Pinot Noir: 47-48 Degrees North - What a (Blind) Tasting Experience!
Top 5 of the Pinot Noir Tasting: Austrian Pinot Noir came out as most
6 of the first top 10 Pinot Noirs came from Austria
Pinot Noir is considered one of the most exciting red grape varieties
in the world. A great Pinot Noir reflects more delicacy and elegance
than power and sweet fruit aromas. This is shown especially in the great
Pinot Noirs from the Premier and Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy in
France - the home of the variety.
The vineyards of Austria in Europe are situated on the same latitude
as Burgundy, between 47 and 48 degrees north of the Equator. The soils
are mostly gravel-based, but have also a good portion of limestone,
as the vineyards are located on the "cool" eastern foothills of the
Alps (chalk/limestone). So the main question for this tasting was very
clear: "How cool is Austrian Pinot Noir compared to others"?
I (Michael Thurner) asked some of the top Austrian Pinot Noir producers
to put together a list of "Austria's best" Pinot Noir estates: Juris,
Wieninger, Markowitsch, JR Reinisch, Schneider, Auer, Preisinger, Umathum,
Halbturn and Paul Achs and asked them to nominate one wine from the
vintages 2006, 2007 or 2008, and another wine from the vintages 2002
Afterwards, I went to see wine importers in Singapore and consulted
with various wine gurus for their knowledge and opinions on serious
producers in Burgundy and other wine regions around the world. I bought
wines that were both available in Singapore and suited to the tasting
in terms of the vintages, making sure that I was able to get Premier
Crus and Grand Crus from great estates including Romanee-Conti, Georges
du Vogue, Roumier, Meo Camuzet, Jadot, Drouhin, Auguste Lignier, Comte
Armand and Mommesin amongst others.
The invitation gathered 16 wine freaks (top wine writers, sommeliers
and Pinot Noir importers) on August 4th, 2010, at the "Fifty Three Restaurant"
(part of the Les Amis Group) in Singapore. We tasted blind - first the
young vintages and then the older vintages. Unfortunately we had some
cork bottles, but 34 wines made it finally into the scores. For the
final result we ranked all of the wines according to the individual
preferences (most preferred wine received rank number one) and summed
the preferences up. To interpret the result: The lower the sum of preferences,
the more preferred this wine was.
My personal summation of the tasting is that Austrian Pinot Noirs performed
very well. I must say that they are quite "cool" indeed! Congratulations
to the Austrian wine makers - as well as to some of the wine makers
from New Zealand, Oregon, and, of course, Burgundy! The rest is history:
you can see the results yourself - they are attached here.
One might think that blind tastings are never fair because one compares
different regions, vintages and even clones. This is true, but the biggest
value in regards to blind tastings is, that it takes away prejudgments
and let the palate decide only. We should do it more often to calibrate
our taste from time to time, and give room to new wines - even from
the old world.
© Michael Thurner