Is Knowing More Important Than The Nose?
In a recent story in the San Jose Mercury News, Laurie Daniel explored a topic that remains very important to winemakers and wine geeks: The degree to which Pinot Noir currently does or is capable of exhibiting regionality in its character. Interestingly, the extent to which this issue is important to non-geeks seems to me to extend only as far as the occasional comments by casual wine drinkers that they "like California Pinot more than French" or believe "Oregon Pinot Noir is better than California Pinot."
Of course these kinds of general comments about the source of Pinot aren’t exactly what the proponents of terroir and dedication to regionality are looking for.
They are looking more for the kind of schooled judgment that Daniels reported about in her story that looked at a seminar at the last World Of Pinot Noir Event where six Pinots from different parts of California all made from the 115 clone of Pinot were examined. The point of the seminar was to determine if regional difference could be determined between the wines.
"The wines had similar color
intensity but otherwise did display big differences, but it was nearly
impossible to tell whether those differences were due to vineyard
location or to factors such as picking decisions, oak treatment or
myriad other variables related to the hand of the winemaker."
Mmmm… this is of course the perennial problem: Are we tasting the hand of the winemaker or the hand of God.
I thought about this article as I had dinner on Monday with a group of fine folks in Nashville. In the course of the dinner we tasted a lovely red blend made by Kip Summers from Arrington Vineyards located just outside Nashville. Had I not known the wine was made from Tennessee-grown grapes I could not have guessed under any circumstances that it came from this state. And, I suspect that no one else, not even the most schooled and educated palate on earth, could either.
Houston…we have a problem!
Just how much tasting of wine must be done by an individual, how much competence must they possess in the field of wine before regionality in a wine even matters?
Of course the most interesting question of all is what makes the regionality of a wine matter at all…outside of course for folks like me who work to market wine on the basis of regionality: "This wine is brilliant expression of the unique terroir of X Valley".
I wonder if it’s enough, even for the most geeky of wine geeks, to simply know the wine was made from grapes grown in Oakville or "Joe’s Vineyard" or Greece or Champagne, etc? I wonder if the importance of the regionality or terroir that a wine expresses is really less important than the simple knowledge that one is drinking something from a particular area?
In the case of the Tennessee wine I was thrilled to know I was drinking a wine from this state that I truly enjoyed. I liked that I was partaking of a particular region’s unique fare. It make me feel cosmopolitan and gave me the confidence to state that Tennessee is making some very fine wines.
Is that enough?