Why can't Pinot Noir from California and Oregon age like Burgundy?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Why can we age Burgundy for long, but we don’t consider aging Pinot Noir for Oregon or California for the same duration? Being all Pinot, I would think they could be aged in a similar fashion. My wife and I are currently enjoying a 1998 Ken Wright Pinot Noir as I write this and it is quite good.

—Jonathan D., Birmingham, Ala.

Dear Jonathan,

As you point out, there are some great Pinot Noirs from Oregon (and from California) that do age very well. But you’re right that people don’t really treat them as if they’re as ageworthy as their Burgundian counterparts. I think there are few things happening here.

First off, Burgundy has a deep history that goes back much further than North American Pinot Noirs, so there’s more of a history and more reference points to discuss. Want an example of a terrific aged Burgundy? There are hundreds. There just isn’t as rich of a track record in Oregon and California—yet.

Secondly, Pinot Noirs from not just the U.S., but from all of the New World have a reputation for being made in a more fruit-forward, drink-me-now style. But as people start to understand these wines better, they will realize that plenty of producers out there are making more complex wines with more of an ability to age.

Finally, as any region develops, vintners are bound to gain a better understanding of which regions, clones, vineyard and winemaking practices work best. Check back with me in a few years, and we’ll see if that perception has shifted at all.

—Dr. Vinny

Collecting Storage Cellars Red Wines France Burgundy United States California Oregon Pinot Noir Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

How do wineries pick the glass color for their wine bottles?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny why some wine bottles are tinted green or amber, while …

Jun 7, 2021

When and how does "palate fatigue" kick in at a wine tasting?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the term "palate fatigue," and what happens to …

May 31, 2021

Does appellation-specific wine have to be labeled with a vintage?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny gets an assist from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade …

May 24, 2021

Do vacuum pumps work for saving leftover wine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why not all wine-preservation methods are equal.

May 17, 2021

Short-term, is it OK to store wine at room temperature?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, offers tips on how to keep wine at its …

May 10, 2021

Can I ask a restaurant to store my own bottle of wine there for a few weeks before I come in to drink it?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers advice for corkage and BYOB etiquette.

May 3, 2021