Monthly Archives: January 2012

White Pinot, this time

So I did Pinot’s bamboozability last week, which was all about the red version.

This week my post is all about white Pinots and white Pinot from red Pinot, if you get me.

If you just want to cut to the wine which tastes like a, er, Custard Cream biccie, that’s at the end, but if you want to read more about a potentially new and exciting direction for Oregon white wines, then check this lot out…

At the annual Washington State & Oregon generic trade tasting last week I was short on time so I limited myself to tasting a selection of Oregon’s reputable Pinot Noirs. But as I headed my way over to the table, a little sign saying ‘Pinot Blanc’ caught my eye.

There were only four wines in this section, but I was pretty impressed by Oregon’s efforts with this grape. As I started to taste, one Pacific NW wine expert leaned over and said to me: “If an Oregon producer bothers to make Pinot Blanc, it’s because they think there’s something to be bothered about”, and d’you know, I think he was right.

These wines are raaaaaaacy, make no mistake. Lip-smackingly fresh in fact, especially in the case of Brooks Runaway Willamette (pronounced like dammit – always love that) Valley Pinot Blanc 2010, which is available at Stone, Vine & Sun.

Elk Cove Pinot Blanc 2010 on the other hand, had the bright acidity but with a welcome layer of creaminess to boot. Together with the creaminess, it had a really nostalgic, pretty floral aroma of jasmine. Good stuff. That can be found in Yorkshire’s House of Townend for around a tenner.

WillaKenzie Valley Pinot Blanc 2009 was a fine version as well, and it was even broader than the Elk Cove. In fact this had very specific – not to mention gorgeous – smoked almond aroma (who doesn’t like smoked nuts, right?). More zippy acidity, that’s a given by now I suppose, and a textured, chewy palate, maybe it was the tiniest bit hot on the finish, other than this little flaw, the rest of this wine was really enjoyable. Around £17 at Slurp.

The fourth in the line-up was Anne Amie Vineyards Pinot Blanc 2009. This had more of a spicy take on Pinot Blanc with a taut, focussed, white pepper character to the nose and palate, and guess what else? Racy acidity! I was told this has a UK importer/listing but I’ve yet to find the details, as soon as I do, I’ll add them in here.

Now it’s Custard Cream time. The white Pinot Noir came next. That’s right, a WHITE Pinot Noir. Well, I guess they do it in Champagne, so why not here? This was also from Anne Amie Vineyards, I only really tasted this for the novelty value, but it was totally dominated by another nostalgic (but wish it was more current!) aroma – Custard Creams. Or was it vanilla ice-cream? Actually I think it was both. So yes, pretty unusual and quite weighty, textured, and that overwhelming flavour of vanilla, but not in a heavy, oaky sense as is so often the case with wine.

This one is still looking for UK stockists. Clearly there’s not enough of a market for wines that taste of Custard Creams out there just yet. I guess if people want a Custard Cream they just have a biscuit, and you can’t really argue with that.

But those Oregon Pinot Blancs are definitely worth a go this summer on a blazing hot day, which is wishful thinking right now, I know…

J

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Pinot Noir’s bamboozability

I went to a brilliant tasting on Monday. Of course there are many things that make a tasting brilliant. On this occasion, having Pinot Noir as the subject was one of them. Tasting them blind was another. Tasting them with some of the best palates in the business was yet another.

However, the best part for me was having the platform to openly discuss and debate Pinot Noir’s bamboozability.

And bamboozled we often were at this event, SIPNOT (Stonier International Pinot Noir Tasting), a blind tasting of 12 Pinots from around the world, and and event which is so legendary it’s now in is fourteenth year.

So on Monday night we tasters were thrown off in every Pinot sensory direction as the blind wines laid out before us danced their merry dance and in doing so they played with our minds, teased our senses, provoked intense discussion and pretty much encouraged us to make total fools of ourselves. Not that they always succeeded, and Pinot-producing regions are definitely easier to identify than others. But there’s no question that it’s more difficult these days to separate old world from new world Pinot Noir.

One of the favourite wines, for example, was generally agreed (by the 60 or so people in the room) to be an elegant Burgundy, when in fact it came from nowhere near France, but from Oregon.

As I said, bamboozled.

The crowd was divided into 10 tables, and I was captain of table 10, and not only was it a good group, but I think I’m pretty safe in saying we had the youngest average age of all the tables, bringing a new generation attitude to the historic proceedings. That’s not to say we lacked experience. Far from it, in fact I was flanked by Decanter editor Guy Woodward to my left and to my right was Neal Martin of Wine Journal/erobertparker.com while opposite me was Kate Exton, the head sommelier at revered London restaurant Chez Bruce. So you can imagine, our table had a blast with the discussions.

While I thought the event was fantastic, I’d still love to see Pinots from other regions included in the event in the future.

Are there not some Pinot Neros in northern Italy that would be worthy of inclusion? What about Bulgaria? I reviewed a delicious one courtesy of from Swig on this site last year. And what about west coast USA regions like Russian River Valley? Pinot Noir may be niche in South Africa, but one could at least merit a place here. And last but by no means least, what about our home turf? Hasn’t England now got something to offer on the Pinot Noir from? Okay, so maybe England is pushing it when up against the likes of Burgundy’s Armand Rousseau, which we had in this year’s line up, but I think it’s food for thought, if not for now, definitely in years to come.

Of course I can imagine some people scoffing at this very suggestion of other regions, but then if the tasting is to be truly international, surely a few more examples from a few more countries would take the discussion beyond ‘what does Oregon Pinot really taste of?’ and into some new unchartered territory, just to Pinot bamboozle the hell out of us, which in a sadistic wine way, is what many of us probably want.

J

PS – Not only was it a great event but it’s given me extra ammunition for my piece in Square Meal later in the year about Aussie Pinot Noirs – watch this space!

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A new year, a frantic year

Things are already looking hectic for 2012, but that’s just how I like it.

Firstly there’s the slew of En Primeur Burgundy 2010 tastings next week, and the merchants seem to be getting very excited about the quality of 2010 so let’s wait & see.

Then I just heard earlier today that The Wine Gang will be continuing its benchmarking work with SW France later this year – watch this space. Or The Wine Gang’s space, even… Hooray!

Right now though, there are two imminent articles to write – both for trade publications, one is a non-cheesy Valentine’s Day piece (no sniggering at the back please), that’s for Off Licence News, and t’other piece is on the current state of Spanish wine in UK restaurants, for…. unsurprisingly… Restaurant Magazine, both of which I’ll work on in between spitting out Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at the En Primeur tastings.

I’m also just starting to prepare for a new project, starting later this month I’ll be hosting a few wine tastings for Vini Italiani, the new swanky independent Italian wine shop that’s opened in South Kensington and which has a fabulous, comprehensive and to be honest, mind-boggling array of Italian wines; new and old, classic and unorthodox, you name it, I reckon Vini italiani will have it.

On the evening of Thursday 26th Jan, come and join me when I’ll be doing a workshop called What’s the Alternative? The details of the night go a bit like this… (well, exactly like this…).

Bored of Chardonnay? Tired of Sauvignon Blanc? Then try Italian native grape varieties instead! Italy produces so many vibrant, packed with flavour, native white wines. Wines that are as diverse as they are delicious. This workshop will take you through a beautiful selection of white wines that are native to Italy. So, as we taste Favorita, Kerner, Arneis and Friulano, we’ll discover just what fantastic value for money they can be and how versatile they can be with food too.

Sounds pretty good huh? Snap up a ticket while you can.

I’ll be doing more two more classes for them this Spring, both on different themes. More details of these will be posted on my new website page soon enough – In Person. So y’see, I wasn’t completely resting on my laurels over Christmas, as I’ve made a little amendment to my site to reflect all the out-and-about stuff I’ve been doing these last few months. Now I just need to upload all the info onto it!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy browsing this page and everything else I post in the year ahead and beyond.

Happy 2012!

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