Village is produced. Such a qualitative difference is hardly seen with other varietals.
Benjamin Lewin (molecular biologist and Master of Wine) has published the book "In Search of Pinot Noir" published by Vendage, where he passionately and scientifically describes the past, present and future of the most expensive wine in the world. Beginning with the history of wine and its spread, he comes to an attentive analysis of the New World phenomena. The author depicts all the facets of the wine and its landscapes with skill and detail, accompaning the reader by hand through the most prestigious vinweyards. Everything is topped off with tasting notes of the most representative wines found in the most remarkable territories.
This year the Beaux Frères 2014 Oregon Pinot Noir was elected 4th best wine in the world by Wine Spectator. The historic Burgundian producer Joseph Drouhin, has bought in Oregon different estates in which he cultivates Pinot Noir. They are both indicators of new trends and the possible breaching of the a priori and perhaps no longer relevant Burgundian superiority over the rest of the world.
Speaking of Burgundy and Pinot Noir, you cannot fail to mention the Domaine de la Romanée Conti. To give an idea of the absolute fame and mystical aura that surrounds the Domaine de La Romanée Conti just think that a single bottle of 1945 has been sold for more than fifty thousand dollars. No Pinot of the new world can boast similar primates. The old-new world relationship drastically changes with regard to other varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay where the quality of many new world wines overtakes the old world competitors. DRC wines are the most coveted and expensive in the world. The estate takes its name from the acquisition of the La Romanée by the Prince de Conti in 1760, formerly belonging to the monastery of St. Vivant. Today owned by Aubert de Villaine and Henri-Frédéric Roch, it has become an unrivalled brand that acquired other neighbouring estates, including the historic La Tâche, Romanée St. Vivant and Echezeaux. All cult wines and destined to the palates of a few willing to spend big bucks to enjoy the precious nectar.
However, from the old to the new world, the choice and quality is very wide, with options that suit all budgets, with the possibility of "scouting” the future cult Pinot Noir, perhaps able to undermine the established supremacy of the majestic Domaine de la Romanée Conti.
Romanée St. Vivant 2003, Domaine de La Romanée Conti – Burgundy, FRA
Intense and fragrant, red and black fruit, cherry and red currant with a hint of fine tannins, elegant and refined on the palate with a long and silky final. A mystical journey into unknown aromatic territories.
Les Zazous 2014, Domaine La Croix Gratiot – Languedoc, FRA
Of light ruby red colour, it expresses a floral nose of roses, violets, cherries and spice. The palate is wrapped in silky tannins. Lingering finish.
Rully 2014, Joseph Drouhin - Bourgogne Rully, FRA
Ruby red with aromas of raspberry, currant, blackberry, tobacco and underbrush. Elegant tannins and long finish.
Calrossie Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Piramid Valley – Marlborough, NZL
Intense ruby. Harmonious with hints of black plum, blueberry and a floral component. Long and salty final.
OCIO 2013, Cono Sur – Chimbarongo, CHL
Deep ruby. It expresses a bouquet of red fruit and berries with spices and tobacco. Interesting balanced acidity and veiled tannins.
Bin 23 Pinot Noir, Penfolds – Adelaide Hills, AUS
Ruby color, the nose opens with vegetal, floral and citrus scents, white pepper and raspberry. Refined tannins and a lingering finish, balanced and consistent.
Pinot Noir 2012, Schlossgut Ebringen – Baden, GER
Dark ruby red, with varietal aromas of red berries, raspberries, violets and underbrush. Long, elegant finish with fine tannins.
Ludwig Barth von Barthenau Vigna Roccolo 2013, Hoffstatter –Alto Adige, ITA
Ruby color, has a nose of cherries, red berries, raspberry, rose and almost imperceptible spiciness. Long finish.
Pinot Nero 2014, Les Cretes - Valle d’Aosta, ITA
Ruby, opens with hints of cranberries, raspberries and currants accompanied by a veiled floral note. Silky tannins and consistent finish.
Spanish Spring 2012, Bonny Doon – California, USA
Garnet in colour, with hints of raspberry, strawberry, rhubarb with a mentholated note and flint. Excellent acidity and velvety tannins. very long finish.
Pinot Noir Ribbon Ridge 2014, The Beaux Frères Vineyard – Oregon, USA
Supple, expressive, multi-faceted, with hints of plum, black berries, pomegranates and violet for a harmonious, lingering in a long finish and exceptionally balanced.
Musical pairing for a Francophile tasting: Stephane Wrembel – Les Puces de Batignolles