Pinot Noir is the most seductive of all grapes. It’s wine brings forth rich fruit perfume and clear flavours.
The name comes from the French words for “pine” and “black” alluding to the tight cone like clusters of grapes on the vine.
This is the famous red Burgundy grape, its best examples are from the Côte d’Or which include Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. Pinot Noir has also proved successful in Oregon, California and New Zealand, with some other warmer climate new world regions producing a more jammy baked style.
Pinot Noir is rarely blended only in Champagne (along with Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay). As it is sweeter and less tannic than Cabernet and has a richer texture, Pinot Noir can be enjoyed at a far younger age.
Pinot Noir the toughest grape to grow and vinify. It has delicate thin skin making it susceptible to rot and mildew in the vineyards and is sensitive to fermentation methods and yeast strains in the winery, however when successful these delicate cool climate Burgundian grapes can produce such elegance and extraordinary silkiness in the wine with predominantly lush red fruit character – raspberries, strawberries, cherries, cranberries and roses with occasional hints of sandalwood, incense and exotic spices. When aged, the wine will develop extraordinary complexity and exude such finesse with a range of rich, savoury, gamey, mushroom, farmyard flavours.
Especially those from the more northerly region of Côte de Nuits.
Famous examples from this region include: Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, Vosne-Romanée and Nuits St. George. Lighter Beaune styles include: Pommard, Volnay and Santenay.
Pinot Noir gained notoriety in the 2004 cult movie “Sideways” which brought about a huge demand for this variety and sent Pinot Noir sales through the roof which in turn led to a lot of media attention and write ups, such as:
It’s flavors are sensuous, often erotic, above rational discourse and beyond powers of measured criticism.
– Oz Clarke
Pinot Noir is a righteous grape, chock full of incredible texture and hedonistic pleasures; it is sex in a glass, so seductive that it is hard to say no to.
– Master Sommelier Madeline Triffon
Here are some quick food matches for each main Pinot Noir region/style:
Burgundy- Côte D’Or
Côte de Nuits: these wines are more substantial and tannic than Beaune and can take on big flavours of game such as pigeon and venison. Côte de Beaune: lighter style and better suited to milder game such as pheasant, rabbit. Classic dishes such as beef Bourgiugnon and vegetarian mushroom based dishes would go equally as well with classic Burgundy styles.
Côte Chalonnaise & Macon:
These wines echo the style of Côte de Nuits but are less deep, complex and long lived with more earthiness than silkiness. Food match- game, casseroles ( beef, chicken in red wine and pork).
Alsace & Sancerre:
Northern French regions produce Pinots that are light, strawberry ish and far removed from the gaminess of Côte d’Or. These make lovely summer wines and pair well with fish such as red mullet and salmon.
California: Producing delicious, complex Pinot Noir with lush raspberry fruit and French oak these wines match well with duck, turkey, ham and ‘meaty’ fish. While Oregon, once hyped as the new worlds Côte d’Or produces Pinots similar in style to burgundy and so pair excellently with game.
Australia’s Pinot Noir can be elegant and supple but lack complexity making them a very versatile food match similar to California.
New Zealand’s cooler climate produce fine Pinot Noir with penetrating dark fruit. Food match- game, duck with lighter styles pairing well with fish.
South Africa are beginning to produce wines similar in style to Burgundy with good complexity. Food match – game.
Chile: Pinot Noir is in my opinion so much bang for you buck, tonnes of flavour perfect all rounder fruit forward style that goes well with fish, ham and pork.
In Germany Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) usually makes light, sweetish reds which pair well charcuterie and even Chinese dishes and other Asian cuisine. However Baden in the south produce exceptional, oak aged, French style Pinot. Similar to wines from Austria where Pinot Noir is called Blauburgunder. Both best matched with game or duck.
Switzerland: these Pinots are often blended with Gamay (Beaujolais grape) and give light simpler wines best matched with light charcuterie.