Wednesday, March 11, 2009

California Pinot Noir

Here's a great article in the New York Times about California Pinot Noir. It explores one of the fundamental divides in wine preferences: people who prefer wine with food and those who prefer it on its own. Those who prefer wine with food tend to like fresh, lively (ie higher acid) wines with some earthy flavors, and those who prefer wine on its own prefer fuller, fruitier wines (I'm talking about red wines mainly). The author, and myself, are in the former camp. To me never having wine with food is missing out on half of what makes wine fun and interesting.

It's telling, too, that the Pinot producers who opt for the big, fruity style have to "play chemist", as one winemaker once put it to me. If you pick the grapes when they are super-ripe the acidity is lower and much of the water has dried out, so you later have to add tartaric acid and water to the wine to make it palatable. In my view, if you have to mess with the wine to make it good you're not making it the right way.

Incidentally, if you like your wines big and fruity, you should opt for a California Zinfandel or a Syrah, which naturally are able to achieve that style better than Pinot.


Eve said...

Does this mean that all the "big" pinot noirs have water and tartaric acid added? Or just some of them? This is what has always confused me about pinot noirs, that the two styles could be so different.

I like enjoying wine both with food and on its own. Different bottles, different uses. All the wine, all the time.

Matt said...

I don't think they all do, but probably most.