Wines & Vines Home
   
 
Welcome Guest
LOGIN |  CREATE ACCOUNT
 
 

Editor's Letter

 

Doing Something About Balance

May 2011
 
by Jim Gordon
 
 
I can’t remember the last time I saw so many journalists show up for a wine event. The wine media practically drowns in invitations to press conferences and tastings. They have to turn down the majority.

But the topic of this event—California Pinot Noir: In Pursuit of Balance—struck a chord, not only with writers, but with restaurant and retail trade members and with winemakers themselves. These wine professionals packed a meeting room at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in San Francisco in late March to hear a panel discussion and taste seven Pinot Noirs with their winemakers. Afterward, the group hiked a few blocks across Market Street to the restaurant RN74 for a walk-around tasting of Pinots from 24 wineries that support the idea of balance.

Something was happening here, and its purpose was very clear: Three constituencies came together for a very positive celebration and exploration of a style of wine in which many of them believe. After years of sniping about high-octane, mega-ripe Pinot Noir, here was a forum that dropped virtually all of the negativity and instead generated a wave of proactive energy.

No Frankenweins
Everyone knew the enemy—those inky, long hang-time, high alcohol, high pH wines that win scores high in the 90s from a small number of influential critics, attract large mailing lists but bear little resemblance to the wines that originally attracted so many in the group to Pinot Noir, the traditional red wines of Burgundy. At this event, however, they barely mentioned the enemy (except for an occasional outburst from the audience like that of Au Bon Climat founder Jim Clendenen, who declared, “Frankenweins! There’s no place for them in Pinot Noir.”) Moderator Ray Isle of Food + Wine magazine merely said that the discussion was “a reference or reaction to the fact that the current style of American Pinot Noir is robust.”

An outsider might wonder, why is this reaction necessary? Who has a problem with these well-muscled reds? The winemakers receiving the high scores for big, dense Pinot Noirs are selling their wines. They are happy. The critics giving the scores are getting plenty of affirmation from their readers who buy the high-scoring Pinots, so they are happy. The steakhouses and rib joints that like serving really noir, even sweet, Pinots to complement their porterhouses and pulled pork are happy, too.

What’s new is that the lovers of balance have finally grasped that it’s their problem, not anyone else’s, and they are the only ones who can do something about it. They want to drink (and sell) Pinot Noir that is less heavy, less inky, less sweet and more aromatic, more crisp, more dry. If they want that kind of Pinot Noir in circulation, they need to encourage winemakers to make more of it, trade members to sell more of it and consumers to buy more of it.

The key organizers of the day were sommelier Rajat Parr of Michael Mina and RN74 restaurants (he is now a Pinot Noir producer, too) and Jasmine Hirsch of Hirsch Vineyards on the Sonoma Coast. All seven of the wines poured during the panel discussion were tasty and well made; not one was a wimp. In fact, in the absence of any monster wines picked at potential alcohols of 15.5% to compare to, one might not have known they were mostly below 14% alcohol.

Concentration with elegance
Several speakers declared that the vineyard location and picking time are the keys to making wines with higher natural acidity, lower alcohol and thus better balance. “Getting a concentrated wine to be elegant is a real challenge,” acknowledged Sashi Moorman of Evening Land Vineyards. “But that’s the opportunity we have in California.”

The discussion and subsequent tasting provided lots more information, but there’s not enough room for it here. We are planning more reportage in Wines & Vines in the near future about how to gracefully lighten a wine’s style without sacrificing character.

My take away is that the discussion of balance in Pinot Noir is a very important one that will have eventual ramifications in the marketplace for almost all Pinot Noir makers. My personal preference in Pinot Noir is for more elegance, nuance and grace, because Pinot Noir is one of the few red wines that can achieve these. But I don’t expect everyone to agree with my tastes.

The participants in California Pinot Noir: In Pursuit of Balance, seemed to acknowledge this, too. Their positive approach helps the debate turn the corner from bitching to advocating, and that’s a good new direction to take.

 
SHARE »
Close
 
Currently no comments posted for this article.
 
 
SEE OTHER EDITIONS OF THIS COLUMN ï¿½ CURRENT COLUMN ARTICLES »


 
Wines & Vines Home
 
866.453.9701 | 415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517
65 Mitchell Blvd., Ste. A San Rafael, CA 94903
info@winesandvines.com
Wine Industry Metrics
 
Off-Premise Sales » Month   12 Months  
April 2015 $627 million
5%
$8,028 million
5%
April 2014 $595 million $7,623 million
     
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
April 2015 $184 million
17%
$1,890 million
15%
April 2014 $157 million $1,649 million
     
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
April 2015 406
34%
252
19%
April 2014 302 212
     
 
MORE » Released on 05.15.2015
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
2015
 
Download full report »
 
 

Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
 
Search the PWV archive »
 
 

CALENDAR
  • May 26
     
    Mendocino Economic Summit
     
  • May 28-29
     
    Direct2015
     
  • May 28-30
     
    WIneMaker Annual Conference
     
  • May 28-30
     
    International Chardonnay Symposium
     
  • MORE »
 

READER COMMENTS
 
Article: $10 Wine Would Cost $40-plus Under COOL »
 
As a Napa Valley producer, we have spent 30 years building our brands in the...
Reader: Pete Przybylinski
 
Article: Be a Sustainable Wine Ambassador »
 
A great idea. All TR employees at every responsible estate should be encouraged/required to become...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Historic Napa Winery Standing Tall Again »
 
It would be nice to know that Trost Jacking and Heavy Moving is the structural...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Women for WineSense offering scholarships »
 
This is fantastic! Women in Wine Education must find ways to continue their individual pursuit...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Historic Napa Winery Standing Tall Again »
 
Very Interesting, I'm so glad the building is successfully being saved.
Reader: Guest
 
 


Directory/Buyer's Guide — Your Wine Industry Marketplace
 
 
WINERY SEARCH
 
 
Advanced Search »
SUPPLIER SEARCH
   by Product
 by Company Name or Brand
 
Browse by Category »
2015 Directory/Buyer's Guide
The Wines & Vines Directory and Buyer's Guide
 
 
EXPANDED ONLINE SEARCH INCLUDED WITH PURCHASE
 
ORDER NOW »
 
LEARN MORE »
 
 
Wines & Vines Magazine
 
 
LEARN MORE »
 
SUBSCRIBE »
 
Digital Edition Now Available!
Wines & Vines Digital Edition Now Available
 
LEARN MORE »
 
ORDER NOW »
 
 
The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System
 
The Industry Standard winery marketing application
 
FREE LIVE DEMO »
 
VIEW VIDEO »
 
 
 
 
Latest Job Listings
 Tasting Room Associate
 St. Helena, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Regional Sales Manager
 Sf/Bay Area, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Epicure By Jcb Manager
 Yountville, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Retail Sales
 Sonoma, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Marketing & Social Med...
 Sonoma, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Market Manager
 Various, NA
Sales and Marketing
 Region Sales Manager-M...
 Minneapolis, MN
Sales and Marketing
 Chain Account Speciali...
 Seattle, WA
Sales and Marketing
 Area Sales Manager In ...
 Atlanta, GA
Sales and Marketing
 Sales Representative
 Manhattan, NY
Sales and Marketing
 
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:
 
 





Home  |  About Us  |  Editors  |  Subscribe  |  Print Edition  |  Digital Edition

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
 
 
Copyright © 2001-2015 by Wine Communications Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No material may be reproduced without written permission of the Publisher.
Wines&Vines does not assume any responsibility for any unsolicited manuscripts or materials.