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.
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!