The Pinot Prophecies

pinot noir grapesTwo significant acquisitions in the wine world caught my eye this week. Penner-Ash, one of my favorite Willamette Valley producers, was acquired by Kendall-Jackson; and Patz-Hall a small producer in Sonoma will now be part of the humungous Chateau Ste. Michelle.

As Bob Hunnicut points out, these acquisitions are all about Pinot Noir:

Most of the recent stories of money changing hands in the premium wine market has been about the large guys buying into Pinot Noir because Pinot is hot. How much longer will the demand seem to exceed the supply? How much longer will the people with lots of money throw a bunch of it chasing Pinot? And who’s next? Well, if I was a small producer of Pinot Noir and was ever thinking about retiring rich I’d be sticking my for sale sign out now.

For Pinot fans this is not good news. Pinot Noir is a delicate, temperamental grape that needs cool weather to flourish and cannot be grown anywhere. And it doesn’t lend itself to industrial winemaking either. All this demand is encouraging more planting in marginal vineyards and big producers trying to make a fast buck. Quality will suffer.

I agree with Sonoma Bob. This looks like a bubble although the inherent virtues of the grape may mean a slow leak rather than a burst. There are, after all, not a lot of options for light-bodied, food friendly, reds that manage to be both lush and vibrant even when not particularly well made.

But it will make finding good Pinot Noir at reasonable prices even more difficult.

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