Sunday, February 17, 2008

Last Night's Tipple

I finished off the bottle of 2005 Toad Hollow Goldie's Vines Pinot Noir last night, and I can't really say that it improved with time being open. It still had that musty aroma, and it didn't really bring much except tartness. André Tchelistcheff, the legendary winemaker at Beaulieu Vinyards, famously said that God made cabernet sauvignon while the devil made pinot noir; and I can believe it. This wine was not inexpensive, and yet it is very unsatisfying. It seems like it is almost ever thus with pinot noir. Every once in a while, one has a profound experience with pinot noir, which makes one willing to flush a lot of money down the toilet trying to find a repeat.

In addition to being a very prolific parent (having crossed with gouais to produce chardonnay, gamay, aligoté, melon de Bourgogne, and many others), pinot noir is also susceptible to mutation. Various mutations of the pinot noir have produced the pinot meunier, the pinot blanc, and the pinot gris (or pinot grigio in Italy and some parts of the United States), each of them relatively important in its own right. Pinot gris especially is an interesting case. Its name means "gray pinot," and that is a very good description. Where the skins of pinot noir grapes are a midnight blue in color, the skins of pinot gris grapes are much lighter -- a kind of pale blue-gray. You would never guess from looking at the pale wine that pinot gris produces that the skins are anything other than yellow-green. But they are. Pinot is a strange thing, indeed.

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