Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Grape Debate: A Blind Pinot Noir Tasting at The Grape Escape

Last month I went to another wine tasting at The Grape Escape. You remember me telling you about their AMAZING Californian tasting before, don't you? Well truth is, I've signed myself up to every one of their events… I think I practically live there!

I missed out writing about the Riesling tasting in August, which was stupid really because one of the wines we tried was actually voted as one of the two Fine Wines of the Year at the Sommelier Wine Awards 2015: Schloss Johannisberg Silberlack Riesling Trocken Grosse Gewächs 2013, Rheingau, Germany*. But that just tells you how frickin' awesome The Grape Escape is, and to be fair, I did feature some of the leftover Schloss Johannisberg Riesling in my Coq au Riesling recipe (definitely worth making if I do say so myself).

*"A stand-out white wine, this sumptuous top-quality Riesling is magnificent now, but will get even better with time. If you can, you really should…" £45.38 from Exel Wines.

Anyway, back to business; September's tasting was a blinder - literally. Wine buffs are always debating over which is the best grape variety, the best region, the best vintage, or whatever else they want to argue over. There are no right or wrong answers though, it's purely down to taste (unless you're an Blossom Hill White Zin lover, then just leave now), but we still like to vocalise our opinions; it's what makes life interesting!

There are many debates to be had, but The Grape Escape's first Grape Debate (oof - that was a bit of a tongue twister), was all about Pinot Noir!

We talk about Pinot loads on Vinspire, and I know that I sure consider it one of my favourite grape varieties; it's hard to grow, thin-skinned and temperamental, meaning it's a needy little grape that begs for constant care and attention. When done right, the concentration of flavours are phenomenal. When done wrong, the result is lifeless and boring... Nobody wants that.

Burgundy's always been known as being Pinot's number 1 producer, but this tasting was to see whether we thought that the New World cool kids had finally caught up. Do they happily sit alongside the Burgs with equal elegance? Are they better? More interesting? There was only one way to find out; tasting them blind!

Starting off with a glass of Camel Valley 2010 White Pinot Noir (£29.95), the order of events were revealed. Four rounds of two wines, with each round increasing in price; after a guess on which we thought was the Burgundy, we had to vote on which we preferred. I sensed there could be arguments, but whatever the outcome, Pinot would reign supreme. Here's what we had...

Round 1. Wines under £25. Burgundy vs. Australia.

Domaine Petitot Côtes de Nuits Villages 'Les Monts de Boncourt' 2012. (£22.00 from Roberson Wines)

Burgundy is obviously not the easiest place to find great value wines, but this one from a more 'undiscovered' grower ticks that box; a small, family-owned producer dedicated to making classic, silky, complex Burgundy without the hefty price tag. Domaine Petitot pay respect to the terroir and considering the money, the quality is fantastic. Full of ripe red fruits, it's sleek and ends in an elegant, long finish.

Larry Cherubino 'Cruel Mistress' Pinot Noir 2014, Great Southers, Western Australia. (£12.18 from Strictly Wines)

Although Australia is generally know for its punchy darker reds, it is starting to produce some consistently high-quality Pinot Noir in its cooler regions. With a tasting note reading "hints of lipstick and leather," this Cruel Mistress (named after the difficult nature of the grape) will certainly put you in your place! Sour cherries and cranberries, there's a touch of spice with smoky undertones. It's both vibrant, velvety, and its acidic finishlasts for ages.

Round 2. Wines from £25 - £35. Burgundy vs. New Zealand.

Domaine Hudelot-Baillet Chambolle Musigny Vieilles Vignes 2009. (unable to find a stockist)

An obvious step up from the first round, this 'vieilles vignes' comes from 40 year old vines. It shows a stunning purity of fruit whilst retaining a crisp concentrated backbone; the finely woven tannins made for a tense finish and it was a joy to drink.

Mount Difficulty 'Estate' Pinot Noir 2012, Bannockburn, Central Otago. (£25.99 from Waitrose)   

NZ Pinots are crackin', and the ones from the microclimate of Bannockburn are fierce competition to the Burgs. Low rainfall, hot summers and long cool autumns really bring out the best of the grapes, and as such, Mount Difficulty really isn't that difficult to drink! Perfumed ripeness with piercing clarity and succulent black forest cherries, the textural tannins and sneaky spiciness makes sure that it stays with you.

Round 3. Wines from £35 - £50. Burgundy vs. South Africa.

Domaine Méo-Camuzet Marsannay 2011. (under budget at £27 from Roberson)

Méo-Camuzet is classed as one of the top 5 winemakers in Burgundy. They produce full bodied, rich, oaky, concentrated wines, which guarantee their star status. This 2011 Marsannay is both energetic and elegant; it's lighter body reveals an inviting palate of tart red fruits, whilst woody wildflower notes compliment the slim tannins.

Paul Cluver Seven Flags Pinot Noir 2008, Elgin. (2010/2011 vintage available at SA Wines for £33.99

Paul Cluver's vineyards create some of South Africa's finest wines, and their classic Pinots gain great recognition. This deep red '08 number is intriguing; plums and red berries mingle with spice, mushrooms and dark chocolate, giving you a truly complex wine. Flavour comes through at different stages, and the structure sits balanced with medium tannins and tantalising acidity. What a beaut.

Round 4. Wines over £50. Burgundy vs. USA.

Domaine Dupont-Tisserandot Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru 'La Petite Chapelle' 2008. (2012 available from Jeroboams for £61.46)

The wines of Monsieur Dupont emerge as being some of the most interesting in the famous Burgundian village. Heavily bodied with a weighty nose of dark fruits and menthol, the ripeness comes in on the palate and herbaceous notes enhance the slick tannins on the finish. It felt luxurious, and with some blushing red meaty treats I think it'd be even more amazing.  

Domaine Eden 'Mount Eden Vineyards' Pinot Noir 2012, Santa Cruz, California. (£54 from Roberson)

The Mount Eden Estate Pinor Noir is elegant, clean and packed full of fruit; like a great Burgundy with a Californian twist... SOLD. Clear ruby in colour, raspberries, rose petals and smoky cloves drive the nose, whilst sweet berries and tart citrus acidity power the palate. Seamlessly alcoholic (13.5%), it slips down an absolute treat.

So what were the scores on the doors? Well, it turns out I'm absolutely crap at the 'spot the Burgundy' game. I got just one out of the four rounds right, and that was only because the colour of the Paul Cluver gave it's age away! As to what I (and the rest of the troop) preferred, it was pretty even stevens... Apart from my other half who unknowingly picked every single Burgundy as his favourites. I think my personal taste steered me slightly more towards the new world wines with the Cluver and Mount Eden standing out most (the chap and I may be divorced before we're even married at this rate).

What was made most evident was the step up in quality from round 1 to 2, proving that if you pay that little bit more for your bottle, you get much better booze! In fact, when asked what the 'best value' wine of the night was, many said those in round two - that's almost unheard of! 'Best overall's were predictably the big guns in round 4, but nobody can argue that.

All in all, we're probably in no greater position than where we were in the beginning. Burgundy or new world? Who cares… I drank some - cough - a lot of perfect Pinots at The Grape Escape, and it's safe to say I'd be happy with any of them!

Are you a Burgundy fan, or more of a new world wino? We want to continue The Grape Debate!...

No comments:

Post a Comment