Pinot Noir Taste-Off Shows Off New World Wines

definitely not Old World

definitely not Old World

Toss out your presumptions about Old World and New World Pinot Noir. For all the extracted monsters coming out of California’s Central Coast there appears to be a growing number of more natural wines being made in the Willamette Valley that are blazing a welcome trail for Old World Pinot Noir fans. How do the best of those New World wines size up with what is available from the more accessible [ed. price wise] regions in Burgundy?

Here are the criteria for making the comparisons. Wines must be of similar vintage, 2009 to 2012, and price, between $25 and $45. The EIGHT wines – 4 Oregon and 4 Burgundy – were placed in bags by a novice member of the panel instructed by tBoW hisself, corks from the cork drawer were used to prevent “cork detection,” and simple note sheets were completed. There were no bad wines. However, central coast Pinot Noir winemakers should take note of the lower alcohol levels! Here are the notes with comments presented as poured in two wine flights.

Major findings: (i) No taster was able to match more than 6 wines correctly; (ii) preferred wines included Oregon and Burgundy wines; (iii) the less “manufactured” wines were most preferred.

CG-les-longiere09WEB2009 Camille Giroud Marsannay Les Longeroies $38 (Eno Fine Wine, more $$ elsewhere): This wine was in the lineup at the Old Topanga tasting. At that time – only a few weeks ago – it was tight and hard edged. This time the flavors were much more open showing spice and sweetness. We thought for sure this was New World. But no. Glad we have some in the cellar. 12%

2009 Anne Gros Bourgogne $28 (TAFI): What a great spot for the last of this stash. This and the Hautes Cote des Nuits reviewed on this blog multiple times. Light rose in color, earthy nose, took a few minutes to open with pure Pinot flavors. Keep in mind this is the lowest rung on her wine ladder. Pricing on newer releases is 40% higher. Called this one right. 12.5%

bowarrow medici122012 Bow and Arrow Medici East Bloc Pinot Noir $25: But for $25 this is a super U20 value. Even at this price – the lowest on the table – it is a great deal. Red color. Alcohol in the nose blew off quickly. Acidic, pickle juice flavors also blew off a little later. Sounds pretty awful right? When the wine settled into form it proved to be one of the two very “natural” wines in the lineup. The initial putting off turned to a firm embrace. Picked it it right. This is New World Pinot Noir showing its turf. Eno Fine Wine will be offering online soon. 11%

arnoux_chambolle-09WEB2009 Robert Arnoux-Lachaux Chambolle Musigny $49: Slipped this in a a “ringer” at the top end of the price spectrum. We just wanted to taste it! So lovely. Red color, structured style, elegant. With the Camille Giroud at $40 and this wine for $10 more… is it worth the difference? If you can afford the extra $10 that answer is yes. Picked it as personal favorite and an Oregon wine! Colossal miss. An example of top-end wine form a top-end location priced to be accessible to wine drinkers who want to now what is all the fuss about Chambolle. 13%

Lange3Hills2011WEB2011 Lange Three Hills Cuvee Pinot Noir $40: A blend of fruit from separate sources Lange considers exceptional. Of the eight wines poured this is the most “manufactured.” Darker red color. Profound funk on the nose which for some is seductive but to quote one taster “that is not the grape you are smelling.” and there is the point. As Alice Feiring writes in Naked Wine, many winemakers make wine to fit a style. It does not matter then if the farming is organic and the winemaking biodynamic. The wine is not from that site. This bottling is lovely for the funky-deans. As another taster aptly commented “”Hee Haw!” 13.2%

bigtableRes11WEB2011 Big Table Farm Pinot Noir Resonance Vineyard $48: Great wine that seems to be “natural” in the sense it reflects terroir without the added “winemaking” techniques. Red color. A pronounced Proustian lavender sashay nose. We love when wine transports us to a memory even if we never had it. Could not get my nose out of the glass. Flavors are wild strawberries. Tannins indiscernible. Structure is firm like a farmer, without weight-trained muscles. From what we know of the winemaking/farming team that is how they do it. This bottle had the highest alcohol for the vintage. The Resonance vineyard has been purchased by the well known and formidable Jadot Burgundy negociant [ed. now there is a vote of confidence]. The favorite of several tasters. Ding ding ding! Winnah! We need more! 12.9%

Two other wines were poured. One was a seductive Willamette wine that consistently knocks our socks off. However, in the company of the Big Table Farm and the Bow and Arrow, and the Old world Chambolle, it seemed less interesting. The other was a Burgundy wine that was acquired for $23 and came off as over-extracted and simple. Unusual for Old World Pinot Noir.

Wines were provided by a couple of the winemakers and the tasters. Their generosity is greatly appreciated.

Clare Carver is part owner of Big Table Farms. Her beliefs in what natural farming is all about can be discerned in the following interview [ed. this is the gal Dotore keeps shouting about who slaughters her own livestock, right?].