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  
November 2014 $708 million
5%
$7,844 million
6%
November 2013 $673 million $7,428 million
     
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
November 2014 $274 million
21%
$1,799 million
16%
November 2013 $225 million $1,558 million
     
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
November 2014 127
-5%
226
15%
November 2013 134 196
     
 
MORE » Released on 12.15.2014
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 

FEATURES
 

Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
 
Search the PWV archive »
 
 

Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
2014
 
Download full report »
 
 

CALENDAR
  • January 7
     
    Putting Your Brand to Work
     
  • January 9-18
     
    Icewine Festival
     
  • January 13-16
     
    VinCO
     
  • January 15
     
    WineFlavor 101B
     
  • MORE »
 

READER COMMENTS
 
Article: Grape Industry Lukewarm on Immigration Act »
 
A band-aid it may be but instead of the negative tone of this article which...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Oregon Wine Institute Plans for the Future »
 
When Mark is involved, things are going to work out just great! We miss the...
Reader: Peter Bell
 
Article: Spanish Cooper Sells Chinese Oak »
 
I would love to find Us wineries using the Chinese oak barrels. Do you know...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Prohibition Laws Linger 81 Years Later »
 
Trader Joe's (Union Square) and Whole Foods (Upper West Side) both have wine shops attached...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Prohibition Laws Linger 81 Years Later »
 
Maybe the economy could use another boost by repealing the post-prohibitionary laws too. Make it...
Reader: csm noble
 
 


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
 Sales Rep - Kansas Cit...
 Kansas City, MO
Sales and Marketing
 Director Of Hospitalit...
 Napa, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Skilled Cellar Worker ...
 Santa Rosa, CA
Winemaking and Production
 Public Relations Accou...
 San Francisco, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Portfolio Marketing Ma...
 White Plains, NY
Sales and Marketing
 Midwest Regional Sales...
 Midwest Usa, IL
Sales and Marketing
 Vineyard Manager
 St. Helena, CA
Vineyards
 International Marketin...
 St. Helena, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Sales Representatives
 North And South, CA
Sales and Marketing
 On-Call Chef
 Rutherford, CA
General Administration and
 
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:
 
 





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

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
 
 
Copyright © 2001-2014 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.