Pinot Noir is the most…

In July, I'll be heading up to McMinnville, Oregon to attend and cover the 24th Annual International Pinot Noir Celebration—arguably the granddaddy of the ever-increasing selection of varietal-inspired celebrations/conclaves for industry and enthusiasts.


I'm excited to be invited to attend the event. The last time I went I was in work mode. This time, I'll be in "soak-it-up-and-observe-and-listen-and-ask-questions" mode. This happens to be the mode that most often results for me in both confusion and insight.

The IPNC has an interesting reputation. It takes place on the Linfield College Campus in Northwestern Oregon's Willamette Valley (Pinot Country) in the dead of summer. It can be VERY Hot. The combination of the gathering of giddy Pinot lovers, the gallons of Pinot and remarkable food at your disposal and the potentially haze inducing heat all conspire to create something of a summer camp atmosphere.

Granted, it's a different kind of summer camp than those where you used go for the same of your parents mid-year sanity and where the highlight was sneaking into the girl's cabin—right? Well, yes. It's a  summer camp for fairly fanatical drinkers of a particular wine…and nothing more. Honest.

Of course the IPNC is hardly the only Pinot Noir-inspired event that devotees can choose from. They could go to Pinot Days in San Francisco, Pinot On the River in the Russian River Valley, the Pinot Noir Fest in Anderson Valley, World of Pinot in the Central Coast, and Pinot Noir New Zealand in…New Zealand. Scratch a wine growing region and you're likely to inspire a Pinot Noir event.

So, it appears reasonable, if I'm going to go to IPNC and cover the festivities, that I first ought to try to uncover the source of people's obsession with this grape. Could it really be that the wine made from Pinot Noir, regardless of where it is made, is just so delicious that it inspires the kind of devotion that leads to ongoing event planning across the globe?  It's more than that isn't it.

In a nod to the powers of the Internet to uncover all secrets, I've turned to its trove of information in hopes of better understanding this global fascination with the grape. But it's best to always start with a premise. My premise is that Pinot lovers view the grape and the wine as pinnacle of something; a superlative of sorts. To test this theory and see if it leads to any explanation of the power of Pinot to inspire symposia, I've done a little Google search: "Pinot Noir is the Most". Here is a small, but representative, sampling of what I've found:

Pinot Noir is the most 'living' grape ever produced

Pinot Noir is the most appropriate vehicle with which to study winegrowing

Pinot Noir is the most difficult grape to grow

Pinot Noir is the most adaptable of wines with food

Pinot Noir is the most complex and most prized red wine in the world

Pinot Noir is the most transparent vehicle for showing the impact of a specific climate

Pinot Noir is the most intellectual of wines

Pinot Noir is the most challenging wine to make

Pinot Noir is the most aromatic of any red wines

Pinot Noir is the most fickle of all grapes to grow

Pinot Noir is the most sensitive and elusive of wines

Pinot Noir is the most romantic of grapes

Pinot Noir is the most evocative, provocative, and mysterious varietal grown

Pinot Noir is the most difficult varietal of substance to find under $10

Pinot Noir is the most unstable grape of them all

This is a lot of pressure for one little grape. And just imagine…this Google search for "Pinot Noir is the most" yielded more than 176,000 results. Try that with, say, Grenache: 8,510

The point is, as far as I can tell, that Pinot Noir is a challenge. It's a challenge to grapegrowers and winemakers, thereby making a successful crop or successful wine a truer mark of success than a successful crop or successful wine of any other variety. But Pinot also appears to be a challenged for wine drinkers—if only one that asks them to try to describe their intense appreciation for the wine without getting all Baroque about it.

My job? Use the coming IPNC to better understand how and why this grape inspires so much "is the most".

12 Responses

  1. Joe - June 8, 2010

    Having an inherent disposition to cheer for the underdog, I think I subconsciously try not to love Pinot Noir. I’ve had some amazing ones, but it always seems to have to work harder for my affection, because of a deep-rooted, beyond-my-control malaise towards the front-runner; the popular kid; the fair-weather fan.
    Sorry, Pinot. I know I’m not giving you a fair shake. But I can’t help it.

  2. fredric koeppel - June 8, 2010

    Tom, I think i recognize some of those google results from my own writing over the years; certainly similar sentiments, if not the same words. perhaps we need to start looking at pinot noir in a different way. in any case, the IPNC, which I attended only once, is a great event.
    & Joe: keep trying with pinot. it’s worth the effort in ways most wines can’t match. uh-oh, there i go, getting all romantic!

  3. - June 8, 2010

    Here is the link for Pinot on the River:

  4. boyd - June 8, 2010

    Joe, I agree with Fredric. Keep trying with Pinot. It’s a tough one to love for lots of reasons, but the reward is SO worth it. As Jay McInerney said, “Nobody ever said being in love with Pinot Noir is easy…One night it brings you close to heaven; the next you get slapped in the face.” Or even to quote Parker, “When it’s great, Pinot Noir produces the most complex, hedonistic, and remarkably thrilling red wine in the world…”
    I’ve been told that more is written about the Pinot Noir plant than any other plant in the world. And Pinot Noir is more genetically complex than humans:,2933,298508,00.html
    Pretty cool stuff. Drink up!

  5. Joe - June 8, 2010

    Fredric- I don’t doubt the greatness…and be romantic! I know the Grand Crus of DRC don’t go for hundreds of dollars for nothing. And I’ve had some really amazing wines from Burgundy, Willamette, RRV, Carneros, New Zealand, and Santa Barbara. The wine is great; I just feel obligated to hate that everyone loves it. Call it repressed teenage rebellion, I suppose 🙂

  6. Samantha Dugan - June 8, 2010

    I think it was John Kelly that once said in response to one of my posts, “Burgundy is an unwashed woman running naked through the forest” or something along those lines. Not sure I have ever heard it put better than that….

  7. AJ - June 9, 2010

    @ Joe – I get it – I loved Pinot since tasting my first real Burgundy, when it seemed far more en vogue to appreciate Bordeaux style wines, and I was dismayed when everyone started getting so excited about “my” wine 🙂

  8. El Jefe - June 9, 2010

    “Tempranillo is the most” – 29,000 results. We’re on the move!

  9. Andrea - June 11, 2010

    Pinot is like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead…When she’s good, she’s very, very good…when she’s bad, she’s horrid!
    Have fun @ IPNC…be sure to catch a dinner @ the Joel Palmer House..over 500 Oregon Pinots to choose from on the list and Oregon mushrooms & white truffles in many dishes !!! 🙂

  10. Kathy - June 12, 2010

    Try this one out: Pinot Noir is the most… difficult wine for women in menopause. Doesn’t get press amongst the boys but anecdotal evidence from (women) winemakers, the trade and drinkers makes it an intriguing, if not scientific, thesis.

  11. Andrea - June 12, 2010

    I think the thing about Pinot is that the great ones defie analysis. One just inhales the magic. To try to break them down compromises the experience. After all it was Pinot that the monks in Burgundy set out to master.

  12. Buy Wine Online Australia - July 8, 2011

    Pinot Noir is the toughest grape to grow but it’s worth all the trouble. This is a red wine that should top most food pairing lists and what’s more, could possibly raise your life expectancy.

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