Upon perusing the latest tasting report in the Cuisine November 2011 Issue 149, a talented wine professional friend of mine was bewildered to the point of being upset and angered by the results and the report on New Zealand Pinot Noir. I can understand exactly where this person is coming from, as it’s hard to make sense of it all. For someone like me, who likes to put things in their pigeon holes for the sake of order and patterns of predictability, these results need a lot of sifting and sorting. My wine professional friend found the reporting and possibly the judging gave the reader no clear direction where New Zealand should be taking this ever-so-important grape variety.
Many Pinot Noir enthusiasts are taken by the concept of terroir and wines showing a ‘sense of place’, and wonder who has the responsibility for suggesting or guiding the industry to go in that direction. Maybe it should be these enthusiastic tasters and drinkers who are experienced in the diversity of styles and the benchmarks that more often than not seem to come from Burgundy? For if these people buy the styles that suit them, then they are showing the way with their wallets, a most important incentive for producers to make wines in styles that will appeal to such sophisticated drinkers.
Cuisine magazine doesn’t have that sort of influence, as it reports the situation as the judging panel sees it to a wide market, and doesn’t really suggest a future direction for our industry. Should Cuisine magazine play a greater role in guiding our winemakers as well as our wine drinkers? Maybe another magazine could be created for the purpose of making such constructive suggestions. There are a number of wine critics, writers and industry professionals who would qualify or be able to lead the industry and the consumer. The question could be posed, “Is it their place to do so?”
The reality is that it is the winegrowers who set the direction(s) for our wine styles – and there may be many different directions that can be taken simultaneously. The winegrowers must make what is true to their philosophies, desires, abilities and needs, whether it is a wine of place and terroir or a commercial wine to bring in some income. They would be unwise to ignore the market place and the more sage among them make wines for their specific market. The consumer base can thus be very important in having a say where the style of a wine can be directed. People such as my upset wine professional friend do have a say, and they must continue to be vocal if they want to see more of the wines they enjoy. Unfortunately, the majority of the market is driven by price, and commercialism will therefore always rule, if volume or sales are the measures.
Wine judges, and this includes the likes of writers and critics, such as myself, and the Cuisine judging panel are conduits between the winegrower and the wine consumer. Some of us do offer advice and direction. But more crucial is the ability to be dispassionate and be able to understand the grower and consumer. Generally we are on the back foot, as we are not directly involved in the making of a wine and miss out on the hands-on and nuance, as well as seeing ‘cause and effect’. We rely on being told much of the background by the winegrower. Based on this, some may argue that the writer and critic lacks the proper abilities, and thus has no place in the role of setting style and direction for the wine producer! So the reporting the situation as it is seen is the prime raison d’etre, which is what Cuisine magazine does.
Champagne and Sparkling in Cuisine Magazine
The November 2011 issue of Cuisine also reports on Sparkling Wines – just in time for Christmas. There were three categories judged – ‘Champagne – $100 and Under’, ‘Champagne – Over $100′ and ‘Sparkling Wines’. The quality of Champagne has never been more even or so high across the board. The panel reported the ease of choosing a ‘Top Ten’ for the ‘Under $100′ group. It was led by the ubiquitous Moet & Chandon ‘Brut Imperial’ NV followed by Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV, Piper NV, Veuve Clicquot ‘Yellow Label’ and Laurent-Perrier NV in the top five positions.
For the expensive Champagne class, Taittinger ‘Les Folies de la Marquetterie’ NV was top, with Moet & Chandon ‘Grand Vintage’ 2002, Laurent-Perrier ‘Cuvee Rosé’ NV, Lauren-Perrier ‘Brut Millesime’ 2002 and Krug ‘Gtande Cuvee’ NV filling in the top five spots.