Picking Pinot with a Master of Wine (MW)

“God made Cabernet Sauvignon, whereas the Devil made Pinot Noir,” a quote from America’s most influential winemaker, André Tchelistcheff.

I recently attended a fantastic event at Astor Center with Christy Canterbury, MW.

Master of Wine is an IMPRESSIVE title, there are currently only 30 Americans who have it. The program takes a minimum of three years to complete, and most never achieve the certification.

I am often asked to recommend a great, affordable Pinot Noir. This is usually an oxymoron.  Pinot Noir is a thin-skinned grape which means it is susceptible to frost, wind, and too cold or too hot temperature. It is also a very low yielding grape which means you get very few grapes per vine.

All of these factors make Pinot Noir very difficult to grow and therefore it is expensive to turn into wine.

Most agree that the best Pinot Noir comes from Burgundy, France but they are also some of the priciest. I have found some really good, affordable Pinot from Washington State and Central Otago, New Zealand that I recommend to others.

I was curious to taste all 8 expressions of Pinot Noir and also to hear how “the Master” would handle the challenge.

Her Pinot Selections…

We tasted 8 expressions of Pinot Noir:

1. Burgundy, France- “Le Chapitre”, Rene Bouvier 2009- $25

2. Burgundy, France- Givry “Les Bois Chevaux” Dom. Baron Thenard 2008- $30

3. Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand- Sherwood 2009- $15

4. Central Otago, South Island, New Zealand- Prophets’s Rock 2007- $26

5. Limari Valley, Chile- Tabali Reserve Especial $19

6. Wilamette Valley, Oregon- McKinlay 2009- $24

7. Central Coast, California- Stephen Ross 2008- $25

8. Sonoma, California- Norton Ridge 2010- $17

The old world wines (#1 and #2) were noticeably different from the rest, they were paler in color and the flavors were earth and red fruits (strawberry, cherry). These wines were subtle and restrained, they were high in acid but pleasant to drink.

The New Zealand wines were most similar to the ones from Burgundy, especially (#3) which is an absolute steal at $10 on sale for the event. (#4 Prophet’s Rock) was the crowd favorite but it was also one of the most expensive.

#5 from Chile was my, and the group’s, least favorite. Chile makes some great value wines but Pinot Noir is relatively new territory for them and this one had too many green (unripe) flavors for me.

The American wines (#6-#10) all had flavors in the Blue-Black fruit category (blueberries, black cherries, plums). They were noticeably darker in color, had less acid but more tannins, probably due to oak aging.

One of the most interesting wines was the one from Wilamette Valley. Oregon is known for Pinot Noir and this one did not disappoint as it had so many unique aromas that changed as the wine sat in the glass. There were flowers, leather, barnyard and I swear I smelled talc. At $20 on sale I would love to try this again and would recommend it to those who like Northwest USA Pinot Noir.

It is very interesting just how different Pinot Noir can taste from different regions of the world. I still like the ones from New Zealand… but would love to hear some of your favorites.




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