A common industry term is “typicity of varietal or region.” It simply means a wine should have distinction associated from the grape and land from which it hales.
By Troy Knapp
Years ago my wife and I hosted a Pinot Noir tasting where several styles and countries were represented in a blind format. There were multiple bottles from Burgundy, France; New Zealand, Germany, Oregon and California — the major Pinot Noir producing regions. All were very true to typicity of grape variety, except for one. This wine was, from the color, fruit profile and structure standpoint, very “non-Pinot-like.”
After the wines in the lineup were assessed by the guests and score sheets were tallied, there was a clear, “hands-down” favorite. Much to my dismay, it was the one that was most uniquely different. It was deep in color concentration with a distinct richness on the palate.
California label laws require that the specified varietal detailed on the label only represent 75 percent of its makeup, as a result, Syrah, Petite Syrah and or other thick-skinned grape varieties are frequently worked into the blend in rather large proportions. This distorts the original profile quite drastically, ending up with a wine that is certainly not very Pinot-like.
A common industry term is “typicity of varietal or region.” It simply means a wine should have distinction associated from the grape and land from which it hales. Consumer demands, as well as the development of wines made specifically to garner a high score of a persuasive wine critic, have greatly contributed to the dilution of this term. The sanctity of individuality is being replaced with common familiarity and true expression slowly lost.
This event was, and still is fairly disturbing to me. After all, this was a Pinot Noir tasting. What a shame! Several of the other selections in the tasting were remarkable! They were delicate with beautiful intricacies and nuances; unfortunately they were annihilated by the “fruit bomb.”
Is this what we want? As consumers we have enormous influence on what is produced. Have we conditioned our palates for an expectation of big bold flavors favoring sweet and sticky richness over intricate subtleties that develop like a perfectly orchestrated opera? Pinot Noir should be elegant and feminine compared to its masculine counterparts such as Syrah, Cabernet and Malbec. It shows its true beauty in cool climates and when manipulation and blending is out of the picture. Believe me, I love a concentrated deep dark wine, it just shouldn’t be labeled as a Pinot Noir.
Are we in such a hurry that we don’t slow down and taste? Whether it’s a great dinner or a nice glass of wine, most of the time beauty of nuance is overlooked. Cool climate Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and many older wines beckon for attention as the beauty lies in their subtleties.
Like a good movie or a beautiful piece of music, wine should tell a story with a beginning, middle and conclusion. With good wine, all of these segments should have seamless integration and strengths that equate to harmony and balance. In essence, the journey is equally as important as the destination.
For the same reason that we should appreciate the differences of our friends, family, neighbors and colleagues, so should we appreciate each grape variety. Each has something different to offer and should be allowed to be “itself.” The result is a greater relationship and enjoyment of life as it should be, without manipulation.
Troy Knapp is executive chef at the Hyatt Hill Country and a certified sommelier.