Pinot Noir threatens to dominate public image of state
By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI
The Oregon wine industry must strike a balance between promoting itself as a unified brand and highlighting the diversity of wine in the state, according to a panel of experts.
Wedged between two larger wine-producing states -- California and Washington -- Oregon has successfully cultivated an image of finesse, experts said at the recent Oregon Wine Symposium in Portland.
However, wine critics and retailers on the panel said there is a danger of Oregon's identity being too conflated with its signature varietal, Pinot Noir.
"People don't want to drink Pinot Noir every day of the week," said Jeremy Noye, wine buyer for the Zachys auction company.
The fortunes of the Australian wine industry were negatively impacted by a "race to the bottom" in Syrah prices, largely due to a lack of differentiation among wines, said Doug Frost, wine consultant for the United and Continental airline companies.
"That is the very definition of a commodity spiral," he said.
On the other hand, the trend toward designating multiple "appellations," or distinct wine-growing regions, should make the industry appear as a house divided, experts said.
The best approach will be to explain regional differences within the state without implying one area is better than another, said Frost.
Consumers should initially learn about Oregon as a whole and then be led to discover the subtleties of various appellations, said Noyle.
"You've got to make that statement," he said. "First you've got to embrace Oregon."
The industry's emphasis on differences in soil is a step in the right direction, since many other wine regions overly focus on weather, said Josh Raynolds, assistant editor at Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, a fine wine publication.
"That is the direction the wine world is going," he said. "I'd say Oregon is ahead of the game."