It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend; one’s present or future thirst; the excellence of the wine; or any other reason. -Latin saying
Pinot Noir has the misconception of being either very poor in quality at low prices and extremely good at high prices. According to many, there is no middle ground. This notion was perpetuated by the Academy Award winning movie, Sideways. Is this true? Prices range from $8 to upwards of $60 per 750 ml bottle. I wanted to find out what is the standard for Pinot Noir and how two popular name wines equate to that standard.
What is Pinot Noir?
I paid a visit to my favorite wine store on Staten Island, Pete Milano’s Wine & Liquors (1441 Forest Avenue, 718 447-2888) http://milanosliquor.com/index.asp for an education on Pinot Noir. I went loaded to bear with all the information I researched before my visit. I did not want to sound like a putz or a wannabe wine snob. I met up with one of the owners, John Milano, to discuss Pinot Noir. John is a certified and well experienced sommelier ( a wine steward). He always welcomes questions regardless of your wine background. John explained that the standard for Pinot Noir revolves around a, sometimes intense, cherry aroma, with a pronounced spiceness. Pinot Noir is sweeter than a Cabernet. It is most noted for it’s low tannins (It is what creates that dry feeling in your mouth when you drink a great dry wine) and being soft and silky smooth. Pinot Noir is ruby in color. It is a versatile wine that pairs well with many foods, especially fish like Salmon. Try to stay away from heavily spiced foods which tend to hide the subtle favors of this wine.
I asked John for some choices on a low and moderately priced Pinot Noir. I picked the Cavit 2008 Pinot Noir (about $16 1.5 lt.) from Italy and the Bogle 2007 Pinot Noir (about $18 750 ml) from California. My wife and I invited a couple of friends over for a wine tasting to get other opinions. Our wine background is varied but we like to try new wines and share our thoughts. Now the fun begins…. where is my corkscrew!
In this corner…the Cavit 2008 Pinot Noir!
With all the marketing and advertising Cavit has done for this Pinot Noir we where curious to see if met the standard.
The clarity of the wine was clear and the color leaned toward a red/brown. It seemed a little oily in the glass. The aroma was almost neutral with a slight fruit bouquet. As a group we found it to be a pleasant aroma. One person found it to have a sweet aroma. The most prevalent comments about the taste was it’s noticeable acidity that was tart and dry (high on tannin). It had a medium body that was unbalance. I found it to be a little astringent and a hard finish. As a group we found it to be an acceptable wine and it received 10 out of 20 points. Overall this isn’t an expensive wine so it’s not bad for a “table wine” but it did not meet the standard (John Milano advised me of this outcome before hand).
And in this corner…Bogle 2007 Pinot Noir!
According to John Milano, the Bogle 2007 Pinot Noir is a good wine without spending and arm and a leg. He recommends this as a good (not perfect) representation of a Pinot Noir. I can’t wait to find out.
The clarity was clear but with a vibrant ruby color. Unlike the Cavit, it did not seem oily in the glass. The wine definitely had never ending long legs (this usually means a high sugar content in the wine or there is a beautiful women near!). The overall scent of the wine was attractive with a positive hint of cherry. Everyone in the group noticed the bouquet was complex with oak and vanilla. The prevailing comments on the taste was a slightly tart, full bodied dry wine with a smooth finish. One person did not care for the aroma and taste of oak. She said it distracted her from other elements of the wine. I was surprised that it was not softer and still had some distinct tannins. Altogether the Bogle was a pleasant wine and was far closer to the standard and it received 14 out of 20 points.
None the less we finished off both wines and opened one more. Both wines went well with chocolate and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The Bogle was more apt to enhance it’s own flavor with food. Where as the Cavit was lacking in this ability. By the way try tasting wine with your nose pinched. You will notice it taste different and shows the power of scent on taste.
My friends and I enjoyed this experience. It was an excuse to find babysitters and just hang out. It was fun to act like a wine snob and try learn a few things. It was certainly a blast drinking with friends and trying escape this crazy world for a couple of hours. We all look forward to the next time. An excellent Pinot Noir that John Milano assures me meets the standard is Carneros Estate 2005 Pinot Noir by Gloria Ferrer. It costs about $27 per 750 ml bottle. It does go on sale from time to time.
Please send me any suggestions on the next wine to try or comment on my inept wine-snobbery.
Thanks for reading.