On Wine


How Much Should You Pay For Pinot Noir?


by Fred McMillin


Does a typical $15 Pinot Noir usually taste distinctly better than a $10 bottle? Is the $20 clearly better than the $15? We ask the question because our past studies at S.F. City College (Ft. Mason campus) found for ZINFANDEL quality improved nicely from $10 to $20 but very slowly above that price.

Conclusion: When in doubt, don't pay more than $20 for ZINFANDEL.

As for CABERNET SAUVIGNON, we found only a little improvement from $10 to $15 and that $20 was markedly better and that quality improved further above $20.

Conclusion: If you want an inexpensive CAB, $10 is as good as $15, but $20 usually brings a much better bottle.

The Pinot Noir Answer

We sipped PINOTS ranging from $9 to $65 and found something different—quality of even the lowest priced bottles was good, and quality increased steadily with price! So, as one moves up the price ladder, you get distinctly better tasting wine, as you see.

On Wine: Rankings
Score and Price of Typical Pinot Noirs
81 $11 Pinot Noir, Forest Glenn, California, 2006
84 $14 Pinot Noir, Cycles Gladiator, Central Coast, 2005
87 $19 Pinot Noir, Rodney Strong, Sonoma, 2003
88 $32 Pinot Noir, Gundlach-Bundschu, Sonoma, 2002
91 $60 Pinot Noir, Gary Farrell, Allen Vineyards, Sonoma, 2003
93 $65 Pinot Noir, Gary Farrell, Rochioli-Allen Vineyards, Sonoma, 2004

So, pick your price range and try that Pinot. If you like Pinots, you'll be happy.


A Final Wine Smile

In James Beard's Greenwich Village townhouse, my wife took cooking lessons for eight years, learning classic American dishes, such as Lobster American Style. Then, she wanted to learn French dishes on location, so we headed for Paris where she qualified for classes at the legendary L'Ecole De Cordon Bleu. Yet, when I picked her up after the first lesson, she was rather glum. It seems the chef had taught them how to prepare Lobster American Style!


Fred McMillin

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He was voted one of the U.S.A's 22 Best wine writers by the Academy of Wine Communications. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.


Copyright © 2008, Fred McMillin. All rights reserved.


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This page created June 2008

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