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Pinot Briefs —Newsletter 7.25

Early Reports on 2009 Burgundy Glowing There is a Burgundy legend that vintages that end in 9 are great vintages and looks like 2009 is following history. The weather in 2009 has been exceptional with a mild spring and a warm, dry summer. Some are comparing 2009 to the magnificent 2005 vintage.

No Consensus Among Wine Competitions in U.S. A paper was recently published in the Journal of Wine Economics (Volume 4, Issue 1, Spring, 2009) titled, “An Analysis of the Concordance Among 13 U.S. Wine Competitions.” The author of the study, Robert T. Hodgson, analyzed over 4,000 wines entered in 13 U.S. wine competitions and found little concordance among the venues awarding Gold medals. Many wines that are viewed as extraordinarily good at some competitions and awarded a Gold medal, are viewed as below average at others and receive no award. Winning a Gold medal is greatly influenced by chance alone. I believe the discrepancy among different competitions depends on a number of factors including the difference in makeup and qualifications of the judging panel, the breadth of wines submitted for judging, and the amount of wines required to be tasted by judges daily. I personally, rarely participate in judging panels, finding that the subjectivity of wine judging is so broad that consensus is almost never the rule.

Minerality in Wine Wes Hagen, winegrower and winemaker at Clos Pepe Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hllls, explains the source of minerality in wines on this short video titled, “How does wine get earthy?” Hagen believes that grape skin thickness is influenced by calcium and silica which are absorbed from the soil and thicken the skins, contributing to minerality. Also, minerality is more evident in wines with high acidity or low pH.

Scientists Decoding Brettanomyces DNA Brettanomyces or brett for short, is due to a yeast contamination of wine leading to aromas of sweaty horse, manure, Band-Aid and burnt plastic. At low levels, it may add interest, body and complexity and appeal to some drinkers, but in significant levels it is considered a serious fault and ruins wine. Because it cannot currently be controlled, it cannot be deliberately introduced during winemaking. Scientists are now attempting to decode and sequence the brettanomyces genome, hoping that this information will lead to prevention of this yeast contamination. In addition, knowledge may be gained that allows control of the yeast so that it may be purposely incorporated into wines.

One of Oregon’s Wine Industry Founders Dies Richard Sommer was something of a recluse so his story is not widely known. Sommer came from California to introduce vitis vinifera grapes to Oregon’s Umpqua Valley in 1961. He was very well educated in plant ecology, having attended University California Davis and University California Berkeley. He planted the first vinifera vines in Oregon since Repeal on a turkey farm west of Roseburg. He eventually established Hillcrest Vineyards and today it is the state’s oldest continuously running vinifera winery.

Pinot Noir Event in South Africa Sommelier Jörg Pfützner is hosting “Investigating Pinot Noir” at Creation Wines on September 19, 2009 in the Hemel-en-Aarde near Walker Bay in the Western Cape. The tasting will compare the maritime Hemel-en-Aarde region of South Africa with other cool climate Pinot Noirs of New Zealand and Burgundy. This event is South Africa’s largest comparative tasting of Pinot Noir and is supported by the Hemel-en-Aarde Wine Growers Association to raise awareness of the cool climate Pinot Noirs of South Africa. For more information visit

California Wineries Exceed 2,800 The Wine Institute reports that there are over 2,800 wineries in California with wine grapes now being grown in 48 of the state’s 58 counties. California is the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, after Italy, France and Spain.

California New Plantings of Pinot Noir According to Wines & Vines (July 2, 2009), Nat Di Buduo of Allied Grape Growers spoke at a recent Vineyard Valuation and Ag Symposium in Lodi, and reported that 36% of new plantings in California are Pinot Noir, significantly ahead of Chardonnay (22%) and Pinot Gris (16%). He felt that Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris were being over-planted.

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