Exploring Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir is the 10th most planted grape variety in the world. It is one of France’s ancient grapes dating back to the 1st century and is over 1000 years older than Cabernet Sauvignon. However, Pinot Noir is still just a drop in the ocean of American wine compared to the big three wine varieties—Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet.
Many wine regions around the world grow Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is difficult to grow and thrives in a narrow band of climate and soil conditions; relatively cool climates and well-drained, often limestone soil. Just as there are differences among individual vineyards, there are variations among growing regions that result in different textures, flavors and aromas. For example: Pinot Noirs from Sonoma’s Russian River Valley are known for their silky texture and deep black-cherry fruit. Pinots from Burgundy tend to have more acidity, earthy aromas and stronger tannins, and ones from northern Italy (called Pinot Nero) are often lighter-bodied, with red-cherry notes. The best Pinots have complex, intense aromas; textures that are somehow both firm and weightless; and flavors that seem to effortlessly balance the fruity (raspberries, cherries, strawberries) with the savory (earth, mushrooms, pepper). Affordable and typically more fruit-forward Pinots can be found from California, Oregon and New Zealand.
Wine writers Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz of the book “Wine Grapes” claimed that Pinot Gris/Grigio and Pinot Blanc are simply color mutations of Pinot Noir. Each grape DNA was analyzed only to find out they are identical. So, if you like Pinot Noir, start drinking all the Pinots! Where there’s Pinot Noir, there’s Chardonnay. Chardonnay is actually related to Pinot Noir. It’s a natural crossing of Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc (a near extinct variety). This is why Chardonnay and Pinot Noir always seem to grow together.
France is the largest producer of Pinot Noir, the US is the 2nd largest with Germany coming in as the 3rd largest producer, where Pinot Noir is called Spätburgunder.
Best Food Matches
Pinot Noir pairs well with a wide range of foods and is really a “catch-all” for food pairing. Fruitier versions make a great match with salmon or other fatty fish, roasted chicken or pasta dishes; bigger, more tannic Pinots are ideal with duck and other game birds, casseroles or, of course, stews like beef bourguignon.
Some great Pinot Noirs that Vino Mas Carries are:
Cherry Tart 2012 - California: Rich and approachable, driven by layers of blackberry, wild berry, cherry and plum flavors. This is well-proportioned and maintains a fruity profile amid firm tannins. 90 Pts Wine Spectator Wine Club Price: $19.76
Paul Hobbs-Crossbarn – Russian River Valley, CA: The elegant 2012 Pinot Noir Cross Barn Sonoma Coast exhibits excellent notes of licorice, red and black currants and a hint of sweet cherries. With outstanding texture, velvety tannins and a delicious mouthfeel, this is a super value in high class Pinot Noir. 90 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate Wine Club Price: $28.76
Baileyana Grand Firepeak Cuvee Pinot Noir 2012 - Edna Valley, CA: This is a big Pinot, with great acid structure, but soft, smooth tannins. Aromas are of anise, cola and deep dark cherry along with smoky barrel notes. Flavors of candied cherry and red licorice are followed by a spicy mid-palate and a nice vanillin, faintly smoky finish. Wine Club Price: $22.05
10 Span Pinot Noir 2012 - Central Coast, CA: Aromas of red berries and fresh flowers are complemented by Asian spice notes that add complexity. Juicy and precise, the wine showcases energetic raspberry and bitter cherry flavors that provide very good palate coverage. The finish impresses with its vivacity and length, leaving a spicy note behind. Wine Club Price: $15.26
Underwood Pinot Noir - Oregon: Light and pretty raspberry fruit gains mass and flavor interest with well-integrated veins of stem and earth. It’s nicely balanced and true to variety. Wine Club Price: $14.35