Burgundy vs. New World Pinot Noir

Frodnesor | Sep 27, 200709:04 AM     78

Rather than hijack an existing thread I thought I'd use the following comment from zin1953 as a platform for discussion:

*There are any number of California Pinots that are made in the "big, full-bodied, 'in-your-face' style." I typically call this "Pinot-as-Syrah," but I have been repeatedly taken to task for that description by the winemakers who make their Pinots in this style, by the consumers who like this style, and by certain wine critics with reputations pinned to a 100-point scale.

It clearly is a style which I do not personally enjoy, but many people seem to like it, so . . . .

In the case of Sineann, Peter follows a model for his Oregon Pinot Noir that is more typically followed by California wineries like Loring, Eno, Siduri and others, rather than more "traditional" styles of Arcadian or Navarro in California, or most other Oregon producers . . . let alone Burgundy.*

I hear much about traditional Burgundy vs. New World (in particular, California and to a lesser degree Oregon) Pinot Noir. The discussion primarily focuses on New World PN being, as zin puts it, "Pinot-as-Syrah" or, "big, full-bodied, in-your-face style" - in implicit or explicit contrast to Burgundian Pinot being more restrained, elegant, subtle, etc.

What I find puzzling is that in reading reviews of some of the most highly regarded Burgundies (and I should note that my knowledge of great Burgundies is mostly vicarious, while I've drunk a good bit of California and Oregon Pinot Noir), the descriptions would seem to suggest that the Burgundies are often equally full-bodied, etc. as the New World wines.

Here's a test. I'm going to post excerpts from reviews of top Burgundies (mostly grand crus) along with several New World Pinots. Say what you will about point ratings, but let's assume that a professional wine reviewer gives a reasonably on-point description of the wine (yes, I know this assumption may be criticized). Without cheating, who can guess which are the new world wines and which are Burgundy?

#1 - "Very deep color. Huge aromas of jammy, candied black cherry, blackberry, boysenberry and spice, extremely charming. An opulent, full-bodied, full-throttle [wine], concentrated and packed with ripe tannins and bright acidity, with a long, lingering finish."

#2 - "An amazing wine, rich, opulent, riveting style, with layers of black cherry, blackberry, cola, sassafras and hints of mineral, pebble and sage. Deeply concentrated, long, rich and persistent, with flavors that coat the palate. Firmly tannic, too, giving it great structure."

#3 - "A fruit bomb, this is packed with cassis, plum, violet and mineral notes with freshness and extremely fine tannins. It builds and builds on the palate with intensity and vibrance."

#4 - "Amazing depth, richness and purity of fruit, this is dense and muscular yet deftly balanced, with tiers of plum, black cherry, blueberry and pretty hints of framboise, chocolate and rye. Both creamy and thick, it's mouthcoating and long, rich and persistent on the finish."

#5 - "Inky purple, fresh and compelling, with blackberry and violet aromas and flavors. If you close your eyes, Syrah comes to mind for a moment, but the tannin structure is different. Supple and silky before the fine tannins take over, this will require patience to reap the full rewards."

#6 - "Simply delicious, with wonderful aromas of sandalwood, exotic spices and a rich, vibrant core of juicy black cherry, blackberry, wild berry and boysenberry fruit that's enlivened by vivid acidity yet displays a wonderful density that gives it a long, intricate aftertaste."

#7 - "Blockbuster Pinot that remains elegant. Thick in texture, black in color, it delivers much character--earth, red berry and ripe-tasting blackberry, spices--in a blend both modern and traditional. So clean, so pure, so attractive."

#8 - "Subtle and graceful. Remarkably generous with its many layers of flavor, offering currant, raspberry, cherry, violet and mineral notes that keep echoing as the finish sails on and on. Tannins are present but should polish up with time in the cellar. "

#9 - "Big-structured, muscular, with good amount of fruit, there is also plenty of wood tannins and toasted oak here. Very dense, and with time might turn out just fine. Meanwhile, the sweet, ripe fruit wins you over."

#10 - "Lithe, supple and expressive, offering layers and layers of white pepper-accented currant and cherry, with a mineral note that adds depth and distinction. Broad and open-textured, lasting beautifully on the finish against superfine tannins."

Answers will be posted in later today.

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