Oregon Pinot puzzles UK trade

Oregon Pinot Noir has revealed itself as particularly subject to misconceptions and an uncertain image among the UK trade.

Two wines from the state featured in yesterday’s Stonier International Pinot Noir Tasting (SIPNOT), the second London version of the event, which has been held annually in Melbourne since 2000.

Around 60 members of the UK trade gathered to blind taste and discuss 12 Pinot Noirs from around the world.

The debate was led by a panel chaired by Willie Lebus, director of Stonier’s UK agent Bibendum Wine, with support from Stonier winemaker Mike Symonds, wine writer Matthew Jukes and Burgundy author Anthony Hanson MW.

In a tasting which above all offered a reminder of the subjective element to wine criticism, most notably in the often polar reactions in the room to ripeness levels and herbaceous or less “clean” characteristics, the event also flagged up widespread uncertainty within the trade about what to expect from Oregon Pinot Noir.

As each wine was assessed in turn, Lebus joked that the US state was often used as “a whipping boy” when it came to placing the more difficult or divisive wines.

Offering his own explanation for Oregon’s uncertain image, Tapanappa winemaker Brian Croser, who also makes wine in the Eola Hills, suggested this variable reputation arose from the “big gulf” in wine quality among producers.

Oz Clarke expanded this theory on the cause of UK misconceptions, suggesting:  “You just don’t see enough of the top wines from Oregon over here.”

This lack of consistency and critical mass may explain why despite being strongly represented at SIPNOT and taking first place in last year’s equally tough Pinot Noir benchmarking exercise organised by Wines of Germany, Oregon continues to keep a low profile in the UK.

The state’s main event in this market, the Washington State and Oregon annual trade tasting, takes place this Thursday in London. For more information or to register, click here.

The full list of wines tasted at this year’s SIPNOT was as follows:

2009 Tamar Ridge, Kayena Vineyard Pinot Noir

2008 Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot Lavaut Saint-Jacques Premier Cru, Gevrey Chambertin

2009 Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir

2008 Domaine Tollot-Beaut Corton Bressandes Grand Cru, Aloxe-Corton

2009 Bay of Fires Pinot Noir

2008 Cristom Jessie Vineyard Pinot Noir

2008 Chehalem Ridgecrest Vineyard Pinot Noir

2009 Stonier Windmill Vineyard Pinot Noir

2008 Domaine Armand Rousseau Clos de la Roche Grand Cru, Morey St Denis

2009 Tapanappa Foggy Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir

2009 Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir

2008 Domaine de l’Arlot Les Suchots Premier Cru, Vosne Romanée

One Response to “Oregon Pinot puzzles UK trade”

  1. Philipponnat says:

    Pinot Noir is the elusive Grail of red wines.

    If you are not ready for ups and downs, if you cannot withstand disappointments, you shall not be rewarded the mystical bliss of the greater successes, let alone in Burgundy, not even from the most renowned producers.

    Yet, I think the sacrifice is well worth the pain. It is true of most terroir driven, non-industrial wines, of most varietals and regions, and even more so of Pinot Noir.

    Now, if you still don’t understand,

    SIP NOT!

    Charles Philipponnat

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