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Oregon hones its identity

Oregon needs to do further work to define its stylistic position between the Old World and the New World, believes David Adelsheim, co-owner of Adelsheim Vineyards.

David Adelsheim

“It’s such a nuanced message to tell the world: we’re not like Burgundy, but not like the New World – and we don’t make inexpensive wines,” summarised Adelsheim, who established his property in 1971, making him one of Oregon’s most long-standing producers.

Since that time, Adelsheim has played a major role in the evolution of the state’s wine industry, from driving forward strict regulations to importing higher quality clonal material.

Although many of Oregon’s producers cite Burgundy as a source of inspiration, Adelsheim suggested: “Over the last 15 years we’ve finally disabused ourselves of the idea of making Burgundy.”

Apart from the different soil – much of the Willamette Valley is made up of volcanic material rather than limestone – Adelsheim highlighted an important difference in the end product, arguing: “If you look at fruitiness, that’s not something Burgundy really cherishes.”

However, Adelsheim suggested that Oregon’s average temperatures were closer to Burgundy than New Zealand where, although acknowledging the difference between Martinborough and Central Otago, he remarked: “They are both warmer than Oregon in the growing season.”

Despite the ongoing work to define where Oregon sits on Pinot Noir’s stylistic spectrum, Adelsheim admitted there were still areas that need to be better understood. In particular, he queried: “What allows Oregon Pinots to age so long without seeming to get old?”

Summing up the work to be done, Adelsheim insisted: “Until we have quantitative data this quickly devolves to a marketing conversation.”

As for the state’s reputation among US consumers, Adelsheim observed: “Oregon in a strange way is at the forefront of a change in taste.” Pointing to a steady shift from an increasingly well-educated pool of wine lovers towards more sophisticated styles, he maintained that Oregon was well placed to benefit from “the disenchantment with the people who went too far, too unctuous.”

Above all, Adelsheim insisted that Oregon needs to build itself a following for positive reasons, saying: “We need to make wine for people not just because they can’t afford to buy Burgundy, but because they want to buy Oregon wine.”

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