Better Know A Varietal – Pinot Noir

This little primer on Pinot Noir is a bit harder for me to write than the others. Pinot Noir is the grape for many of my favorite wines. That said, I am a bit opinionated and keeping my populist hat on here is a bit harder.

Where Pinot Noir originated is not known but it most associated with Burgundy where it has flourished for hundreds of years. There it is made into some of the most sublime red wines in the world. There it is also made into overpriced under flavored crap (oops that populist hat is tilting). Explaining red Burgundy would take a book but here is my very abbreviated take. Getting wines from producers you know to be good and from good years is even more important here than in most other regions.

A good Burgundy is a medium to slightly lighter bodied wines with fruit flavors such as cherry and raspberry and more earthy flavors like cedar and tobacco. They are not sweet and have fairly high acidity making them go well with meat, particularly game.

Pinot Noir is made into red wines in other regions of France where while they can be decent, rarely are as good a a good Burgundy. Other countries such as Italy, Chile, New Zealand, and the US also make red wines from Pinot Noir. I have a some very nice Pinot Noir’s from Chile. My luck in New Zealand has been mixed but I have never had a bad one from there. The Italian ones I have had so far taste like generic Italian reds with little Pinot Noir character. The US is a real mixed bag. California has popularized a style that is very fruit forward and sometimes a bit sweet. It is not for me. Oregon has a climate that is closer to that of Burgundy and makes some very nice wines.

Pinot Noir is not just used for red wine. When it is pressed such that the grape skins are quickly removed from the juice it yields a white juice that is a major component of many Champagnes and other sparkling wines. When some contact is allowed between the juice and the skin a rosé is the result. I love Champagne and appreciate ones that have high Pinot Noir content. The rosés I have had have been pleasant but nothing special.


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