Top Pinot Noirs outside Burgundy
By Olga Antoniadou
When I was asked if I would like to write about the tasting, I immediately said: “Yes, why not?” The truth is that after I had agreed, I had second thoughts, because I generally like to write about the people behind the wines. Then, I had a naughty idea. Since Yiannis Karakasis organized the tasting he would have to serve as my protagonist.
The title of the arranged tasting was ‘The Best Pinot Noirs in the World (Burgundy excluded)’. What crossed my mind was that it was cheeky, and slightly unfair not to include Burgundy, but then Yiannis can be quite unpredictable sometimes. Nevertheless, I wondered at what he might have chosen for the tasting. When I arrived at the venue Yiannis was pacing up and down talking on his cell phone, looking quite flustered. Once done with the call, he came over to greet me and told me that the tasting was overbooked, and it looked as if the wine would be just enough for everyone.
He actually started the tasting by saying: “What you have in your glasses is all that there is. If you want more wine we will need a miracle”. At the tastings that he conducts he usually brings wine from his personal collection; wines he has carried from his different trips around the world, so there are seldom more than two or three bottles of each wine. He is very diligent, always has a powerpoint presentation prepared, and he gives much information about the wineries, the terroir, the winemaking methods and so forth. He likes quizzes, he likes voting and he likes to create a commotion.
It turned out that, in actuality, he had included a wine from Burgundy for reasons of comparison. We had 8 glasses, served with wine, waiting for us when we were seated. At the opening we were asked to try and discern which of the wines was the Burgundy, just by the appearance and aroma. There didn’t seem to be much agreement among the tasters. It's worth pointing out that among the people gathered there were both professionals and people who are collectors and wine lovers. This is what I love about blind tastings. You have to put your stereotyped expectations aside. It's like what we practice in psychotherapy. One has to perceive each person in a unique manner; one has to wait to make sense, not try to apply a set of prefabricated notions.
The wines of the tasting were the following:
1. Alois Lageder Tenutae Lageder 'Krafuss' Pinot Noir 2013 Alto Adige, Italy: A wine from an interesting producer in the Northern part of Italy, and one that Yiannis seems to respect. The particular wine I found was more interesting on the nose than in the palate. Soft, fruity, floral, peppery, not much complexity.
2. Circe Hillcrest Road Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, Mornington Peninsula, Australia: Beautiful red fruit flavours on the nose, peppery, quite acidic and unripe on the palate.
3. Lingua Franca 'Ryan's Plow' Pinot Noir 2015, Willamette Valley, USA: Lovely red fruit flavours, with a touch of sweet spice and caramel, balanced on the palate with good length on the finish. A wine which was very tempting.
4. Ken Wright Cellars Guadalupe Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2016, Dundee Hills, USA: A Burgundy style wine, complex, tannic, with cedar notes. Needs time to unfold.
5. Dubreil Fontaine Corton – Bressandes, 2014, Burgundy: Despite some age, which was obvious in its colour, quite youthful on the nose, floral, with finesse, complexity and balance on the palate. The tannin was obvious, but not obtrusive.
6. Dry River, 2013, Martinborough, New Zealand: Darker fruit on the nose and on the palate, and aromas of earth, truffle sweet spice and pepper. Length in the finish of sour black cherries.
7. Bodega Chacra Treinta y Dos 32, 2013, Rio Negro Argentina: Red fruit, a touch of fennel, very balanced, powdery soft tannins. Lovely finish.
8. Jean Stodden Spatburgunder Alte Reben Trocken, 2011: This was the absolute star of the evening. Slightly herbal, with a core of ripe black fruit, smooth, complex, good acidity and tannins which were very beautifully integrated.
All of the wines of the tasting were well worth our while, but I was most impressed by the two USA wines, particularly the Ken Wright wine, which drank beautifully despite its youth. For the Jean Stodden I wouldn't have minded, at all, if Yiannis had managed to work that miracle he had talked about. And I wasn't the only one! All who took the bottle in hand to take pictures, would turn it upside down, just in case there was a drop left in there somewhere.