Published April 8, 2011
Pinot Noir thrills and spills
By N K YONG
THE Pinot Noir as we love it is the one from Burgundy. Check it out on Wikipedia and you will find that it is grown all over the world - including regions that would never have crossed my mind such as Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine et al.
What is it about the Pinot Noir which has so captured the palates (and hearts) of wine lovers in Singapore? And is it still only that grown in Burgundy that reigns supreme? To learn more about the Pinot Noir grown in other regions we assembled a very mixed bunch of pinot noir wines from all over the world.
The wines were tasted blind - not completely, in that the full list was printed out, but bottles were masked and lined up on a table for tasters to help themselves and taste at their own pace.
1. Pommard 2000, Olivier Leflaive;
A diverse list which covered most but not all the pinot noir wine regions outside of Burgundy.
The choice of a Pommard to represent Burgundy was deliberate. It is perhaps the one village which produces wines with the sturdiness and big shoulders one finds among hotter-climate Pinot Noirs. Gevrey would be too compact and tight, Chambolle Musigny too delicate, Vosne Romanee too lush, Morey St-Denis not broad-shouldered enough, Volnay too flowery.
It was impressive that all the wines showed good and easily identifiable Pinot Noir character in the bouquet and on the palate. As expected those from the New World regions showed clearly the effects of the hotter growing season in their regions, the fruit being denser and riper, but retaining Pinot Noir characteristics.
What was also impressive was that many non-French wines displayed sufficient complexity to make them not just enjoyable wine but sufficiently intriguing to merit further inquiry.
The overall best wine proved to be Bass Philip's Belrose Pinot Noir 2000. In fact most tasters thought it was French! An extraordinary effort but for those who know Philip Jones, owner and wine-maker of Bass Philip, and his wines, this did not come as a surprise. Here are my tasting notes in the order in which the wines were tasted:
Wine #1: Very good colour, very fresh aroma with good pinot noir character. Very ripe and very pure pinot fruit - raspberries and strawberries. Thought this was New Zealander. Answer: Chacra. 15 - 17 /20
(I had tasted this a month ago and it was then more closed, rather dull. This bottle is much more complex, and more evolved. Admittedly that was soon after it had arrived a few months ago before it had time to settle down after arrival.)
Wine #2: Medium red, beginning to brown. Very pure pinot bouquet, (my notes 'very French'!). Red berry fruit on palate, red strawberries, fresh, good purity, limpid and transparent. French! 18 - 19/20. Answer: Bass Philip Belrose 2000
Wine #3: Brilliant bright red. Not as strong a bouquet than #2 but same character of pure pinot. Very ripe, pure transparent flavour, a little richer than #2, less fruit sappiness. German. 17.5/20. Answer: Friedrich Becker 'Sankt P**L Pinot Noir 2008
Wine #4: Darker red than preceding three. Very fresh pinot nose, good pinot character. Palate very ripe fruit, good acidity and length. 17/20Not French, Italian? Answer: Carrick Pinot Noir 2003
Wine #5: Very good pinot character on nose and palate but hot-climate wine. A little pedestrian though, not as fine as #4. 16/20. Answer: Mount Difficulty Pinot Noir 2004
Wine #6: Medium red slightly browning; bouquet very good pinot character, lots of freshness on nose and palate, very ripe fruit, great purity, only weakness being a little light on finesse. (Thought it was Italian.) 18/20. Answer: Pommard 2000, Olivier Leflaive
Wine #7: Bouquet and palate a little on the heavy side, too heavy to be French. Good pinot character, very ripe fruit, still quite tannic. 17/20. Answer: Pinot Noir 'Case Via' 2006, Tenuta Fontodi
Wine #8: Ruby red, vedry good pure pinot nose. On palate very good pinot fruit character, but not quite balanced, lacking sufficient acidity, a little dull on the whole. 15/20 New Zealand perhaps? Answer: Littorai 2008, Sonoma
Wine #9: Good colour, bright red; very pure pinot noir bouquet, with just a touch of reduction on the nose. Very, very ripe fruit, quite clearly hot climate wine, but good purity of fruit. Not enough finesse. United States? Answer: Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007
That the Bass Philip Belrose 2000 should prove the top favourite and thought by most to be French before the unveiling should come as no surprise to those who know and have met Philip Jones. Philip unquestionably makes Australia's finest Pinot Noirs, virtually indistinguishable from the wine it is modelled on - Burgundy. Philip fell in love with Pinot Noir, captivated by the wines of Henri Jayer, ripped out all the cabernet sauvignon in his vineyards and planted Pinot Noir.
The other great (and very welcome) surprise (for me) of the tasting was the excellent German Pinot Noir, Weingut Friedrich Becker's Pinot Noir. Friedrich Becker's estate in the Pfalz is very close to the French border and, interestingly, part of his vineyards lie in Alsace!
Although they produce the traditional German Rieslings, the main enthusiasm of the Becker family is on their Burgundian varieties. Tasted blind, it would not be easy to distinguish this wine as non-French. Certainly it has the purity and the fresh sappiness so typical of French pinot noir. The slight suggestion of being a little thicker in weight is the only giveaway sign but then, it is not easily discernible.
The Pinots from down south, New Zealand, and from the US were good but were clearly distinguishable as non-French and coming from hotter climes. But this could have easily applied to Philip Jones' Bass Philips and yet it did not. I have also in recent weeks tasted the Felton Road Pinot Noir, almost the benchmark Pinot of New Zealand. Good but also quite definitely warm climate Pinot.
What did the tasting show? The most obvious is that good Pinot Noir wines are now being produced, and quite regularly too, in major wine regions around the world - in the old world (Germany and Italy) as well as in the new world, the US, Australia, New Zealand, and even in Argentina.
But most important, that it is possible that sooner or later there will be other winemakers who will have the same passion and single-mindedness as Philip Jones, and produce Pinot Noirs which not exactly be Burgundian but will nevertheless thrill and delight us with their finesse and transparency.
Well, it has been a while since I posted anything interesting. However, I just need to register that i am extremely excited that the new IPHONE 4 has been announced.
Rumor has it that it will arrive in SG sometime in July... Most exciting...
I am a bit appalled that a remake of Karate Kid is hitting the theaters this summer and Jackie Chan replacing Pat Morita as Mr Miyagi...