Blind Tasting Pinot

I’m prepping for my blind exam in a few weeks – 12 wines from different world regions.  Today, 3 Pinot Noir – from 3 world benchmark regions: France (Burgundy), New Zealand (Marlborough) and USA (California – though Oregon would have been better).  As I taste these wines I’m thinking about British Columbian Pinot and how our terroir would stand out in this flight – closer to the New Zealand style I would imagine than the others (though some producers in BC are making an elegant “old world” style with this grape).

I was lucky this summer and able to attend the first annual BC Pinot Noir Celebration in August where 35 producers showcased their sparkling, rose and red wines made From Pinot Noir.  Producers entered their wines in a tasting to evaluate quality, and the top wines were chosen – representing production in all parts of the province:

Averill Creek and Unsworth from Vancouver Island, Baillie Ghroman from Creston, Privato from Kamloops, though the other producers were from the Okanagan – largely around Kelowna.

We were treated to a blending seminar held by a panel including David Patterson (Tantalus), Chris Carson (Meyer) and Rhys Pender (Little Farm), who highlighted just how carefully crated Pinot Noir wines actually are – often a result of different clones planted for their qualities (aromas, tannin structure, resistance to disease / heat, vigour…) and given the opportunity to blend our own pinot from 4 base wines.  This is no easy task & I’m confident would take me years to master blending.

I sat across the table from DJ Kearney – a professionally trained chef  & masterful wine taster.  I watched her exact  a blend gracefully and pour it into her pinot glass and give it a swirl.  Winemaking is truly an art.

My own blend was cludgey and angular – a floral bomb that hit a wall.  Seeking Balance, Length, Intensity, Concentration, Expressiveness...the hallmarks of a quality wine.

Some BC Pinot wines really stood out for me amongst the crowd – Cedar Creek (Kelowna), 50Parallel (Kelowna), Unsworth (Mill Bay), Baillie Grohman (Creston), Scorced Earth (Kelowna) and Haywire’s Blanc-De-Noirs (Summerland – pictured)… One thing is clear: BC terroir grows good pinot and we are lucky to have talented local winemakers!

BC Pinot is so good in fact that Decanter Magazine (UK) has taken an interest in Naramata’s Foxtrot Pinot  (See article), which is always a favourite wine amongst BC wine geeks – I hear it all the time.

Winelovers adore Pinot for its ability to convey terroir in the wine – an expression of the area in which the wine was grown.  Pinot grapes have thinner skins than other red wines (less tannic) and respond to UV light in the growing season.  This is good news for BC producers: the Okanagan receives on average 2 hours more of daylight during the growing season than Napa, California!

Pinot wines from the south part of the province, in Oliver / Osoyoos,have a particular quality that I find also in the wines of New Zealand – it’s a bright cherry-cough syrup pop (think like Cinzano).  You only find this in wines that see LOTS of daylight during the growing season, even if in a cooler area like British Columbia.

Closer to Kelowna, BC Pinot takes on a tart-red-berry-cherry-raspberry-cedar yumminess that I will drink year round until I die cause it’s that good.

The reality is that our wine industry is little-known on a global market – and even though we make incredible Pinot in BC, we’ve only been doing it the last 25 years.  I hope that the WSET Diploma students of the future will have British Columbian Pinot included in their tasting flights alongside Marlborough, Burgundy and Russian River.

Do you love Pinot?  I made something for you!  Check out the Kelowna Pinot Lovers Tour