Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pinot like Syrah? Or Pinot like Grenache?

While tasting an interesting and delicious blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedré (60%-30%-10%), I couldn't help but think it was like a Pinot Noir on steroids. Grenache tends towards a true red color instead of the deep purple of Syrah, and its fruit profile also tends towards red fruit like cherry and raspberry (at least with the younger vine versions of the varietal). This wine in particular had a good bit of earthy and savory elements, perhaps from the Mourvedré or the fermentation techniques. The end result was a blend with the qualities of an very ripe, yet complex Pinot Noir that nonetheless carried its weight more gracefully than a Pinot of that size.

This has me thinking a bit. Even the most powerful of Power Pinots is not likely to be mistaken for Syrah, but it's common to say Power Pinot tastes like Syrah. Of course there are similarities that warrant the comparison, like black fruit flavors and copious tannins. But my thinking is that jammier high alcohol Pinot really has more in common with Grenache than Syrah because of the fruit profile. The comparison to Syrah becomes even more tenuous when the Pinot in question is over-oaked. Syrah is not a varietal that benefits from oak in the same way that Cabernet does, in my opinion. It's already so well-rounded that the oak unbalances the wine, whereas oak seems to complement Cabernet that's not overripe. The overroaked Pinot is, well, just overoaked.

Maybe I'm just overthinking this. A little hyperbole--who spiked the Pinot with Syrah?!?--enhances the impact of the statement. But I think most of these bigger-styled Pinot Noirs have more in common with Grenache-heavy Rhone blends than New World Syrah.

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