Pinot smackdown: Sequoia holds first in a series of tastings

By Jim Boyce

Last Friday night’s wine tasting at Sequoia Café focused on Pinot Noir, with four choices from Torres China. Sequoia’s Frank Siegel plans to organize Pinot tastings with other distributors, thus giving customers an idea of what’s available in the market.

As with other blind tastings at Sequoia, customers received a poker chip and, after going through the wines, stuck it in the box corresponding to the one they liked most.

The wines:
1. Rochford Reserve 2004 (Yarra Valley, Australia)
2. Miramar Estate (Torres) 2002 (Sonoma, California, US)
3. Domaine Drouhin 2002 (Oregon, US)
4. Joseph Drouhin 2005 (Burgundy, France)

Frankly, none of these wines stood out for me, but perhaps Pinot is too subtle for my palate. They don’t come cheap: these four are RMB444, RMB441, RMB690 and RMB288 respectively.

In the end, Domaine Drouhin won with 14 votes. Miramar received 4 votes, Rochford Reserve 2 votes, and Joseph Drouhin drew a goose egg. For me, it came down to the Miramar and Domaine Droubhin, and I went for the former.

The event cost RMB150, and included snacks, although those spicy chicken kebabs were a bit of a palate killer.

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  1. Wow!

    Thanks for the detailed answer, Garry. And I agree – to each his or her own.

    I’m looking forward to trying a lot more Pinot in the future.

    Cheers, Jim

  2. Jim,

    Having grown up in Australia, and lived and worked in the wine industry in three states for much of my career, I can shed some light on the down under Pinots.

    You may or not know that grapes are grown from East coast to West, and the variety of grapes grown, usually left to the winemakers discretion (usually garnered from local historical results), not subject to appelation restriction. As a result, many Pinots are grown in an array of different Australian climates and soils, ranging from the base of snow fields, to much warmer sites, with as diverse a results as you can imagine.

    From my experience perfoming face to face wine tastings, I can confirm that both Pinot an Chardonnay wines are the two styles that will result in the biggest varience of opinion, one person will rave about a wine but the next person…I put some of this down to the experience of the taster, how far along the journey they have travelled, usually more obvious wines, Shiraz and Cabernet, are much easier to understand, where as the subtlties of Pinot may take time to appreciate.

    I see your comment about the wines being ‘hot’, usually attributable to noticeable alcohol, or conversly, maybe not enough noticeable fruit to balance the amount of alcohol. Another problem may arise with the food pairings that were at the tasting, as some foods can make indivdual characteristics of wines more noticeable. Pinot is generally a very adaptable ‘food friendly’ wine and can take you to new heights when paired correctly, but some strong spices, like chilli give it some problems.

    Another factor in the variabilty of Pinot is the array of different Pinot Noir clones available to wine makers. Many clones are better suited for the production of Pinot sparkling wine base, whilst others for red wine production. Often a wine maker will use a variety of clones in one wine to encourage complexity of flavour.

    And finally, the age of the Pinot will affect the ‘drinkabilty’. Like all wines, Pinot’s flavours will subtly change over time. I know one Pinot grower from Victoria who will not release his wine until he feels that it is ready for drinking, usualy around seven years of age. By then the flavours have married sufficiently, and the result is simply devine (available in China).

    To answer your question Jim, It is hard to generalise about Pinot quality and flavour, with so many variables, much of the enjoyment of Pinot drinking is the discovery of the different charactristics of individual wines. In Australia, the more awarded ones are coming from the cooler sites of southern Victoria and Tasmania, but if you like more ‘fuller figures’, try southern Western Australia, NSW, northern Victoria and South Australia.

    Viva La Difference


  3. There are some good Australian Pinots, but there are more bad or average ones. The Rochford is in the latter category.

    Different palates find different Pinots appealing. Personally I don’t like them too thin, too acidic or too alchoholic or ‘hot’ tasting.

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