This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Friday, Apr. 30, 2010 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20100430.php.
Pinot Theory of Evolution
Like the real thing, Pinot Evolution can be unpredictable, even bizarre. (Duck-billed platypus, anyone?)
But in the best of cases, it's a wine lovers' joy - and a mini-education - to observe the way that extended airing in the glass, with occasional swirling and sipping, can send a simple wine through a surprising series of changes of personality.
Like no other variety I've experienced, Pinot has an amazing ability to open up and blossom like a virtual rose opening in your glass.
I think Charles Darwin would have approved. After all, when he fell seriously ill on his first voyage to the tropics in 1832, he wrote, "Cinnamon and Port wine cured me."
I don't know the chemical and physical activity that makes Pinot Noir such a chameleon in the glass, but I suspect it's tied in with the wine's similar reputation for a frustrating but sometimes glorious unpredictability in the cellar. If you plan to put away some ageworthy Pinot for a few years, it's a good idea to save a number of bottles, so you can pull one at random to check its development from time to time.
Which leads to a question: Would we love Pinot so much if it made a more predictable wine? I'm thinking not.
Today's tasting, Voillot 2007 Bourgogne Pinot Noir Vieilles Vignes, offered a benchmark example of Pinot evolution. Although the Bourgogne appelation is the most generic, permitting the use of grapes from anywhere in Burgundy, Domaine Joseph Voillot holds itself to a stricter standard.
According to the importer's Website, the wine is primarily sourced from five properties located just below the vineyards designated for Volnay villages wine. Some additional "press wine" from Volnay and Pommard village reds is blended in, but its vineyard sources suggest breeding that raises it above more mass-produced Bourgogne Pinot Noir.
First poured, it seemed simple, full of ripe strawberry fruit and little more. "It smells like Beaujolais," scowled my wife, who's no fan of Beaujolais; and it was a fair cop.
But 15 minutes later Pinot evolution had started to set in, and the wine quickly added dimensions that weren't present at the start. Hints of raspberry and cranberry appeared, all subtle notes in a wine more elegant than loud. Then came a distant back note of Burgundy "earth," not "barnyard" but something more like clean, freshly turned loam.
The flavor, too, evolved from simple, tart strawberries to a subtle mix of red fruits and that elusive "rainwater over rocks" minerality that speaks of terroir, all framed with crisp, food-friendly acidity.
Pinot evolution: It'll make a believer out of anyone.
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Today's Tasting Report
Domaine Joseph Voillot 2007 Bourgogne Pinot Noir Vieilles Vignes ($19.99)
Clear ruby, on the light side, almost on the line between red and an intense rosé. Strawberry aromas at first opens up to mixed red berries and pleasant, subtle earth. Flavors follow the nose, red berries and a subtle, intriguing "rainwater over rocks" minerality; clean and fresh, nicely structured with lip-smacking acidity. U.S. importer: Vintage '59 Imports, Washington, D.C. (April 25, 2010)
FOOD MATCH: Pinot Noir is one of the world's most versatile red wines at the table, pairing well with red meats, poultry, even salmon. Mushrooms make a particularly fine match, and it was a delight with a mushroom risotto made with a mix of fresh domestic mushrooms and dried porcini, cooked in the porcini soaking liquid.
VALUE: While Burgundy is rarely cheap, it is often fine. Although Bourgogne Pinot Noir used to be a bargain at $10, the $20 range is frankly a reasonable price in today's economy, and the quality of this wine justifies the expense.
WEB LINK: Vintage '59 Imports, the importer, offers an overview and discussion of Domaine Joseph Voillot and its wines.
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