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Proper Tasting and Critiquing Pinot Noir Demands Patience

After tasting thousands of domestic Pinot Noir over the past sixteen years for the PinotFile, I have come to the realization that reviews of these wines are frequently and improperly based on a perfunctory sampling over a short period of time. I have found that Pinot Noir, unlike several other varietals, evolves in the glass and bottle over time once it is opened, and it is this evolution that demands revisiting the wine patiently over a day or two or even more.

Critics often taste a large number of wines at one sitting. The wines are uncorked, poured into the glass, and then evaluated either immediately or after only a short time in the glass. In reality, the evaluation process is a slam-bam affair based on initial impressions. There is no foreplay, so to speak, that allows Pinot Noir to reach the level of arousal that culminates in a glorious experience.

I have come to develop a routine that I try to follow with most Pinot Noir evaluations. In the late morning, the wines are brought out of the wine cabinet at 63ºF, opened and poured into a Burgundy-styled glass. Usually 6-9 wines are tasted at a time. Wines are decanted first if requested by the winemaker. I make three passes through each wine in the lineup, spitting only, allowing an initial impression to develop. I then put the cork back in the opened bottle and allow the wines to sit at room temperature all day.

I re-visit the wines briefly before dinner, now swallowing small sips of the wines to get the full pleasure of the wine that has evolved over a several hour period. Finally, I re-cork the wines and revisit them briefly one more time the following day. This is crucial, for wines are often released before they reach their optimum drinking window.

I have learned that quality Pinot Noir is a chameleon, with aromas and flavors that change dramatically with oxidation over time. Many times a wine that did not impress upon opening, blossomed into an orgasmic delight over night and the reviews and score I would have given the wine on initial impression would have been unfairly conservative.

This extended scheme of Pinot Noir evaluation is time-consuming and demands commitment and patience, but I feel it is the only way to do the job properly.

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