“It’s not a survivor like Cabernet…Pinot needs constant care and attention…it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked-away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression… Then, I mean, oh, its flavors. They’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and … ancient on the planet.” The movie Sideways main character, Miles, on his favorite wine
National Pinot Noir Day is August 17, so we’re giving you some info on this popular wine in advance to help you gear up for the big day.
Pinot Noir is the classic grape of Burgundy, France, where the greatest wines are produced in the east and south-east-facing limestone hills of Côte d’Or. A thin-skinned grape, Pinot Noir is temperamental and difficult to grow in certain climates and soils. It’s an ancient fruit believed to be 1000 years older than Cabernet Sauvignon, having been around since the Roman times.
Depending on its origins, wines produced with Pinot Noir exhibit a range of aromas, textures and flavors, but are commonly light to medium-bodied with red berry and earthy characteristics – hints of raspberry, loganberry, mulberry, tart cherry and strawberry. Some are delicate with subtle, earthy nuances like mushroom and truffle, tinged with incense and cola-like spice.
Deep color is often associated with big flavor, but that’s not necessarily the case with Pinot Noir. Because the grape has a low concentration of color-producing anthocyanin, these tend to be a light hue while deeply flavorful. The least costly versions of the wines — that are blended with other grapes to boost color — generally offer less on the palate.
Knowledge of its terroir is essential to understanding Pinot Noir. The wine can have a broad range of flavors depending on when and where it’s grown. The best wines reflect the soil, climate and vintage conditions. Any pure varietal Pinot from Burgundy, Oregon’s Willamette Valley or cool sites in California will offer delicate aromatics; clean flavors of cranberry, raspberry and cherry with gentle suggestions of herbs and leaves.
- French Pinot Noir
In Burgundy, Pinot Noir is usually very herbaceous and light. Earthy aromas dominate and faint floral smells of roses, violet and fruit such as cherries.
- California Pinot Noir
California Pinot Noirs are bigger, lush and more fruit-forward. Flavors range from sweet black cherry to black raspberry and aromas of vanilla, clove, cola, and caramel.
- Oregon Pinot Noir
Often lighter in color and texture than California Pinot Noir, it is usually more tart, with cranberry, bing cherry fruit flavors and aromas of truffle mushrooms and dandelion stem.
- New Zealand Pinot Noir
The Central Otago plateau produces rich Pinot Noir in a style similar to California, but with stronger spice and gamey-meaty aromas with fruit.
Pinots are most often oaked in French barrels, have medium-low tannins and medium-high acidity. Many producers will make wines with a technique called Whole Cluster Fermentation, when the entire grape bunch including the stems is put into the crusher and fermenter. This technique is typically used for high-end wines that people plan on cellaring for a minimum of 10 years before drinking.
Versatile and Food Friendly
Pinot Noir is one of the most versatile of all red wines. It’s light enough to pair with salmon, but stands up to turkey and duck, softens a tart cranberry dish and is a worthy accompaniment beef Bourguignon. It matches perfectly with “the cheese that goes with everything,” Comté (Gruyère de Comté) that is made just 50 miles from the best Pinot Noir vineyards in Burgundy. At the restaurant, when everyone orders a vastly different entree, you can usually do well to pick a Pinot Noir; it likely will please everyone.
5 Tips for Serving Pinot Noir
1. Perfect Temperature: Pinot Noir is best served slightly chilled at about 55°F.
2. Don’t Decant: Pinot Noir is ready to be served out of the bottle and does not necessarily need to be decanted.
3. The Right Glass: Drink your Pinot Noir from a large, bell-shaped glass to best enjoy its nose or aroma.
4. Bottoms Up: Drink Pinot Noir within a day after opening to keep the wine at its prime
5. Age Gracefully: Pinot noir can be aged for up to eight years or more
At Domaine Hudson, we have three Pinos on our by-the-glass list and a host of other delectable choices on our award-winning wine list. Come in for a flight and see if you can tell the difference between the terroirs they came from.
Domaine Cornu-Camus Hautes-Cotes de Beaune, Burgundy, France
Le Cadeau Red Label, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Michael Pozzan Anabella, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, CA
All three in a flight of 3-oz pours for just $25*. Paired with a 3-cheese board, just $35*. If you wish, ask your server to make it a blind tasting.
Tell us if you can discern a difference in the wines, and which wine you preferred. Please add your comments below.