A lighter shade of Pinot

wrath_grapesThe stylistic clash happening in California has gotten attention in a couple of stories recently, both worth checking out.

The first, “The Wrath of Grapes,” by Bruce Schoenfeld in the NYT magazine, provides an engaging summary of recent goings-on in the Golden State. His narrative follows Raj Parr, a co-founder of In Pursuit of Balance, a group of California producers overtly making wines that favor restraint and elegance over bombast and fruit. He contrasts this with the style of California wines that Robert Parker has championed and ventures to London to attend a tasting with Parker. It’s a good piece; I’ll be adding it to the syllabus of my next NYU wine class.

The second piece is a bit more wonky–get ready for a discussion of grape clones, Vertical Shoot Positioning (*not* something from the Kama Sutra), and yeasts getting more ferocious. In it, David Darlington asks in re: Russian River Valley Pinot Noir: “Why are so many so monstrous?” Good stuff–I won’t offer any spoilers here but he does survey several winemakers and a climate scientists. The story appears in the April issue of Wine & Spirits (available online).

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5 Responses to “A lighter shade of Pinot”

  1. Tyler:

    If you do add it to your syllabus, remember that Parker did not “create” the 100-point system, and there are no corners in Italy that are not identified with wine. There is another one (or maybe two) stickler points that can be made about the article…

    So, how will you teach it? As a polemic?As an illustration of unscientific opinion lording over the world of winemaking? As today’s new black?

    Parr’s brand (and his partners) will do well for the media exposure.

  2. Hi Thomas, thanks for stopping by.

    I agree that “popularized” is a better way to describe Parker and the 100-point system. I did a post on this a while back.

    I was surprised the article ran the 50k subscribers figure. That is unaudited and they didn’t cite a source (presumably WA since I have heard that figure before). Also, funny the article quoted comments from eBob. They had previously sent me a takedown letter when I did that. I guess the NYT is too big for them to pick on?

    But these are relative quibbles. Sure there were other producers outside of IPOB worthy of mentioning in the “new California”/European-style movement. On the whole, I think the article had a nice framework and good arc and was a useful lens for getting at recent debates.

  3. I found the piece unsettling, both for its one-sidedness and for the way it presents a complicated concept in simplistic, polemic terms. But then, lately I find every polemic connected to wine overwhelmingly annoying.When I got into this business in 1985 I never dreamed the wine world would become fodder for gossip and lunch hall fights.

  4. Any evaluation of this piece would be incomplete without the invaluable perspective of the HoseMaster:


  5. Is it just me or are both articles rather poorly written. I mean waxing poetic the former and plodding the later. In fact really aren’t that the educational trifecta of hamfisting and hyperbole?

    I’m not even sure Darlington knows how damning the W&S is as he writes it. I mean “A lot of people think they’re using natural yeasts…” And then I love the hint that they may or may not be. Then they all go about using them anyhow as if the possibility of something is the same as its certainty.

    I tend to prefer wines that aren’t Suckling or Parkerized, but my god, they are just as bad as Parr’s Emperor without Clothes wines. It is rather funny that as a fairly young wine drinker, the W&S article comes up with a lot of points on how to make wines less alcoholic and then a bunch of winemakers for wines that few under 50 (and I know of none under 40) would touch and in such a blockish tone.

    Hosemaster, Darlington, and Schoenfeld are just about all equally tone deaf. At least the hosemaster, as a contrarian, surely knows it.


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