If the Suit Fits, Drink It
Elin McCoy recently wrote about fashionable high-octane wines at Bloomberg.com (July 12, 2007). McCoy
points out that “High alcohol wines have a sweet, rich, thick character, but many also taste heavy, smell of
prunes and raisins, and lack both subtlety and the savory freshness that makes the beverage great with food.
There is a fashionable trend toward more concentrated, bolder-flavored wines that sacrifice balance for the allimportant
first impression.” Much-admired wine retailer, Darrel Corti of Corti Brothers in Sacramento, California,
has decided to no longer stock wines with alcohol over 14.5 percent. This decision created some angry
and threatening responses to Corti on his website, but the reaction has generally been favorable indicating that
wine drinkers are split on this issue.
The “bigger is better” trend in North American Pinot Noir has divided American wine aficionados into two
camps. A number of Pinot Noir lovers are former fans of bold-flavored Cabernets and Zins and their palate still
veers toward the “Dark Side.” The wine press and several wine critics have fueled this fan base by awarding
high scores to flashy, pumped-up and hedonistic Pinot Noirs.
On the other side of the fence are the “classicists,” those that prefer Pinot Noir in its most pure and elegant,
even feminine form, replete with subtleties, complexity, sensible alcohol, and sublime balance. The wines of
Vosne-Romanee and Chambolle-Musigny come to mind. My good friend, Master Sommelier Rene Chazottes,
chimed in on this matter and offered this analogy. “Suppose you go to a good tailor and ask him to sew you a
suit, but he measures you improperly and makes the suit too large. When he is finished, he has masterfully
crafted a handsome suit for you, but it is too large and out of proportion to your size. The same situation applies
to Pinot Noir. The fruit-driven, super ripe and extracted style of Pinot Noir are often well-made technically, but
they are too big, too grandly proportioned for Pinot Noir and more like Syrah.”
It is all a matter of taste, but I personally prefer my suits tailored to fit.