Friday, March 4, 2011

Cabernet vs Pinot Noir

This entry will be a little different. Rather than getting all scholarly on you, this will be stream-of-consciousness instead, relying on my thirty years of accrued wine knowledge to show the fundamental differences between the two finest red wine grape types in the world. The occasion for this rant is this afternoon's tasting of cabs and pinots and my expectation that the cabs will show better and be much better received.

Cabernet is grown everywhere where fine wine vineyards exist and seems to produce well wherever planted. So if you want a good wine selection, all things being equal, hedge your bets and get a cab at any price you desire. Your selection should display a breadth of complex and complimentary flavors housed in a medium body format which may include the jammy forward fruit so popular currently. Typically Cabernet shows black currant, blackberry, and black cherry fruit flavors along with pepper, tar, and others drawn from oak barrel aging. Cabernet is ideally paired with strongly flavored red meat dishes like steaks and game and may require decanting or aerating prior to dinner.

Pinot is the ying to Cabernet's yang. It should not be widely planted because frankly it is a low yielding vine that performs poorly in most venues. Pinot compliments roast anything, meat sauces and gravies, and crosses over with salmon and fowl. The flavor profile includes cherry, strawberry, and raspberry but also ripe tomato, mushrooms, truffles, and barnyard. Pinot should be earthy but inexpensive examples often yield just the fruit flavors. Pinot Noir is lighter in body than Cabernet and features a longer flavor from its aroma (often floral) through its finish. The jamminess of Cabernet flavors contrasts with the elongated and winier flavors in Pinot Noir.

While there are good Cabernets and Pinots available everywhere at popular prices, as stated above, Cabernet is usually the safer bet. Really good Pinot is expensive and not always a solid performer even then. But when it is good, it makes the search seem minor compared to the reward. In case you can't tell, you can put me in the Pinot column.

Thanks for reading,


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