Pinot Noir has been the subject of some contest lately.
On one occasion recently I was informed by a friend that a bottle of Saintsbury Pinot Noir I drank could not have paired well with the trout entree at Craft Work. He had heard a known wine chemist say so on NPR. You see, fish oil and tannins combine chemically to form foul flavors. So what does one do with my testimony to the fact that the pairing was delicious?
Seeking to avoid a pointless debate over a matter of taste, I volunteered the possibility that maybe only specific red wines, ones aged in new oak barrels, were better avoided when dining on oily fish. Maybe the problem is oak tannins. Consider the evidence from white wines, I said. There are white wines distributed along the same oak variable, and I expect an oaky young Meursault paired with Mackerel to give even the most insensitive palate fits of revulsion. This doesn’t seem to happen with white wines aged in stainless steel. And the effect does seem to be more than linear. These aren’t just clashing elements, oak and fish oil. This is a new unlovely flavor. When I’ve tested this in the past it does feel like chemistry is happening.
O well. My friend and I were equally unpersuaded.
The experience with Saintsbury Pinot Noir was useful later when I was caused by wine selling friends to question – again – the merit of Domestic Pinot Noir as a commercial category. As a civilian wine drinker I am allowed to appreciate a wine for its own sake, not to immediately draw comparisons of value related to other wines. But sometimes relative price and value exist in such disequilibrium, for such voluminous categories, that I am compelled to rant on my blog about it.
Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara Pinot Noir is released too early, is more difficult to source than I would like, and it has merit. The flavors have integrity, simple organization and just enough typicity so that I’m not going to complain about paying $10 a glass, or I suppose ~$25 per bottle off premise. It seems natural even if it may not so be in the most strict sense of the term.
Moreover, despite the fact that the price of the Saintsbury at Craft Work must be artificially low at $7/g, $30/b, its a decent buy even at a fuller price. It’s faithful to a tradition of round, spicy and ripe red wine that seems to define American Pinot Noir. It is more noticeable for what it isn’t – boozy, piney, sweet, vegetal – than for what it is. Craft Work is a new restaurant, destined for success, and the pricing strategy worked on me. Incidentally Craft Work also offers a fun Pinot Blanc from Oregon (IIRC) that is assertively acidified – this is a welcome intervention in such a lush textured liquid. And one more thing, I expect there is already a lobby to improve the selection of bubbly wine on Agnes Street. Please confirm.
Ordinarily* I wouldn’t have cared to dispute matters related to the taxon known as Pinot Noir if it were not for a new item in our local Detroit market. Birichino Pinot Noir Saint Georges comes from one of my favorite distributors (Little Guy) and it sells for about $25 retail. The label and the text on the back label make it clear that this belongs to a Pinot Noir aesthetic that favors earthiness and acidity. Some call this style “French” or “Burgundian,” though I find those categories to be complicated and difficult to make into generalizations.
Check back here soon for my exciting tasting notes on Birichino Pinot Noir and notes on other topics local to the city of Detroit.
*Or should it be “order gnarly”