Pinot Noir: The Randy Moss of Wines

July 26, 2010

Drinking Pinot Noir is like watching Randy Moss play football. Play after play I’d sit and watch, waiting to see what Moss was capable of on the field. Play after play I was disappointed. When he became frustrated he used to check out of games, not even trying for long stretches. He got into trouble with unsportsmanlike behavior during end zone celebrations. Once, during a loss, Moss left the field before the end of the game abandoning the team as he wandered off toward the showers like a cow heading to the trough at feeding time. Injuries seemed to hang on him for entire seasons. Off the field, he got busted for, and admitted to marijuana use. Once when trying to make an illegal turn in traffic, a control officer tried to stop him. Rather than complying with annoying little things like following the law, Randy found it easier to simply push the officer aside with his car, knocking her to the ground. Yes, he did so many things wrong.

Then, just when I thought watching Randy Moss became tedious, he would perform something unbelievably, amazingly beautiful. Fans would leap to their feet, buckets of popcorn were kicked across the room and leather sofas got covered in spilled beer. With a seventy-yard, one-handed acrobatic reception against the big division rival, Moss showed us just why we kept watching. When he did it right, it was truly amazing.

Pinot Noir is exactly the same. Its grapes are difficult to grow and consequently is usually expensive. Pinot Noir is also hard to work with and requires a very competent winemaker. Furthermore, Pinot’s thin skin makes it susceptible to disease. If it’s grown in unsuitable areas it produces the most heinous of swill. Again and again Pinot disappoints. So why do we keep buying it? Because when it’s done right, it’s so good you just want to pour the bottle over your head. When it’s done right, it has all the power and complexity of the bigger, darker wines but keeps those qualities tucked within its lighter body. It has power without weight like a flyweight boxer packing a Mike Tyson punch. It shows traits ranging from light red fruits to the darker mochas and coffee-like flavors, often within the same sip.

This week’s recommendation is a great example of what this problem ridden but talented grape can do.

Sebastiani 2007, Pinot Noir ($17.99): Sebastiani is like a Pinot Noir highlight reel showing the grape’s best plays while making no mention of its Prima Donna-like problems.

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