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2011 Champion

Pinot Noir is the world champion of wine, it’s official. At least for 2011 that is. In a nerdily-awesome remake, somebody on twitter started Marc Madness, a competitive bracket mirroring college basketball for grape varieties. Whites on one side, reds on the other, and only in the finals do they meet (full bracket here). Riesling blew away the competition on the white side, trouncing everyone in its path (maybe Chardonnay was close) but then it hit the juggernaut of Pinot Noir. Luck ran out in the second half, and Pinot emerged covered in garlands as Riesling hit the showers and regrouped for next year.

Generational Revolt
Pinot Noir is that current sweet spot in wine-taster’s mouth. It’s red, it’s difficult (like all annoying winos) and it’s the opposite of all those big wines that people have loved and keep loving for years. Think big California Cabernets and bigger Chardonnays that coat your mouth in wine — soooo 1990s. Now it’s all soft, round, small, restrained fruit that grew up in France and went to boarding school abroad. It’s sophisticated, it sounds sexy and it probably wears a brooklyn fedora on the weekends. Call it a generational revolt or “these darn kids” (shakes fist) but it’s what’s in season.

Pinot and Jazz
Check your wine bar list and fax me if you find a list without Pinot. Just won’t happen. Most likely, they’ve got several – one from Burgundy, one from Oregon and one from California or New Zealand. That’s where the Pinot kids hang out. Burgundy – it’s the heartland and the soul of the grape, kinda like jazz and New Orleans. You can talk all you want about Dizzy’s, Chicago and Wynton Marsalis at Lincoln Center, but jazz is New Orleans. There’s no dispute. Then you get the newbies, the Oregons, the California hotspots and New Zealand’s Central Otago – all doing interesting and pretty cool things that nobody’s tried before. Oregon, always the hippest of any social trend, holds an annual Pinot Fest for “Pinot freaks.” Clearly not your grandfather’s wine festival.

Today there’s actually two options to check out, one from Burgundy and one from Austria. Why two? Parents – they come in twos and so should their wines. My dad mentioned that he liked red wines but not the heavy ones, which makes sense – he’s a light guy, both in humor and in weight. Also, he adores puns and somehow Cabernet seems way too serious for puns. So, I’d been saving this Austrian Pinot for a long time and thought it’d be perfect to try with them during a night of cooking in.

Turns out, it was way heavier than expected, although still in that medium-body range. Plus, it had all kinds of interesting, unexpected stuff along the side of the road – like driving through South Dakota. Not that everyone likes driving through South Dakota or stopping at the Corn Palace. So, between four of us, we came up with red fruits, dark finish and extremely smooth finish. 4 different votes though: 1 for magnificent, 1 for liked it, 1 for ok and 1 for didn’t like it.

Taste Too
Luck played a big hand in the second Pinot since our waiter pretty much insisted we try it at dinner the next night. The “Bourgogne” label threw us a bit but we managed to figure out that we were in Burgundy territory and the “Pinot Noir” on the label convinced us we were into a second bottle of Grape #29. Lighter body than the Austrian (or than almost every red – my dad approved; one could tell by his Groucho eyebrows at the use of the phrase “good body”) and really smooth, this wine got consistent voting – no magnificents, no oks, no didn’t like its. Just 4 liked it – perfect for the family dinner table.

Detail Up!
Austrian – Pinot Noir Gesellman Siglos 2004 from Bergenland, Austria
French – Pinot Noir Bonnes & Guerre 2009 from Burgundy, France

Random Googles:
* Pinot Noir = Black Pine(cone) – see a bunch, you’ll get it.
* Spätburgunder – the unpronounceable German name for Pinot and, consequently, the reason we call it “Pinot”
* Monks grew Pinot in Burgundy for about 1,600 years until they had their lands seized in the French Revolution – apparently, they still have a lot of monasteries among the vineyards.

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This wine bottle from Austria confuses me. I don’t speak Austrian so that doesn’t help. And even in Austria they don’t speak Austrian, so we’re really at a loss. Anyway, this wine has two grapes (50/50), so there’s no way to know to distinguish one grape from another. Both are getting mentioned in this post.

The wine’s labeled as a Zweigelt Cuvee, and cuvee is French for “we have no idea what’s in the bottle.” Zweigelt though is a grape, which the Austrians shorten to “Blauer Zweigelt.” It’s easier to pronounce that way. In fact, there was a Mr. Zweigelt who developed the grape and then blogged about it in autobiographical book form (anyone know the title?). He lived to the ripe old age of 76 and developed other grapes in his secret wine lair. Clearly though, Zweigelt is his most famous concotion.


Zweigelt is Austria’s red pride and joy, similar to American Zinfandels and the Chinese flag. More acres of Zweigelt are under production in Austria than any other grape, and this particular bottle came from Niederosterreich (Austrian for “our biggest wine region”).


The other grape doesn’t have the fame of Dr. Zweigelt to back it up so even at 50% it’s getting the short end of the vine. Still, it’s all kinds of interesting in its own obscure way. Blaufrankisch means “blue” the same way that Eiffel 65 meant blue in the early 2000s. East Europe loves blue, not just for the techno hit (which it does) but for this grape. Czechs, Slovaks and Slovenes adore this wine so keep that in mind for your next Slovene dinner date. You can call it Lemberger if that’s easier to pronounce but remember it’s not a cheese. It’s Eastern Europe’s techno grape.


As for how the wine tasted, it was pretty fruity and light. Red and fruity with some darker flavor elements but in a really light on the mouth way. Kinda like a chocolate covered cherry without any calories but all the taste where the cherry keeps the other flavors in check. Also of note is the fact that the bottle comes in 1L only. Better than your mother’s 750ml and 25% more buxom. Yes, buxom.

Detail Up!
Artner Zweigelt Cuvee Landwein trocken Osterreich Abfuller (not really sure what all those words mean) – thanks for the photo Greene Grape guys

Random Googles
* “Bull’s Blood” is an actual name of a famous Hungarian wine. Kinda awesome. Also, it has Blaufrankisch in it.
* Zweigelt is popular in titles among wine bloggers. Something about that A-Z where Zweigelt is the kid that always got called last by his teacher.
* Dr. Vino thinks that Blaufrankisch is the best red you’ve never heard of. Little does he know that you know.

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