About two months ago, I was contemplating my favourite wines. The ones I would be happy drinking for the rest of my life, if I had to choose. Pinot Noir seemed, at the time, the obvious choice. Its quality pedigree is unquestionable, and it's a grape that can be light and silky or fruity and punchy. Everyone loves Burgundy and Oregon and New Zealand and Chile and Switzerland and Germany and who knows where else. I was so rooted in this conviction that I tried buying a bottle or two of 90s Pinot Noir from the Alto Adige at auction (a birthday treat for in a year or two). Sadly my budget didn't quite stretch far enough, but I convinced myself that budget notwithstanding, it would be my permanent go-to choice.
This of course begs an altogether different question about go-to choices. I got my hands on a supermarket wine catalogue, and was marvelling at how many offers it had for "buy 12 for the price of 10" or "20% off if you buy more than 4". I can't imagine that - even for my staunchest favourites, I wouldn't open more than a bottle every few years. I had a conversation with one of my wine sounding-board friends about this. He disagreed, and brought me back to reality. Most people (him, his parents, our other friends) are happy finding one or two wines they like ("Tesco own brand claret" in his parents' case - about as trendy and original as a love of Burgundy) and buying and drinking them year in, year out, day in, day out. Meanwhile I don't think I've ever bought a single bottle twice, not in my entire life (unless as a gift of course). A particular grape may be favourite at some point in time, but never just one wine! Sadly I'm very clearly in a tiny minority.
Anyway, back to Pinot Noir, my favourite grape this August and September, during which time I got to taste a couple of Moravian Pinots, some forgettable and others outstanding, in particular Merlon's Rulandské modré (Czech for Pinot 'blue'). There were some wonderful Pinot Blancs, Pinot Gris, and the odd Blanc de Noir, Moravian and not, which I suppose can be lumped into the same group. Going further back, one of my all time favourite pinots (sadly no longer made) was the 2010 Cuvée Margoton from Olivier Leflaive, a Pinot noir rosé with the most amazing acidity and fresh fruit when I tasted it in 2016. Proof it's a wonderful if not the best grape.
Merlon Pinot Noir 2017 5/5
Almost a rosé, very dark, earthy, musty, violets, thyme, absolutely wonderful, truffles, on palate very delicate, elegant, perfect body, lovely vegetal finish.
As you can see from this short but sweet note, I loved this wine as a Pinot Noir.
And then Syrah came along. I suppose in a way Northern Rhone Syrah is just a warm-climate 'progression' of Southern Burgundian Pinot Noir (taking a few liberties here!). I came across a handful of Bordeaux chateaux that are starting to make cool-climate Syrah (more on that ASAP!). I got to taste Gérard Bertrand's new range, including his €40 Chateau L'Hospitalet Grand Vin. I loved it. It was leathery where Pinot had been silky, bold where Pinot had been subtle, tannic where Pinot had been soft. There's more to it than 'bigger is better', but I began to wonder whether maybe it was more versatile, equally able to produce stunning wines, and most importantly, accessible in the South of France and in a post-climate change world of hot dry weather. It's also so often (not always!) so much more affordable price-wise than Pinot, as well as seemingly less finnicky for winemakers in less-than-stellar regions.
Gerard Bertrand Hospitalet Grand Vin 2018 5/5
A bit more dried fruit, a touch of barnyard, bursting with ripe fruit, a touch of wood appearing in the background. Leather. Fairly benchmark Syrah. Bursting with more ripe fruit, freshness and jamminess. Super fresh acidity, wonderful crisp but soft. One of my top wines ever - what I want every single red to be, especially a rich Syrah. Coming back to it after Clos d'Ora, rich, custard, floral, outstanding. More floral.
As the majority of the wine I drink is a glass or two with a meal, or a side-note sipped while chatting to friends, maybe
Going a bit further back, I think Pinot Noir dethroned off-dry Welschrieslings, which itself dethroned St Estephe, which stole my heart during this year's en primeurs. Before St Estephe? Banyuls and Maury, stealing the show from Soave. Before those, I think Nebbiolo (following a family holiday to Piedmont). You're probably getting the point - every wine I try takes my fancy quite seriously, and I start to believe it's my favourite, until a new one pops up and helps me realise that maybe I couldn't live the rest of my life with that one previous fancy. Please don't read too much into this and extrapolate about my love life.
And now with Beaujolais Nouveau around the corner, I'm already wondering whether I was too quick to fall in love with Syrah
Regarding the title of this blog post, check out this Know Your Meme page. I try and pretend I'm young and cool...