2010 Pinot Noirs: Turning Leaf V Santa Helena

It's funny how the wines you remember liking from years ago can end up
Posted 19th September 2012        

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It’s funny how the wines you remember liking from years ago can end up tasting quite different to how you imagined them.

Well, it’s not “funny” exactly. Perhaps it’s blindingly obvious. Perhaps it’s ever so slightly sad. I don’t know.

But this Californian supermarket-staple Pinot Noir, Turning Leaf, was a firm favourite of the wife’s some years ago before she had the guiding hand of an award-winning* master sommelier** to help her choose the right wines.

And a few years later, it just doesn’t taste how she remembers.

We all have our wine memories, and for those of us who began our wine-drinking careers*** on the shelves in Sainsbury’s****, it’s almost inevitable that revisiting an old favourite like this you’ll find out that things just ain’t how they were. One of you has changed, and – if it’s a big-vineyard product from the New World – it probably ain’t the wine.

There’s almost certainly a sloppy analogy to be drawn with old friendships, romances, etc., but the fact is that as you get older – and especially if your tastes are allowed the chance to develop – you’ll no longer want to attach yourself to a product for the sake of brand loyalty or sentimentality.

And when you can get what is frankly a much better product from another producer, from another country, for more or less the same price, maybe it’s time to form new loyalties?

The Chilean bottle from Santa Helena is just a much richer, deeper example of the grape. While Turning Leaf’s offering is fruity and sprightly, there is nothing wholly satisfying in the aroma: nothing truly identifiable – just a faint hint of the tropes one has come to expect from the grape: a vegetal, farmy scent and flavours of red and black fruits in equal measures.

With the Santa Helena bottle, you’re right there on the farm; you can see and feel the fruit as well as smell and taste it. You’ve got that rich manurey smell that’s almost like dried cannabis flowers*****, and the warm juicy sensation of ripe cherries. But where the Californian wine is a bit thinly fruity on the finish, the Chilean is much more rounded and savoury, with woody, tangy, spicy notes lingering on the tongue. Nothing is lost with this addition, and so much is gained.

Quite simply, it’s the difference between wine and good wine. And it’s the sort of thing that brand loyalty – or grape loyalty, or country loyalty, or any kind of factor that stems your wine-related adventurousness – can prevent you from discovering.

You have been warned.

Santa Helena‘s Casablanca Valley Pinot is available – like many fine wines – from the Co-op.

Turning Leaf is available pretty much everywhere.

That’s all.

* disclaimer: awards won may not relate to wine choosing, wine writing, or wine; awards may relate to primary school anti-smoking campaign pictures and/or advanced-intermediate Welsh-language learning.

** disclaimer: “master sommelier” in this sense is taken to be a self-diagnosed condition, not to be confused with any “Master of Wine” honours or other sommelier-related job titles awarded by any official governing body.

*** disclaimer: wine drinking is not a career; it is a hobby. Where considered a “career”, it would probably be better considered a habit, or an addiction.

**** disclaimer: not actually on them – not while drinking, at any rate.

***** disclaimer******: I have never smoked illegal drugs and if ever I did or had, which I haven’t and won’t, it would be for legal medicinal reasons only.

****** apology: sorry about all the disclaimers.

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Meet the Author:
Alexander Velky
Alexander grew up on Anglesey, almost as far away from civilization as he’d have liked. He studied English at university and subsequently moved to Prague to teach it to Czech people for just long enough that he could say he’d done that. He then returned to the UK to do an MA in Professional Writing, and later moved to London by accident and worked in the music industry for a while. His interest in wine has been developing throughout. He took the WSET Intermediate exam, for which he was rewarded with a certificate and a pin badge, but he probably won't bother doing any more. He now lives in Pembrokeshire with his wife and daughter. He writes, and drinks, for a living. You can follow him on Twitter if that's how you choose to spend your time. Photograph by Léonie Keeble