Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Soil Matters

At the Dressner tasting yesterday I experienced a shockingly clear example of the role that soil plays in shaping wine. Opening several wines at a time is the best way for a guy like me, who is in the middle of building his tasting memory, to get a good sense of the differences that soil can bring. Most of the wine I drink is at home with dinner, and we don't often open several wines just for the sake of comparison. When I win the lottery, we'll do so regularly, and this blog will be all the better for it.

That's why this experience at the Dressner tasting was so interesting for me. I've had François Pinon's wines before at home, and I've had them at tastings too, but they were just profound yesterday, really singing their own songs. These are two Vouvrays that could not be more different from one another, although the vineyards are within a couple of kilometers from each other and they were vinified in exactly the same way. The 2007 Vouvray Cuvée Tradition is from clay soils and the wine is rich and round with a ripe honeyed fruit character, expansive and broad. There is good acidity and structure, but this is a wine that is driven by voluptuous fruit, and it is clean and delicious.

The 2007 Vouvray Silex Noir is from soils of rocky black flint, and the wine is much leaner, with a racy mineral character that drives through the finish. There is lovely fruit here too, but it is of a more refined nature. It is also quite ripe, ripe enough so that there is a honeyed glow to the intense mineral mid-palate, but the essence of this wine to me is the cutting rocky minerality. It is a balanced and beautiful wine, and at about $24 retail, a terrific value in my opinion.

Both wines are technically demi-secs, or off-dry wines, with 18 grams of residual sugar in the Tradition and 17 in the Silex Noir (the limit is 9 grams in order to be labeled as a sec, or dry wine). But the Tradition feels and tastes like a demi-sec, whereas the Silex Noir feels and tastes like a dry wine that has a honeyed edge.

I asked François Pinon, who like almost all of the producers represented at this very fine tasting, was right there pouring and discussing his wines, how these two wines can be so completely different from one another. He said, simply, "If I describe these soils to you, I could be describing the wines. Silex is filled with sharp black rocks, and the other with deep soft clay."

And there you have it - in 2007, François Pinon has definitely figured out how to make the earth speak. And as an aside, although both are great wines, I preferred the Silex Noir, and Pinon says that his wines in 2007 will age gracefully for a long time. I think this one is a good candidate for my daughter's birth-year case.


Cliff said...

Here again, more wines I need to try. These are more in my sweet spot price-wise. I don't have much experience with Pinon, but it has all been terrific. Did you try the sparkling version David brought in last year at CSW, only in magnums? Boy do I wish I had saved one or two.

David McDuff said...

I could have lived without a limo but Dressner didn't even send me a freakin' invite. WTF?!?

I'll have to grit my teeth and settle for a bottle of Pinon's Silex Noir at home sometime soon.


Brooklynguy said...

hey cliff - yes, try these. i did have that 2004 only in magnums, and i liked it better at tastings than I did when I had it at home. I like the new wine, the 2006 brut better than the 2004.

McDee - i didn't get an official invite either, I groveled.