Wes Hagen Delivers a 10 minute Master Class on Pinot Noir!

I will begin posting all of my video blogs here.  Until then check out my YouTube channel for all the previous have dozen videos of me yakking on about wine: http://www.youtube.com/user/WesClosPepe

And here's this week's video on Pinot Noir; the structure, style and how ripeness impacts the wine:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-g1qD5Jsaw


Video Transcript
AUDIO START: [00:00:01]

Hey, everybody, it's Monday, April 22nd and welcome to Clos Pepe and Clos Pepe Vineyards. Oliver says, "Hello" as well, and today we're going to take a week off from questions and answers and I'm going to teach you guys a little bit about Pinot Noir, how to taste Pinot Noir, and basically everything I know about Pinot Noir in 10 minutes or less.

We've got three Pinot Noirs in front of me. I've got the 2011 Pinot Noir from Clos Pepe and while I have it up I'll put a little in a glass. I have the 2010 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir and I have the 2009 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir, so we're going to talk a little bit about Pinot Noir style, we're going to talk a little bit about Pinot Noir ripeness, we're going to talk about Pinot Noir structure, and then I'm going to tell you about how I taste Pinot Noir and what I look for in a quality Pinot Noir.

So, we're starting with the youngest Pinot Noir, so we're talking about style, style in young Pinot Noir, I expect it to be fruity, I expect it to be bright, but I expect the style also to show enough elegance and Earth and enough complexity that it doesn't make the wine monolithic.

So, the 2011 was a wonderful long cool growing season with a little heat spike right in September and October, so it's a very classic Pinot Noir vintage. Aromas are very earthy, cherry, a little bit of vanilla, a little bit of Earth, a little bit of dust, slight bits of maybe sort of almost like a minerality, but it's fresh, it's bright, and it's primary. So, when I say, "Primary" I mean the wine has a lot of fruit, so the 2011 stylistically is very balanced. I think the '11s throughout this valley are going to age extraordinarily well and later we're going to talk a little bit about the difference between acid and tannin in Pinot Noir because Pinot Noir is one of those rare red wines that's actually structured as much by acid as it is by tannin.

So, as I taste and evaluate this stylistically the wine is a little bit light in the mouth, it's amphoral, so it's not heavy like a Cabernet or a Syrah, it's not a Pinot Noir pretending to be anything, it has beautiful elegance. I think it's light enough that it could be matched with salmon. It's still very primary, still very fruity.

The wine that's this young and this delicate, it's not delicate, but it's a nice kind of mid-body, mid-palate. It's sort of like making a great Pinot Noir is like writing a novel, when you first make a Pinot Noir it's like the first draft of your novel, it's got a beginning, a middle, and an end, but the three parts of the novel, the three parts of the wine aren't talking to each other. But imagine if you could write the first draft of a novel, put it in a drawer some place and open it up five years later and magically all of the disparate elements begin to talk to each other and that's what happens in Pinot Noir.

So, when we make a delicate, elegant Pinot Noir specifically in a style that we love to make, like the 2011, all the parts are there, but they're not talking to each other, there's no integration, so the integration requires that the tannins start taking from its sort of molecular form to a polymer form of tannins which will lay across the tongue, be a little bit more velvety than perky, so the wine is very young, very perky, I wouldn't say acidic, but it has a lot of verve and that verve is going to allow the wine to mature and age extremely slowly and extremely nicely as opposed to the 2010 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir which is very rich and very ripe. I've been kind of calling this wine a little bit slutty, it's a little bit of a pole dancer of a Pinot. It's rich, it's ripe, it offers tons of fruit, it's very "come hither," it's very sexy and willing, has very round edges, less acidity, more tannin, more richness, and I think it kind of think it needs a rib eye or a steak or some lamb, it requires a little bit more.

So, stylistically this is the riper style, style you would see a little bit more on a Loring Wine Company wine, or maybe some of the wines, the bigger wines from Sea Smoke, so the 2010 is nice because even on one label with three different vintages we have three totally different styles of wine, 2011 elegant, 2010 very bold and ripe, 2009 starting to show a little bit of age. So, as we taste the 2010 there's a big burst of fruit on the attack and the attack is what happens with the wine when it first hits my palate. So, as I taste it's very rich and ripe, it's very easy to understand without food, 2011 I really wanted something like maybe some duck, 2010 I really want a steak because it really needs some fat to match the impact of the flavor. So, stylistically and with ripeness, the 2010 has been exacerbated as far as the richness and the ripeness, it's rounder, it's richer, it's softer, and it's more approachable.

So, if I'm drinking wine as a cocktail I'm going to go to something rich and ripe like that 2010 style, high 14s, low 15 percent alcohol as opposed to the mid-13 percents on the other two wines on the table. So, 2010, unapologetic, California, all about sunshine, richness, ripeness, it's a wine that's just like your perfect first date; rich, ripe, and willing. Maybe I'm talking too much about myself.

2009, we've got the 2009 Pinot Noir and this is a wine that's going to be--has three and half years of bottle age, so the wine is going to have a really, really nice elegant and the beginning of a wine that's starting to show some earthiness, a little bit of complexity. So, wine, like people, if it's really young and really beautiful it doesn't really have to develop much of a personality, complexity, or character, but as a wine ages it loses a little bit of its fruit, it does really compensate by developing character, and that's why I think I love to drink old wines. Old wines are divorced from all that affectation of fruit. Complexity exists in Pinot Noir when it's young and fruity and we can't taste it. It's kind of like baby fat on the cheeks, you can't really imagine the adult face until it loses its baby fat, and the '09 has begun to lose its baby fat, so instead of tasting big bright rich ripe dark berry fruits I'm starting to smell a little bit more cherry, dry cherry, a little bit more violet rose petals, the emergence of something that will originally be a little bit leathery when the wine reaches its full maturity. So, as it loses its baby fat it's really starting to show some really pretty notes that existed when the wine was young, but it was covered up by all of that fruit.

So, is fruit the enemy of great Pinot Noir or does fruit dictate the quality of a Pinot Noir? I think it's the previous. I think that too much fruit in the Pinot Noir takes you away from the place and then time where it was grown and when a wine becomes fully sublimated and the fruit sort of dies down and the complexity emerges, that's when those are the wines that really drive me crazy and really get me thinking about, "Wow, this wine was farmed beautifully, it was made beautifully, and then we were patient enough to allow the wine to become mature."

So, drinking the 2010s is like dating an 18-year-old, they're going to look great naked, but they're going to suck as far as conversation at table while the '09 is much more like dating someone who has enough maturity and education not only to keep you fascinated by its beauty at the table, but also by the conversation and the depth of the complexity that this can bring at the table experience. So, that's sort of a quick and dirty summation of the 2011, 2009, 2010 Pinot Noirs.

And then what I was going to teach you about, one things that's amazing about Pinot Noir and why it's so difficult for some people to understand it is because most red wines are structured by tannin and when you talk about tannin what I did is I oversteeped this cup of English Breakfast tea and this tea has been steeping for about 20 minutes, so when I taste it I get a really, really strong, pungent, grippy drying flavor as the tannins from the tea attack the proteins in my mouth and dry those proteins right up. So, I get a puckery feeling, it's a tactile experience. If you want to know what tannin tastes like oversteep a cup of tea and it will really give you a lovely indication of that flavor of tannin. So, oversteeped cup of tea, puckering, dryness, and it's a tactile impression of dryness, and then there's acidity.

So, you have tannin and acidity, red wine is structured by tannin, white wine is structured by acidity. So, I took a fresh lemon, put a little lemon in a champagne glass because when you think about champagne you think about acidity. Now, I just drank pure lemon juice. I feel it very strong, almost a metallic attack on the sides of my tongue, it's hitting all parts of my tongue at the same time, and it also has a puckering effect, but it's more from acid than from tannin. So, acid is verve, acid is life, acid is slightly metallic. Tannin is more earthy and puckery, but more in a drying fashion while tannin dries your mouth out acid actually causes you to salivate, so the thing about Pinot Noirs, Pinot Noir is equally structured by both very, very fine tannin molecules and the acidity that you would get sort in a lemon.

So, the great thing about Pinot Noir is it's structured like a white wine, but hit has a little bit of tannin, so it matches red wine dishes, but it also matches white wine dishes, that's why we've all had Pinot Noir with everything from oysters all the way to lamb, so it can match anything at table because it has both white wine and red wine structural elements. So, when we taste the wine we want to taste a balance of fruit, Earth, acid, structure, the wine should seem complete, it should seem seamless, and if it's not sometimes we need to wait for it to integrate, so time brings the wine together in a way that our mouths can't immediately, so sometimes even though it's difficult for us as Americans we have to be patient with the wines that we make.

So, that's my quick and dirty summation of Pinot Noir, three Pinot Noirs from Clos Pepe Estate. They all happen to be available on the website and we've talked a little bit about style, ripeness, structure, and how to taste those wines and recognize a wine, every wine, your palate is the best palate, so if a wine is delicious to you it's delicious, so drink what you love, love what you drink, and we'll see you next Monday for some more questions. Thanks so much.

AUDIO END: [00:09:52]
Posted on April 22, 2013 .