Editors' note: To close 2011, Palate Press: The online wine magazine will be featuring some of our top stories from the past year. Our fourth piece comes from columnist Evan Dawson, reporting on the uproar over rumors that California Pinot Noir producers beef their wines up with Syrah.
A thick tome, 132 years old, has survived to tell the story of Piedmont's grape-growing past. That is, if you can decipher the flowery penmanship and wade through the anachronistic turns of phrase. There, in a section on grape varieties in the book called “Wine Production and Oenology in the Province of Cuneo, 1879”, lies both the question and, perhaps, the answer to one of the region's great mysteries.
It has not been a good month for Laike, the two-year-old mutt whose sole task is to identify the hidden locations of white truffles. Her handlers have trained her to identify the scent of the prized underground mushroom, and she has shown great promise. But October, like September, has largely been a bust in Piedmont.
No matter how good it is, a region cannot live by Riesling alone—at least, not in the context of North American wine production, where consumers sometimes seem disappointed if they cannot find every style in one place. What is clear, in any case, is that a region will not live by one color alone.
You will rarely, if ever, visit a wine region about which you know essentially nothing. That was the curious position in which I found myself as I arrived for TasteCamp North last weekend in Niagara, Canada.
Winemakers who work hard to bring pure, outstanding Pinot Noir to their customers are sick of accusations about blending with Syrah. But cutting Pinot with Syrah or other varieties is perfectly legal. In California, a wine can be labeled “Pinot Noir” as long as 75% of the wine is Pinot. So why do we care if winemakers are cutting their Pinot?
Whatever the cost of the average bottle of wine on your dinner table, it's a safe bet that it's less than $360. And yet that total—$360—is the average cost of a bottle of the top wine made by the producers featured in wine critic James Suckling's first promotional video for his new website.