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Pinot Noir Wrestling

6 May 2017

Last week, I organized a wrestling game with three pinot noir players, respectively from Burgundy, New Zealand and Germany. They are:

  • Mark Haisma 2014 Gevrey-Chambertin

  • August Kesseler, Cuvée Max Spätburgunder 2013 Rheingau; and

  • Craggy Range, Te Muna Road Pinot Noir 2013 Martinborough.

Pinot Noir is native to Burgundy and notoriously fickle; it is world class only in cool-climate regions. The grape is weak, suffering from a variety of diseases; its genetics make it highly susceptible to mutation. Quite unlike its noble cousins such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir wines are not rich and big; rather, they are pale in colour, translucent and their flavours are very subtle. Having said that, prices for a bottle of Pinot Noir are generally more than a similar quality red wine of another variety. How the wrestlers performed in the game? The Gevrey Chambertin: Along with the subtle earth are faint floral smells of roses, violet and a smell of fruit that leans towards raw, freshly picked juicy red cherries. However, this village level wine does not have the level of depth and energy of higher quality examples. The aromas on the nose could have fully delivered to the palate. The flavour intensity is rather mild and its body is light. The Spätburgunder (the German name of Pinot Noir) is lively and silky, with the purity of cranberry and cherry, and subtle earthy notes. This sample is surely a notch more serious than the entry-level Pinot, with a soft dusting of the German signature spice on nose and palate with characteristic similar to cinnamon and allspice, which are likely attributed to both oak aging and the influence of the region’s soils - granite, slate, basalt and limestone clays. The flavours follow through to a feather-light length. The New Zealand wrestler played a typical Martinborough style: Intense red and dark berry fruits with gentle spicy notes. While it shows off its firm structure and acidity with a rounded, peppery texture, the wine is elegant and supple with a savoury and earthy finish. That’s why the New Zealanders often regard their Pinots as “Old World structure and elegance meets New World power and intensity”. This variety has gradually become second only to Sauvignon Blanc in production volume in the country, predominantly grown in the cooler southerly regions. The huge diversity in climates and soils enables a wide range of styles from the six main Pinot producing regions. Perhaps it's my fault! I should have picked a Premier Cru or even a Grand Cru Gevrey in order to beat the opponents of comparable strength!

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