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You Think You Pi-not Somebody!

Hello friends,

Initially, I was going to run a feature on some grapes of Italian origin this month, but ran into some obstacles at the last minute. Luckily, while doing some research for that feature, I came across some interesting information on the Pinot grape and thought it would be fun to run a feature on this famous and ancient grape variety. I also happen to be reading The Science of Wine right now, which has offered insight on some interesting points about the wines we'll be featuring today.

First, perhaps I should make a whole hearted, yet half brained attempt at explaining some science that makes this grape so interesting to me. To begin, most of the wines we drink today are the same species: Vitis vinifera. From Albarino to Zweigelt, most wines you see in a shop are Vitis Vinifera(most local wines are a noted exception to this rule). More specific than the species of a grape is the variety. In case you aren't sure what a variety is, most wines in the new world go by their varietal name, such as Albarino, Zweigelt, Cabernet Sauvignon, or even... you guessed it: Pinot! An important thing to know about varieties of Vitis vinifera is that they have each come from crossing one grape variety with another(or the same one with itself) in a process called sexual propagation. This process involves the union of the pollen (male) with the egg (female) to produce a seed and then growing a plant from this crossing. So if every Vitis vinifera plant grown from a grape seed is a new varietal, how can so many Pinot vines exist, you ask? Most vines are propagated vegitatively, meaning they're grown by taking cuttings from existing Pinot vines or layering them. Over the years, certain vine shoots undergo a spontaneous mutation which might result in slight differences from other Pinot in the vineyard; whether that means showing a variation in yield, grape color color, cluster size, ect. The propagation of these different cuttings is how we get a clone of the Pinot variety. Pinot is so old, it has more than 1,000 registered clones.

This month, we're going to focus on just one variety of Vitis Vinifera: Pinot. We'll explore the unknown origins of this grape and focus on several of the different clones of Pinot that have been produced throughout the years.

Before the name Pinot came into use, this variety was known mainly by three old synonyms: Morillon, Noirien, and Auvernat (with various spellings). The first recorded use of one of these synonyms was back in 1283 in a region north of Paris. Even when these early synonyms were in use there were references to the different color variations of the grape, but the noir was always the default unless otherwise specified. It stands to reason that this grape originated in Northern France since the first written account of the grape was from here and it has a slew of crossings with Gouais Blanc in the north-east of France; but the truth is we don't really know where this grape originated. Yes, it had a heavy presence in northern France, but there are more hypotheses than I can list in this email about the origin of the grape. I guess all we can safely assume is that it's a very old grape which has parented many other incredible grapes and been a world class variety of its own for centuries.

Domaine Henri Delagrange Pinot Noir 2015

Domaine Henri Delagrange
Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Beaune 2015
$16.99 Regular Price: $19.99 Save 15%!
Burgundy, France | Pinot Noir

That's why the first wine I'm featuring this month comes from Burgundy, France. It's been hotly debated for years by many professionals whether Bordeaux or Burgundy makes the best or most important wines in the world, but suffice it to say Burgundy produces some of the most sought after wines ever. This region has four different classifications of wine with Grand Cru as the highest classification (and also rarest and most expensive typically), followed by Premier Cru, Village, and then Regional. You might notice on this bottle that the appellation of this wine is in much larger print than the producer. That's because the place where the grapes were grown in Burgundy is considered to be of such importance.

The Domaine Henri Delagrange Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Beaune 2015 pours a light burgundy hue. The nose is vibrant with ripe cherries, raspberries and vanilla cola notes. The palate is bright and lean with earthy accents. Although the tannins are mild, they are present on the finish adding depth to this wine. I'd pair this with roasted mushrooms with herbed quinoa.

Wonderwall Pinot Noir 2016

Pinot Noir 2016
$16.99 Regular Price: $19.99 Save 15%!
Edna Valley, California | Pinot Noir

Next on the list is a Pinot Noir from Edna Valley, California. Perhaps other regions have gained more fame for growing Pinot Noir in America, but today I wanted to showcase a number of regions that are able to produce interesting Pinot. The Edna Valley is interesting because although it lies in central California, it is actually a cooler climate region because of the layout of the region. The valley lies only five miles from the Pacific ocean, which provides a maritime climate allowing for moderate days, cool maritime fog, and rich oceanic and volcanic soils. This allows Pinot Noir, a grape that typically grows well in cooler climates to thrive in Edna Valley.

A deeper burgundy hue, the Wonderwall Pinot Noir 2016 is expressive and dense in the glass. There's clove, pepper, black cherries, and blood orange on the nose. The palate is just as expressive with LOADS of red fruit, finishing juicy but with a little black tea on the end. This is a hedonist's Pinot and I absolutely love it. Try it with duck breast with cherry jus and celeriac puree.

Bodega Montsecano 'Refugio' Pinot Noir 2016

Bodega Monsecano
'Refugio' Pinot Noir 2016
$16.99 Regular Price $19.99 Save 15%!
Casablanca Valley, Chile | Pinot Noir

Next, we'll look at a Pinot Noir from Casablanca Valley, Chile. Luis Gutierrez covers most of what I have to say about this wine, but regarding the climate, it has a cool climate with maritime influence.

"Montsecano is the name of the Pinot Noir-based project in Casablanca of Alsace's André Ostertag and his Chilean friends. They produce some of the variety's best wines in Chile. 2016 is the first year when André had the help of his son, Arthur, who brought some new ideas, like the use of some 20% full clusters and the use of two or three pressings. In that challenging year they were able to harvest all the grapes before the rains. It has to be one of the best vintages of Montsecano."

"All wines from 2016 had been bottled on January 22, 2017, and I tasted the whole range with one of the partners, Julio Donoso three weeks after the bottling. We started with the 2016 Refugio Pinot Noir, which is pure Pinot Noir from red soils rich in clay and granite in Casablanca, fermented with indigenous yeasts and kept in egg-shaped cement vats until bottling. This is very fresh, focused and complex even if it's still so obviously young. The grapes were harvested extremely early, 17 days earlier than their first vintage (2010) even considering the year was cooler and later ripening. It's very tasty and elegant, with symmetry and chiseled flavors. It was not dizzy despite the recent bottling. 16,000 bottles produced."
-93 points, Wine Advocate

Pouring a vibrant crimson, the Bodega Montsecano 'Refugio' Pinot Noir 2016 stands out as a one of a kind Pinot. The nose is expressive with cherry, scorched earth, graphite, and subtle floral aromas. The palate is firm with a good amount of tannin over this graceful red. Floral notes come through more on the palate as well as the red fruit. I'd try this complex red with a pairing of herb crusted salmon with tomato relish.

A to Z Pinot Gris 2016

A to Z
Pinot Gris 2016
$11.04 Regular Price: $12.99 Save 15%!
Oregon | Pinot Gris

As I stated earlier, we're featuring six wines from the Pinot variety in this email. That's because Pinot Gris is a color mutation of Pinot Noir. That means that Pinot Gris is a clone of the Pinot Noir Grape. In the words of Jose Vouilmoz, grape geneticist: "When I do the DNA profiling of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc, since I look at say 10 or 12 different DNA regions, I don't see where the color mutation has happened. They are all the same in the DNA profile."

The earliest reliable mention of Pinot Gris was found in Baden-Wurttemberg in 1711, when it was discovered growing wild in a garden. One year later, it was mentioned in the region of Orleans in France, which leads us to believe this mutation happened at different times and in different places around the world. This month, I've chosen to feature the A to Z Pinot Gris in order to showcase the interesting wines that are being produced in Oregon with this grape.

A to Z Oregon Pinot Gris 2016 pours a straw yellow with hints of peach. The nose is subtle with notes of dried herbs, fuji apple, and pear. The acidity is fresh on this wine which compliments a ripe, sweet note of melon on the palate. This wine could pair well with an array of foods from seafood to Thai, but I want to try it with a strawberry pie mousse.

Willm Pinot Blanc 2015

Pinot Blanc 2015
$11.89 Regular Price $13.99 Save 15%!
Alsace, France | Pinot Blanc

Pinot Blanc, another clone of the Pinot grape has had a pretty confusing childhood. It had one of those "switched at birth" sort of backgrounds as it was often confused for Chardonnay until 1868 when French ampelographer Victor Pulliat set the record straight and distinguished the two varieties from each other. Therefore, until this point, there's no real telling when an account is referring to Pinot Blanc or Chardonnay; so its origins remain a mystery.

Whatever its origins, this grape has certainly found its home in Alsace, France where it produces fresh and opulent with moderate acidity.

The Willm Pinot Blanc 2015 pours a light straw color with flecks of green in the background. The nose is ample with white peach, white strawberry, and nectarine. Although the palate comes across with creamy accents, the wine has bright acidity. Stone fruits carry over to the palate along with zesty lemon notes. Try it with this peach, goat cheese, and candied walnut salad.

Saint Gregory Pinot Meunier 2015

Saint Gregory
Pinot Meunier 2015
$13.59 Regular Price $15.99 Save 15%!
Mendocino County, California | Pinot Meunier

Although I saved it for last in our feature, Pinot Meunier was actually the first variation of Pinot Noir mentioned in text in 1690. Pinot Meunier has a layer of white hairs on the underside of its leaves, like a dusting of flower which is where it derives its name. Meunier means 'miller' in French(as in flour mill). This wine is most commonly used in Champagne as it is one of the three main varieties allowed in production there(along with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). This grape also likes cooler climates, so Mendocino County in California makes a great home for it. The vineyards for Saint Gregory are all located in the cool valleys of Mendocino County.

Pouring a light garnet with purple undertones, the Saint Gregory Pinot Meunier 2015 has a nose of cherry cola, raspberry, and sweet oak. It has a nice rich body with mild tannins and bright acidity finishing slightly sweet with cranberry and vanilla on the palate. This wine cuts right to the chase for an approachable yet serious take on Pinot Munier. Try it with this cranberry balsamic roasted chicken.
We've looked at the scientific definition of a variety vs clone, and by the literal definition, these six wines are the same variety. But does this open a whole can of worms when it comes to appellation laws? From What is a Grape Variety? What is a Clone?: "This raises an interesting question. Scientifically, we have a watertight definition of a variety: a vine grown from a seed. But functionally, we can't live with this in the wine world when it comes to Pinot. It would make no sense from a wine point of view to consider Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris to be the same variety. Legally, the Pinot members aren't interchangeable, either. Try putting Pinot Blanc into AOC red Burgundy, and you'll have a tough time arguing your case. So in this case we may have to make an exception.

I didn't mean to throw a Shyamalanian twist in here at the end, but what should be easily defined by science is still a little murky in the wine world. Still, I hope I've been able to offer a little insight into the Pinot variety. If you have questions, come hit me up tomorrow 2-4pm at our wine tasting at the 23rd street store and I'll do my best to explain what I've learned. Be excellent to each other.


-Jana Curtiss
Grape Geek
Cork and Barrel
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