Monday, May 4, 2009

Italian Pinot Noir tasting: some differences in style, a good overall quality

On April 30th the tour of Italy tasting was focusing on the world of Italian Pinot noir.

While the USA have started to build a reputation for pinot noir during the last twenty years (California - Russian River and Carneros for example - Oregon and Washington) and then virtually everybody interested in wine knows about these wines, the pinot noir of Italy has experienced a great difficulty in crossing the frontiers, despite having built a solid experience of more than a century of cultivation of the grape in Alto Adige (Alps, north of Italy).

It is true that it may be easier to compete with the most revered indigenuous grape of France from several thousand kilometers (like US or New Zealand) than from a few hundreds, but while the reference for pinot noir still remains the Burgundy of the Côte d'Or (and of course the Champagne, the largest producer of pinot noir grape), Italy is producing several pinot noir that profit from a very appropriate climate and soil in the valley of the Adige river. In addition, in Italy pinot noir is largely cultivated in Franciacorta (province of Brescia, west of Lago di garda), producing traditional wines on the basis of the "methode champenoise". But the tasting was focusing on red vinification and not on franciacorta, and then the reference was clearly the Alto Adige area.

The tasting confirmed the good quality of the pinot noir produced in Alto Adige with some excellence, notably the Barthenau Vigna s. Urbano 1997 of Hofstatter, a wine that has been appreciated by the whole panel and combines power and elegance with a perfect evolution. I have read with pleasure the impressions of Franco Ziliani on this wine in 2001 and I am impressed to see how the wine has maintained after eight years most of the elements reported there (notably sweet tannins, great structure, impressive lenght and elegance).

Another wine that has performed very well at the tasting was the Pinot Noir Sanct Valentin 1999 of San Michele Appiano. An impressive nose for this 10 years old pinot noir with still small red fruits and pleasant tertiary aromas of earth, mushroom and cedar sustained by a perfect acidity, balanced structure and good lenght.

The Pinero 2000 of Ca' del Bosco is a difficult wine to judge. In this case, some of typical elements of Pinot Noir, both with regard to the colour, aromas and taste cannot easily be found and the style appears much more extracted compared to the other wines of the fight. The colour is dense and deep, the nose is extremely spicey and penetrating, with some sweet elements of chocolate and moka. The mouth appears rather tannic, with some bitter notes and good lenght. Overall a very atypical pinot noir far from the tradition that, while not corresponding to my style of pinot noir, exhibits a strong personality.

Pinot Nero Muri gries Riserva 2005 was an appealing wine, not particularly complex but with a good aroma of red fruits and cinnamon. The taste shows a strong start with well integrated tannins and good lenght.

The Pinot Nero from Tiefenbrunner, a Lincticlarus 1997, was showing sweet red fruits at the nose, with some evolution. On the palate, the wine was not showing strong tertiary aromas but a rather sweet taste, with a not very long finish that was most likely a sign of a rather evolved wine, because the same wine tasted better in past experiences.

The first wine of the tasting was a Pinot nero 2002 from Pojer e Sandri, a producer from a lightly southern area of the Adige valley. This pinot nero had "musty" scents (I would use the term "vinoso" in Italian) with some red fruits. On the palate there is a good freshness with no great complexity (note that this wine is not a "riserva" like the other wines tasted).

I left at the end the "outsider" of the tasting, which was tasted blind like the other last four wines of the tasting. I was rather curious to see the reactions of the participants to a pinot noir that exhibits a very original personality (reflecting well the character of his producer) and a wine that I like particularly. However, today, the Burlemberg 2002 of Marcel Deiss (Alsace) was not performing very well (I had a perfect bottle one month ago and was very impressive), despite having been opened and decanted for 2-3 hours. The barnyard, animal nose that characterises this wine appeared here rather unbalanced and did not find a proper place subsequently. On the palate the wine appeared to be unstable, not very pleasant. A possibly off bottle for a wine that, while clearly not making usually the uninanimity, represents a great interpretation of pinot noir in Alsace.


Wine lover said...

Instead of "vinoso" (which refers to the musty scents of the wine cellar), Italians would refer to wine that is high in alcohol as "vino corposo".

Check out my blogs...

Vinonostrum said...

In fact I was referring more to the scent of the must than to the high level of alcohol. Thank you for the suggestion.