Loosen: High alcohol ‘doesn’t suit Pinot Noir’

Ernie Loosen, the exuberant Mosel winemaker, has said that he believes New World Pinot Noir shouldn’t have high alcohol levels which can mask its subtle expression and upset “its balance and finesse.”


Ernie Loosen with his beloved dog, Diana

Popping over to Hong Kong and Macau in what he jokingly calls a “one week Blitzkrieg”, Ernie Loosen said he forecasts steady growth in the Asia region, and is triumphant about the popularity of his Kabinett Riesling among Chinese drinkers in Hong Kong who prefer the lighter, fruitier style which can pair well with Cantonese cuisine.

“Food here is very sweet!” he says looking somewhat baffled. “With the rich sweet sauces that go with pork and chicken, it makes sense that something like a Kabinett would go well as there’s no astringency, no oak and lots of freshness and minerality.”

Loosen’s Mosel Riesling empire has spread to most countries in Asia, including Hong Kong, China, Macau, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Taiwan where he says the common pattern is for consumers to prefer dry or off-dry Riesling but feel ‘they should order red wine’ for its perceived reputation. “But actually I think Riesling is getting there. It has so many different styles that it’s gaining much more popularity.”

Moving onto his joint venture with Jay Somers, a fellow Pinot Noir enthusiast who set up a winery in Newburg, Oregon in 2010, Loosen expressed unbridled dismay at the rising alcohol levels [above13%] of Pinot Noir in New World expressions, when really, he thinks Pinot Noir should be all about “elegance, finesse and balance.”

“I think and I certainly hope we make the most ‘Burgundian’ and ‘Old World’ styles of Oregon Pinot Noir because high alcohol doesn’t suit Pinot Noir. It just makes them fat and rich! It’s okay for Cabernet, Shiraz or Grenache which can stand up to it but Pinot Noir needs that restraint and subtlety and should let the soil speak for itself.”

His Pinot Noir in Oregon does not go above 13% and his Villa Wolf Pinot Noir is in the region of 12.5-13%.

“It’s when you see a really overripe Pinot Noir of around 15% that you think, all that balance and focus has been lost and it’s becoming a wine it doesn’t need to be.”

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