Pinot Noir: The Heartbreak Grape
By: Mackenzie Brisbois
Pinot Noir is often called the heartbreak grape. The wines can cost a small fortune and are sought after by elites — sold at auction, traded and highly coveted.
But getting it to bottle is half the battle — from delicate vines to thin skins — and that is even before the challenge of making it! Is it worth it? We think it is!
Producers of Pinot Noir feel a different connection to the grape. Held high with much esteem, but also approached with trepidation. In the vineyard, the grape has an incredibly thin skin and is incredibly susceptible to disease. Under wet drying Botrytis cinerea can take effect, turning the thin skin of Pinot Noir into a mouldy mess. Botrytis is fungus that causes heartbreak, because after a long season an entire crop could be lost and what else can a grower do but mourn a broken heart.
Across Prince Edward County, which is known as the best Pinot Noir region in Canada (known by me), our vineyard crews spend endless back breaking hours perfecting these little bunches. We tenderly prune and select our canes for the season. Next, we train the vines up so that we optimize sunlight and airflow to increase fruit quality, plant health and to decrease disease pressure.
Our next step is to remove leaves around the clusters, for increased sunlight penetration and so that we get quicker drying conditions. Heavy dews, high humidity or rain that dries slowly are excellent conditions for diseases to grow. After leaf pulling it is time to put up bird netting and electric fences to prevent birds from damaging cluster, letting botrytis set in and to prevent raccoons from eating up our entire years crop. At this point, we wait and we try to remain calm whilst monitoring weather conditions. Perched on the edge of our seats we fluctuate between nervous and excited as we get ready for the upcoming harvest. Maybe we indulge in a bottle or two of the previous vintages or sample the efforts of our neighbours.
This month I am including a Pinot Noir that was as hand-crafted as handcrafted wines come. Grown by the incredible Isabelle Patenaude from a forgotten vineyard that has been rehabilitated with exceptional care. The site is on a south facing slope and features Darlington Clay Loam. Vines were originally planted by winemaker Deborah Paskus. After her retirement, the vineyard saw years of neglect before being revived by Isabelle and her partners. Vines in 2020 were aged 10 and 17 years and were cropped exceptionally low, giving the wines from this site depth and concentration.
2020 Revival Pinot Noir
“Pinot noir shows its best qualities when grown in places that are on the edge. A struggle to grow, no question! But rewarded in the bottle with a truly great pinot that is the perfect marriage of grape and place. We chose to bring these old vines back to life because we think the County is one of those places.”
Grape Grower Extraordinaire
Hand picked and hand destemmed, this Pinot Noir was coddled right from the day it began. Vines grown on a forgotten vineyard have been rehabilitated into a sustainably farmed, ultra premium vineyard. The 2020 vintage was the 1st vintage and is a collaboration between friends on Melville Road and Trail Estate. Clusters were rolled over a stainless steel plate with holes in it as a very gentle way of removing berry from cluster. The wine underwent a natural fermentation with gentle maceration prior to pressing. Put to older French oak barrels to age for 9 months. Bottle unfined and unfiltered.
2020 Dean’s List Botrytis Affected Chardonnay
Hand-picked selecting for noble rot at Nokara vineyard in Lincoln Lakeshore. Harvested at 30 brix and 9.2 g/L TA. Destemmed and macerated for 12 hours in two picking bins, then pressed, settled, racked and inoculated in a single new French oak barrel plus a couple hundred litres in stainless. Although malolactic was initiated it did not complete. Just under two years ageing before racking, filtering and bottling.