Reflecting on the California Wine Experience just over a week ago, I am amazed at the popularity of Pinot Noir. Not only did we have more California Pinots than at any previous Wine Experience, we added a handful from Oregon (7) for good measure. There were 43 in all.
Compare this to our last CWE in Chicago, two years ago: There were 26 Pinots from California. But it wasn’t simply the volume of wines and the winemakers present, many of whom poured with purple hands stained from the ongoing crush. These wines were hot. There were crowds around many tables. The attendees were definitely into Pinot.
We also had two seminars on the program involving Pinot Noir. One was a tasting of the different Pinot styles from around the world. The other included six vintages of Maison Joseph Drouhin’s Beaune Clos des Mouches, from 2003 back to 1976.
It struck me that Pinot Noir was finally getting the recognition it deserved. And like the band that becomes an overnight sensation after 20 years of playing in smoky honky-tonks on the road, it hasn’t always been easy. Yet, as the tasting of Pinots from around the world demonstrated, there are legitimate styles made in the right climates and soils.
I’ll let you in on a secret. They are only going to get better. Take California, Oregon and New Zealand, for example. Many of the top wines are made from young vines and new clones. As these vines age, the quality of fruit they produce will increase. If the roots are forced deep into the soils and yields are reasonable, they will reveal more and more of the terroir with time.
In Burgundy, a younger generation is beginning to manage domaines and houses. Most of these men and women have worked in Australia, California, New Zealand and South America. They are thoughtful, smart, hardworking and driven to succeed. They are the future quality leaders in the region.
I taste a lot of Burgundy, but rarely have the opportunity to sample such a range of California and Oregon Pinots. It reminded me of how much my palate has changed since I first got hooked on wine about 20 years ago. Then, it was the bigger the wine, the better. Bring on the tannins. Over time, my palate tired of big, bruising Cabernet and oaky Chardonnay. I gravitated toward Riesling and Pinot Noir. I suspect other wine lovers have had similar experiences.
These factors only bode well for the future of Pinot Noir.