To mark the upcoming first tasting of the Pinot Noir Alliance, a collaboration of five producers from Burgundy, Chile, California, New Zealand and Australia’s Yarra Valley, The Buyer has asked leading wine figures to share their love for Pinot Noir. Who better to start with than the man who brought Pinot Noir to the masses and novelist, Rex Pickett, who helped put Pinot Noir on the big screen with what became the now cult movie, Sideways.
It is a brave step to write a book never mind make a film about wine, but with Sideways, Rex Pickett brought both wine and film lovers together with his homage to buddy movies and Pinot Noir. He sets the scene for the forthcoming Pinot Noir Alliance tasting on October 9 at London’s Andaz Studios.
Rex Pickett knows a thing or two about how to bring the world’s attention to Pinot Noir. OK, he had the advantage of using the big screen, Hollywood actors, and a heady mix of drinking, sex, fighting all wrapped up in the the classic Road Trip film genre, but he still helped make Pinot Noir famous to the average film fan with first his Sideways novel, followed by the cult movie.
By comparison the ambition of The Pinot Noir Alliance should be a lot more straightforward. By promoting itself essentially to the trade it is preaching to an already largely converted audience. Albeit a fickle one, easily distracted by other grape varieties and wine initiatives.
In a nutshell the Alliance is the brainchild of Cono Sur’s chief winemaker, Adolfo Hurtado, who believes there is a great opportunity to share the insights and experience of other winemakers producing quality Pinot Noir around the world. To do so he has brought together a stellar line up of producers and winemakers from New Zealand, Australia’s Yarra Valley, Sonoma in California and, of course, Burgundy, to demonstrate Pinot Noir’s full potential, as well as highlight the difficulties in producing quality wines.
The hand picked producers are David Bicknell of Oakridge Wines in the Yarra Valley, Australia; Gordon Russell of Villa Maria in New Zealand, Christophe Chauvel of Domaines Albert Bichot in Burgundy and Pierre-Marie Pattieu of La Crema in Sonoma, California. They will all be joining Adolfo Hurtado for the inaugural Pinot Noir Alliance tasting at Andaz Studios near Liverpool Street on October 9.
This promises to be more than an average tasting. Hosted by Tim Atkin MW it will be run over two separate sessions allowing buyers the chance to really dig in to the diverse influences that soil, climate, vine age and good ol’ winemaking skills have on Pinot Noir. To attend contact Ben Smith on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rex Pickett on all things Pinot Noir…
But before all that, back to Rex Pickett. Just what is it about Pinot Noir that he can’t get enough of?
So why the love affair with Pinot Noir?
It is uniquely different from all the other noble red wine grapes. At its apotheosis, it possesses an ethereality that one doesn’t taste in other wines. It’s more a quintessence than a reflection, or an expression. It thrills and it disappoints in equal proportions, especially when one brings price into the equation. It walks a much more dangerous tightrope between success and failure than any other grape variety, and for that reason alone, it’s bewitching
Sum up the appeal of Pinot Noir in three words.
Himalayan, vinous, sublimity.
If you could make awine anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
Chile – Casablanca,Leyda, or San Antonio Valleys. \
What’s your ideal food match for Pinot Noir?
Slow-cooked goat shanks in Pinot Noir.
How often do people mention the film Sideways to you?
Every single day. Seriously. In the Russian River Valley recently, an owner of a very high-end winery that produces stellar, award-winning Pinot Noirs said to me, “Do you realise you’ve made Sonoma tens of millions of dollars? I should kiss you”. I get similar responses all the time. It’s a cult movie, an iconic movie, and in the wine world almost a sacred text. I know this sounds immodest, but that’s what I get. And the film came out 13 years ago!
If you weren’t a writer, what would you have done…was there a Plan B?
I didn’t have one. No good writer has a back-up plan. Back-ups (Plan B’s) are for cowards. Or sane people. If you have a back-up plan you’ve already half-admitted failure.
Any messages for The Pinot Noir Alliance?
Where’s my royalty? No, seriously, I’m glad that Pinot Noir has been elevated to new levels of wine appreciation attention, and if my book and movie, Sideways helped in any way, I humbly accept the thanks.
- The Pinot Noir Alliance should also thank Pickett for this classic Sideways scene where his hero, Miles (Paul Giamitti), explains what it is he loves about Pinot Noir. It works better than any press release can for as Miles says in his (or Pickett’s) words just what it is about Pinot Noir he loves so much….”It’s a hard grape to grow…it’s thin skinned, temperamental, ripens early….” Particularly relevant for the Alliance is the fact “it can only grow in these really specific, tucked away corners of the world”…”by the most patient and nurturing of growers”…..”who really take the time to understand Pinot’s potential, can then coax it in to its fullest expression”. Now that’s a challenge for the Pinot Noir Alliance to live up to.