Natural Pinot Noir

Some wines are more natural than others.


Spoof – or industrial technique – is applied to vineyards and wine to increase yield, eliminate flaws and add specific marketable flavors and colors. Usually spoof is exemplified by specific chemical and microbiological interventions, but its utility can often be traced to the original choice of what to plant and where to plant it. This is why the dependence on varietal nomenclature – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet – has led to so much spoof on the market. These varieties are not optimal everywhere.

Systematic use of sprays can suppress pests, but it also eliminates beneficial yeasts and their ecological collaborators. After harvest and in the cellar it then becomes necessary to reintroduce isolated strains and nutrients for the functional purpose of alcoholic fermentation. Once the system is compromised it can become dependent on the winemaker’s pharmacopeia.

Spoof is a vicious cycle which at its worst produces wines both of superficially exaggerated character and an enduring sense of dullness. For the purposes of plain drinking, carefully judged spoof can work just fine. When its used to simulate something grandiose, it can be an awful waste.


There is also a virtuous cycle. Like all farming, vineyards are essentially interventions on the land. Major differences in results lie in the scale and discrimination of the intervention. Chemical weed killers tend to harm beneficial organisms in a way that pulling a weed by hand does not.

The best, most flavorful farm products tend to come from farms that use integrated, antique methods. Massale selections, for example, are better adapted and more distinctive than nursery clones. Similarly, and on a micro scale, wild yeasts produce more complexity and thought provoking flavor than do lab-selected yeasts. Wild yeasts occur in the presence of innumerable other microbes, each with its ecological place in the whole. The average human taster can easily recognize the difference.

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Short Name: Pinot Noir
Full Name: 2012 Bourgogne, Clos de Baccarat
Producer: Vincent Thomas
Geography: Yonne Department, Burgundy, France
$13 glass
Varieties: Pinot Noir 100%
Description: Aromas characteristic of Pinot Noir – tea, cola, mushrooms, berries – and a host of wild-fermented winemaking  clues, notably intense acidity, some volatile, carbonic maceration sweetness, and peanut shell.
Comparables: Pinot Noir is its own brand. There is no need to compare this to something else, but a taste for this wine might indicate a taste for Beaujolais, Mondeuse, and Barbaresco.
Pairings: The combination of relatively low alcohol – 11.9% – and intense mature fruit flavor, makes it thrilling with anything dry-rubbed and smoked. This type of pairing was unorthodox when Slows discovered it 8 years ago. Now all the cool kids are doing it.
Interesting Technical Facts: Produced from organically grown grapes, without added yeast or nutrients.

interview with the farmer – terrific


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