Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Reviewing the Reviewer
My Problem with New World Pinot


Pinot Noir is a cépage which has a great affection for the coolest of micro climates. But of even greater importance, it loves a slow, righteous ride towards maturity. It is the key to maintaining its fragile acidity and ethereal aromas.

I like Pinot Noir and have a penchant for Burgundy. For me, a great Pinot shows a perfect balance between acidity and texture, fruit, earth and spice. It is a precarious balancing act, but when done right it can be the apogee of red wine drinking. It is soft, delicate, yet powerful. I imagine it is a question of a perfect maturity, as over-ripe Pinot for me harkens memories of Welch's more than wine.

The Pinot grape is now vinified throughout the world. And although great care has been taken to find the appropriate cooler climate zones, I find most of these ‘New World’ Pinots weighted too far towards the fruit end of the teeter-totter, and thus lose that burgundian boom, that so soft explosion of amplitude; too much power and concentration at the expense of elegance.

I recently drank a Wedgetail 2003, Single Estate, Yarra Valley Pinot Noir ($37…importation) and upon visiting his site couldn’t help but notice the care Guy Lamothe takes in putting together his wines. His wines are finely crafted, relying on hand-picked fruit (which I assume is to prevent over-ripeness), indigenous yeasts, french oak….all things which I look for in a wine and respect in a winemaker. The wine itself was loaded with black cherries, mocha and currents. It was ripe and round and had a certain length, however I found the fruit a bit stifling, impeding any sensation of true depth. This is a critique I could throw at any number of New World Pinots that I have tasted.

So, why didn’t I like it more? Why have I struggled all day over what was supposed to be a simple review of a dinner amongst friends. I guess I read the review of the wine and felt like I was not doing justice to Mr. Lamothe's effort. As one drinks more and more wines, one can sense when care and effort have been made in putting them together, as is the case with the Wedgetail and many of the Pinots that I don't drink. They are simply not for me, but I could see how people could love these wines.

As we are all reviewers and our opinions carry a certain weight with those who follow our blogs, we should be open to the prejudices that are behind our opinions. These are not always evident, but they can be fair if we are honest with our readership. Sometimes it just requires a little introspection, and perhaps a little delay before pressing the ‘publish’ button.

Photo par karl boulanger.. merci encore pour le cours

2 comments:

Dave MAC said...

Bill,

I always ENJOY your reviews - I didn't know that I was supposed to agree with them.

The problem you bring up is the age old problem of aesthetic judgement VS taste (or are they, after all, the same thing?). If there is a required reading on the subject it is Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgement in which he develops the "four moments" of true aesthetic judgement (to be distinguished from mere comment on passing likes/dislikes), the "deduction of taste" and most dear to my heart, the "sublime".

Can't wait to sit and sip a bottle with you, it has been too long, dear friend.

beau said...

Dig this Bill; I just got all meta on you.