The Obsession that is Pinot Noir
It’s pretty clear that among all the wines, Pinot Noir generates the most enthusiasm among wine lovers and winemakers. In researching various wine conferences and symposiums that occur annually, Pinot Noir stood out as the wine we all wanted to talk about most.
You simply don’t see a steady stream of "Cabernet Festivals" or "Chardonnay Conferences". But when it comes to Pinot Noir, you get event after event:
International Pinot Noir Symposium (Oregon)
July 29 -31
World of Pinot Noir (Central Coast, CA)
March 4-5 PAST
Pinot On the River Pinot Noir Festival (Russian River Valley, CA)
Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration (Queenstown, New Zealand)
January 28-29 PAST
Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival (Anderson Valley, CA)
Pinot Noir 2004 (New Zealand)
Salud-Oregon Pinot Noir Auction (Portland, OR)
So what is it about Pinot Noir? It’s not anything to do with the movie "Sideways" since all of these events and the obsession that overtakes pinotphiles have both been around well before the movie’s release. I think a number of factors create Pinot Noir’s appeal and lead to all this organizing.
I’d argue that those who appreciate Pinot over other grapes find themselves drawn into a pursuit. Pinot is the most elusive of wines. It’s characteristics don’t hit you over the head the way Cabernet or Zinfandel do. Pinot, when it truly blooms and finds expert expression, is a wine of great sensuality and a wine that provokes more intellectual stimulation than most other wines. Pinot lovers pursue this quality because while it is rare, it is also the holy grail of wine experiences: The combination of sensuality, intellect and experience.
This intellectual element is partly what leads to so much discussion of the grape and allows so many events to be organized around it. Pinot lovers are willing to travel farther, listen to more talks, try more wines, and learn more about their obsession than normal people.
The history and heritage of Pinot Noir also adds to its allure. Burgundy, where Pinot is the queen of grapes and has been for centuries, is really the center of the wine world. Burgundy is the Santiago de Compostela, the Lourdes, for wine lovers. That Pinot is the chosen grape of the holiest wine region on earth creates even greater allure.
In the past 20 years, new Pinot Noir producers are the ones who have scaled the greatest heights. In California the quality of Pinot Noir is many fold better than it was two decades ago. New Zealand has emerged as an acknowledged leader in quality wine largely on the back of it’s Pinot Noir. Oregon has completely defined itself in that time as a region unlike any other in America: completely given over to a single grape.
Prices. The highest prices for wines, which is still a barometer of perceived quality, are granted to red Burgundy.
All these factors are what lead to so much interest and devotion to the grape, and in turn to the many Pinot Noir events that attract a steadily growing collection of worshipers.