Pinot Noir Tasting: Old World 95 to 2004 versus New World 2006 to 2008

Some of you will know that I am a bit of a fanatic about Pinot Noir. Once you get hooked by the (often expensive) wine made from this grape everything else seems slightly second-best.
Once or twice a year a group of us get together for a wine-tasting evening. The last event was Cote-du-Rhone and other Grenach-Syrah-Mourvedre wines from around the world, but last Saturday was an event we had been talking about for a few years: the up-market Pinot Noir evening.

We selected 8 Pinot Noirs, 4 from France, 3 from New Zealand and 1 from America:

The oldest 4 wines are French, and these wines are made for lengthy cellaring with the aim of developing the complexity that only time (usually 10 years+) can bring. I included the 2004 Echezeaux even though it has not yet reached its recommended drinking window just to make the age comparison more interesting.
The youngest 4 wines are all New World, and are made with a more fruit-driven approach for earlier drinking (but these up-market New World Pinots will also continue to improve for a long time). The Bald Hills and Cornish Point both come from the Bannockburn district of New Zealand’s Central Otago in South Island, whereas the Schubert comes from Martinborough in North Island. The Au Bon Climat comes from California.

We usually taste the wines 4 at a time in 4 separate wine-glasses to make it easier to compare side-by-side, and this time we decided to go in strict chronological order.
The bottles were opened at about 6PM and the tasting started at 8.30.

We use a simple scoring system:

Tick one word,       score points for pleasure      Circle Descriptions

Name of wine:


SIGHT                  Score (max 4)

CLARITY:                            cloudy, bitty, dull, clear, brilliant

DEPTH of COLOUR:       watery, pale, medium, deep, dark

COLOUR:                        purple, purple/red, red, red/brown

VISCOSITY:        slight sparkle, watery, normal, heavy, oily

Starbright, tuile,straw, amber,tawny

ruby, garnet,

oeil de perdrix, hazy,


SMELL                 Score (max 4)

GENERAL APPEAL: neutral, clean,attractive,outstanding

Off (yeasty, acetic, oxidized, woody, …)

FRUIT AROMA:                none, slight, positive, identifiable

BOUQUET :                    none, pleasant, complex, powerful                    

Cedarwood, corky, woody, dumb, flowery, smoky, honeyed, lemony, spicy, mouldy, peardrops, sulphury

TASTE                  Score (max 9)

TANNIN:                                       astringent, hard, dry, soft

ACIDITY:                                  flat, refreshing, marked, tart

BODY:    very light & thin, light, medium, full bodied, heavy

LENGTH:                  short, acceptable, extended, lingering

BALANCE:      unbalanced, good, v well balanced, perfect

Appley, bitter, burning, blackcurrants, caramel, dumb, earthy, fat, flinty, green, heady, inky, flabby, mellow, metallic, mouldy, nutty, salty, sappy, silky, spicy, fleshy, woody, watery

OVERALL QUALITY   Score (max 3)

Coarse, poor, acceptable, fine, outstanding

Supple, finesse, breed, elegance, harmonious, rich, delicate

Total Score     (total out of 20)

In the first flight of 4 we all found the 1995 Volnay disappointing, although its colour was still a healthy red. The 1996 Chassagne Montrachet was well liked by everyone and was the winner of this group. The 2004 Echezeaux showed more fruit than the others and was excellent, but undoubtedly will be better drunk in a few years time.

The second flight of 4 were all well-liked. The 2008 Cornish Point was the winner in this group.

The 8 of us in the wine-tasting group have slightly different tastes: just over half tend to prefer the Old World style and the rest tend to prefer New World. But the scoring was reasonably consistent (well OK it did get slightly ragged towards the end of the evening …).

The overal winner by a narrow margin (declared sometime around midnight) was Felton Road’s Cornish Point.
The first time I drank this wine (maybe 6 years ago?) I was amazed at it’s depth of flavour and length of taste, and its still one of my all-time favourites.


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1 Response to Pinot Noir Tasting: Old World 95 to 2004 versus New World 2006 to 2008

  1. gold account says:

    The name Lafite first appears in documents in 1234: The abbot at the time, from the Vertheuil abbey ten kilometers north of Pauillac, is called Gombaud de Lafite. The vineyard’s ascent starts in the 17th century, when the famous winemaking dynasty, the Ségur family, takes care of the estate. Lafite’s vines grow on one of the biggest gravel banks of the Médoc. The name “Lafite” which is derived from the Gascon dialect la hite (“hill”), indicates the privileged location. Lafite’s wines already have the highest reputation near the end of the 18th century; one of the most famous Lafite admirers is the American president Thomas Jefferson.

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