Who put the pinot noir in the Chateauneuf?

Last night, 12 of us assembled for a dinner graciously hosted by Ben Goldberg as the May session of “Leo’s Blind Tasting Club.” There were a lot of great wines and perhaps others will post notes on them, but I found one to be completely shocking. I would have bet the ranch that the first wine of the first red flight was a pinot noir from California with about 8 years of age on it. Just the right color, a light amount of that cola pinot funk that gives away Cali pinot and allows for a good assessment of age based upoin how the funk has integrated, and a cherry and red berry fruit profile that I woudl expect to find if I opened, let’s say, one of my bottles of Dumol 2003 pinot. At least one other person at the table agreed that it was a middle aged Cali pinot.

When the wine was revealed, it was 2006 M. Chapoutier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Barbe Rac. I still have trouble believing that Ben did not switch wines by accident, but there were no pinots at all last night so that doesn’t explain it. I have had the Barbe Rac once or twice before, and I recall a “normal” CndP flavor profile. Anyone have any thoughts, other than that my palate has not yet recovered from BF 2.5?

I’ve had a couple '06 CdP’s that were quite fresh, light on their feet, and without great depth of color or palate depth; it sounds like the '06 Chapoutier Barbe Rac is one of those. I can’t say I thought the examples I tried tasted like Pinot, but they certainly had pinot-like personalities.

Isn’t it more like certain Cali pinots are made to taste like grenache, rather than the other way around?

I’ve had at least one CA Grenache that I’d have sworn blind was a Pinot.

An interesting thought. I always get raspberry from Grenache, and this was cherry. Is Cali pinot more forceful than Burg pinot? Yes, we know that. but there is a particular flavor that I have never gotten in a CndP, and have never gotten in a Grenache, that existed in this wine. Whenever I get that flavor, which some people have described as cola and others as pinot funk, in a blind tasting, I immediately guess pinot and I have never been wrong before. Hence, the reason I started this thread.

While I agree that cola flavor shows up in (bad) California pinot more than anything, I’ve tasted it in grenache, too. When you think about it, the main flavor component of cola is burnt sugar, so it’s not surprising the flavor should appear in wines from any region with scorching hot temperatures.

I am part of a group of complete Burg-heads, and also a member of the Singapore Chapter of the Confrerie du Chevalier du Tastevin - and I must say that I have been embarrassed time and again by an aged, blinded Southern Rhone. There is nothing that delights my particular group of sad wine geeks more than passing off a wine as a Burg, and no other wine has succeeded more than an aged Southern Rhone. We have mistaken 70’s CdP and Gigondas for Grand Cru Burg over and over again. I think there is a certain affinity with Grenache and Pinot, especially when aged, even more so than say Nebbiolo and Pinot.

what’s that old Harry Waugh quote? It’s something like:
"Have you ever mistaken Bordeaux for Burgundy?’
‘Not since lunch . . .’

I had a bottle of 2001 SeaSmoke Ten last year, and if I had tasted it blind, I would have been convinced it was a grenache . . .

I do see some aromatic similarities between the two varieties - especially the fact that they wear the climate in which the grapes are grown and the clones used on their sleaves . . .

Interested to hear what others have to say, but no huge surprise here . . .



Haven’t tasted the wine in question, but Cherry is certainly a part of Grenache’s Aroma/Flavor profile.

A couple of my recent CDP “Cherry Bombs” :wink:

'07 Vieux Donjon has amazing red & wild cherry as the main fruit component on the nose & palate.

‘07 Tardieu-Laurent Vieilles Vignes drips & oozes with deep, rich ambrosial black cherry (with Cassis & black raspberry backin’ up the cherry)

Pinot “Funk” comes from Funky (i.e. old bacteria laden barrels) oak, which a winemaker can use to infect any wine. LOL

I think that was particularly true in the past, when CdP really tasted like grenache. Many now seem to be more extracted and to stress syrah flavors more. It might have something to do with yields, too (probably lower now). But there was a delicacy in some CdPs that seems rarer now.

Agreed - a 1990 Pegau I had last summer was sublime in its delicateness and elegance, words that are not usually used to describe more recent vintages.


1st: My experience with Californian PN is close to zero … let´s say 10 wines in 20 years!

2nd: Cherries, sour cherries are indeed typical for Grenache wines … less so for (French) Pinot Noir I´d say …

3rd: I know Barbe Rac very well … it is 100% Grenache … and has a certain resemblance to Chateau Rayas, but is usually more satiny, more polished and civilized … (but 2006 not tasted)

Some 8 years ago I did a (blind) tasting of top-Burgundies vintages 1988/89 (10 each) … with one ringer … after the last flight the whole group was discussing if the 1989 Musigny was the WOTN - or the ringer …

The ringer was Ch.Rayas 1988 (100% Grenache)


I think that there is/are some flavor that can be attributed as “funk” in Pinot that has nothing to do with flaw or faulty barrels or failed method. It can be a musky quality, sometimes like truffle, or it can be a slightly decaying quality, sometimes quite prominent and leading to the Sous-bois and forest floor descriptions. I suppose the argument can be made that it is a flaw even if a beneficial flaw, but it doesn’t seem to be that.


You say that the most part of the cola scent/flavor associated with PN, particularly CA PN, is burnt sugar, but it seems to me that it has more to do with Cola nut, which is perhaps a riper derivation of the funk I describe above rather than any manifestation of sugar quality. If it was the latter I would again look to the barrels, to the toast, but I think that it does appear to be an expression of the grape, but at a much riper level, and perhaps a completely different expression generally, than what is found in other regions where this sort of note is absent.

I address these two points together because they seem to be a part of the same concept and both are attributed here to flaws in winemaking or perhaps technique while it seems to me that they at least could be expressions of the same attribute of the grape varietal, only in different proportions or styles.