The Perfect Pinot

The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your lifetime searching for one and it would not be a wasted life” – Matsumoto, The Last Samurai

I feel much the same about pinot noir. I have been into pinot the relatively short time of just over a year. Having spent most of my early wine years drinking Barossa reds (shiraz mainly and some cab sav), I always thought of pinot as watered down. The very few times I tried it during those years it just tasted weak, insipid and boring. That all changed after a trip to the Mornington Peninsula. That place opened up a whole new world of possibilities – all of a sudden I was drinking this wonderful varietal that was utterly different to the big reds that I was used to. More delicate, more savoury and somehow more alluring. While I am not at the level of Miles in the movie Sideways, I do share his love of the grape and appreciate his reasoning.

Finding a great pinot takes a lot more effort than the other reds, just like growing and bottling it. It’s a very delicate grape, lower yielding and much more difficult to make a good wine out of. During my brief love affair with the grape, I’ve had bigger, gutsier pinots which almost had me thinking I was drinking a shiraz or cabernet until the familiar savoury flavour came through. I’ve had more expensive bottles that left me utterly disappointed, I’ve had $20 bottles that left me saying “well that ain’t half bad”. I just opened a fantastic bottle tonight that really captured what pinot is for me, although it is still well shy of what I would call a perfect pinot. It was light bodied at first, almost like the feeling of sliding into a bed with freshly changed soft cotton sheets. It wasn’t pushy or assertive, it didn’t demand that I sit up and pay attention. It was like a beautiful woman on the other side of the room that knows you are looking at her, and offers you a brief smile. The fruit and earthy savouriness perfectly balanced, the tannins just there enough to make their presence felt without interrupting the proceedings.

And yet, as I said, it is still a ways from the perfect pinot I am searching for. That perfect balance which is almost ethereal. Every pinot I have tried so far that has come close has either been on the too heavy or too light side of that line, none have come as close as tonight’s. One day I’ll find it…

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Apples Apples Apples

Mmmmm cider. It is definitely one of the main drinks in my yearly rotation, usually reserved for summer. Most people love a beer during the summer, but being that I prefer more full bodied beers that are perfect for autumn, cider is generally my go to in summer. The other occasion when I drink it, however, is with German food. I’ve been watching Anthony Bourdain a lot lately and he was recently in the Czech Republic where he was eating pork knuckle and drinking copious amounts of beer. Needless to say my mouth was watering and all I’ve been able to think about since then is getting some European grub into me. Not being able to get my hands on pork knuckle, I settled for a good German spread of potato bake, sauerkraut, sausages and gravy, accompanied by a bottle of cider. A lot of people would instantly think beer to accompany this kind of food, and if it’s the middle of winter I’d definitely agree. Cider adds something different though. This kind of food has a high fat content – really high. When I think of pork knuckle or most kinds of pork dishes, there is a lot of fat in there, and it starts to make me feel full and queasy (and keep in mind I have a high tolerance for naturally fatty foods) pretty quick. Add beer to that, which is full of yeast, and you’ve got a recipe for an exploding stomach (I have an image of Augustus Gloop from Willy Wonka in my head now for some reason). Cider, however, is the great cleanser. It’s crisp, it’s fruity and it cuts through all that fat on your palate to keep you refreshed and able to keep eating. In fact, in Normandy they drink shots of calvados (brandy made with apples instead of grapes) between meals as a palate cleanser. If it’s good enough for the French, it’s good enough for me.

The other fact is that apples just go really damn well with pork. When you have a plate full of potato, sausage, sauerkraut and gravy, apples can become a bit superfluous, but not if they’re in liquid form!

Low Alcohol, Low Carb

Any combination of these three words is something that sends shivers down my spine. The whole low alcohol, low carb thing is one that I just don’t understand. I’m writing this post as I sit here drinking a Strongbow Clear cider, labelled as both low alcohol and low carb. It is insipid and tasteless, and makes me wonder why the hell anyone would willingly drink this shit (it happens to be the only cider in the fridge at the moment). When you take alcohol and/or carbs out of any alcoholic beverage, you change (or in most cases remove) the flavour. Are people really that keen on knocking back drink after drink that they don’t even care if it tastes like the watered down real product? Seriously, if you’re worried about your waistline, don’t drink. If you have to drive, don’t drink (or limit it to one). Drinking should be a pleasurable activity that isn’t done for the sake of it. If you actually like the low alcohol stuff, then by all means keep drinking it. But if you’d rather drink the full strength version either a) drink the full strength and limit your intake or b) space your drinks out with water. The amount of guys that drink Pure Blonde in summer and say “they’re just easy to throw back” is enormous. I’ve tried Pure Blonde and it is flavourless swill. Why decline the amazing flavour of so many other great beers by throwing back this modified crap just so you can drink more?