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Devil or Angel Whichever You Are

At a recent Pinot Noir tasting event, I overheard someone say, “I like BIG Pinots!” As I went from table to table, some pourers touted the heft of the Pinot they were pouring, often accompanied with a smile that read “You are going to love this fruit bomb.” Somewhere along the line, “big” in reference to Pinot Noir has come to imply “better.” This was reinforced by a large tasting of Pinot Noirs published in the latest ( April, 2007) Wines & Spirits magazine. (This wine publication, by the way, has outstanding feature articles on wine, the best written examples of this genre currently offered in my opinion.)

Here are the descriptive terms used for some of the devilish Pinot Noirs that received admirable scores: “richly extracted,” “a big pinot,” “this one is as fat in the haunches as a Porsche Carrera,” “the first impression is alcohol, extract and oak, yet the wine is clearly pinot noir despite its size and weight,” “beefy richness,” ” warm ripeness,” “suited to those who like denser wines,” “this is dense,” “extracted red,” “dense with extract,” “thick and rich,” “super ripe black cherry flavors and hard tannins,” “ it’s big,” “ big and robust,” “leathery finish ,” “ample oak flavors,” “a big, youthful pinot,” and so on and so forth. In fairness to the reviewers, there were some angelic Pinot Noirs described as “an elegant wine,” “delivers a lot of flavor without excess weight,” “this gentle pinot noir emphasizes harmony and elegance.”

I have always thought of Pinot Noir as an angel - pretty, heavenly, ephemeral, and virtuous. As Matt Kramer has said, “The whole point of Pinot Noir - its very raisin d’etre, you might playfully say - is finesse. It’s what sets Pinot Noir apart from all other red grapes.” We have become a world divided on Pinot Noir: should it be a boisterous , beastly, and wild spirit, like a devil, or a shy, virtuous, and sensual being comparable to an angel? Could Cabernet be the devil in disguise, pulling the unsuspecting wine lover to the dark and evil side of Pinot Noir?

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