Tasting Pinot Noir: Does the good stuff matter?
Sometimes the best way to gain more appreciation for the often-finicky Pinot Noir wine is taste two, or even more, side-by-side. By repeatedly contrasting characteristics like the bouquet, mid-palate, and finish, it is easy to see why the Pinot Noir varietal gets so much attention from wine lovers.
Direct comparisons will also settle the issue with those people who say, “This good stuff is wasted on me!” If you compare them directly and still don’t notice enough difference worth paying extra for, then make note, and stock up on the cheaper one.
Wondering which Pinots to compare? Here’s a place to start. And just to make it interesting, here are a couple from different California regions.
The first is elegant, but full. It is one of Hartford Family’s most consistent Pinot Noir’s, the “Land’s Edge” 2014 Pinot from Sonoma Coast. At a suggested list of $50 a bottle, this isn’t exactly a budget wine. But what’s inside the bottle makes it well worth the fare for Pinot lovers.
The second is easy to find, very good, but is more of an everyday Pinot. It is produced by the Robert Mondavi and is their 2014 Napa Valley Pinot from the Carneros area. Weighing in at about $27, it is about half the price of the Land’s Edge, making it a real deal for those who either can’t detect (or will not admit to noticing) the difference in taste.
After conversations with a few “samplers”, here’s what came out. The Mondavi features an excellent bouquet of red berries, earthy cherry and with a little toast. Then, add in a body of more of that soft ripe cherry and nicely balanced acidity with traces of bitter and spice in the finish.
Take that same base, add in a little blueberry with dried spices and mushroom, and an even softer balance with a delicate spice on the finish; that’s what the Land’s Edge adds to the mix. This wine is often rated in Robert Parker’s 90’s range, so that (and the flavor), explain the added cost.
Overall, these wines make for a very interesting comparison of Pinots and even complement each other in many ways. You just have to try it for yourself.
Of course, if you want to stick only with Mondavi for a taste-off, they do offer a Reserve Carneros Pinot for around $67. Look for the same vintage and make note of the refinements and nuances. Then answer the question again, “Is it worth paying the extra bucks for the good stuff?”
These Pinots are all better served slightly chilled from the fridge (60-65 degrees).