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2010 Bodega Chacra Barda is Pinot Noir

December 4, 2011

Pinot Noir is hot, has been hot. Personally it took a little time for me to come around to the grape but I knew there must be a reason why prices could get so high so I always kept my mind open. I also knew that there must be some good bottles of Pinot Noir that weren’t terribly overpriced so I wasn’t afraid of an interesting closeout. Eventually there were some pitbulls, wines that just wouldn’t let go, that left indelible marks, tattoos as it were.

For years I’ve been fully convinced through personal experience that Pinot is capable of making great wine but it can be tough finding the right bottles. One can definitely spend alot of money on a Burgundy that has no chance of aging well and doesn’t taste very good now.  It is also easy to find overblown styles from California that are pleasurable but more in the way an awesome Zin is pleasurable, thus making it more economical to seek out elegant Zins than big Pinots. It seems however that Pinot growers everywhere are learning lessons and the proliferation of information not only about wine in general  but also about almost every individual wine available in the world makes it tough for bad values.

Still I generally tell people that Pinot Noir, Champagne and Napa Cabs are as a rule overpriced, or at the very least are not categories from which one should expect good values. Pinot is tough to grow so maybe there’s a valid excuse in many cases. With a Blanc de Noirs you might thus always expect exorbitant prices but so much of any variety of Champagne is genuinely overpriced; the Grand Marques are truly a cartel. And Napa Cab, I’m not sure what the deal is, it seems like there may be some image issues going on there. There are doubtless other categories that provide little relative value, but those three really stick out and among them Pinot Noir is perhaps the worst offender.*

A rather peculiar statement made by an MW has always stuck with me. He asserted that Pinot Noir was mostly a wine to smell but that there were certainly exceptions that would make the previous assertion seem ludicrous. One might say the same of Nebbiolo, no? Both grapes seem to be able to produce gloriously perfumed wines on a regular basis but only sometimes come up with a finely balanced drink from start to finish. There are so many Burgundies and Baroli that smell outrageously good yet seem to lose control on the palate; one might make the excuse that they are meant for food or need to age but wouldn’t change the fact that on their own the wines seem to lack a certain cohesion and balance.

The 2010 Bodega Chacra Barda is a delight to smell and with a certain amount of air (I had about a half a glass on the first night,  stuck it in a cool dark place and with the help of a few others polished it off 24 hours later) quite a fine drink. The nose is pure Pinot: red and orange fruits next to an intense aroma reminiscent of the smell one might find wafting about a coniferous forest on a warm, breezy day**. Tannin medium minus, acid medium plus, alcohol low. Sappy and minerally, with a supple texture that belies its light weight, lingering finish just skirts the borders of tart. It made me think of that MW’s opinion of Pinot because while the nose was endlessly fascinating it simply drank very well, the finish nothing to marvel at. Drink now but should age 5 maybe 10 depending on tastes and cellars.

This would go for about $30 retail. Is that a good deal? In the realm of Pinot Noir? Yes, yes and yes. There are certainly wines of similar complexity that might cost $15 (2005 Lame Deslisle Boucard Bourgeuil Cuvee Prestige, perhaps the greatest value in red wine I have ever encountered) but they are not Pinot.

Bodega Chacra is the fabulously interesting Patagonian project of  Piero Incisa della Rocchetta. If the entry level Pinot is this good I’m going to be looking around for the other wines (two more Pinots and a Merlot). Being the fanatic that I am I probably won’t mind the price too much at all because it seems that Chacra has apprehended Pinot itself and that is a rare catch.

*An obvious exception is in the world of collectible bottles where there are many Grand Cru red Burgundies, not made by DRC or Leroy, that look like bargains next to First Growths.

**What is that smell? Well, that of dried pine needles but also something like cinnamon, rosemary, subtle smoke and soil (one could certainly go on). It is a wonderfully complex smell yet somehow one of the most simple and pure whiffs I am ever able to recall. “Forest floor” is what it might amount to in so many tasting notes but not all forest’s floors smell alike, that perfect pine forest smell however is something I associate with Pinot Noir alone. Saying it smells like a “forest floor” is like saying “coffee smells like coffee” or my favorite “wine smells like grapes”, both statements are so very true but tend to be annoying (though every so often endearing) to a guy like me.

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