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Friday, April 26, 2013

Red Wine Basics: Pinot Noir

An Expressive and Popular Choice
Pinot Noir Cluster in Burgundy
Pinot Noir (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Pinot Noir is a black grape variety most strongly associated with the Burgundy region of France. The grape’s popularity has exploded throughout the world in recent years despite the difficulty in cultivating and vinifying this finicky grape. Pinot Noir wines are very expressive and represent their growth regions well, being very sensitive to terrain. Pinot Noirs are also very reflective of the method by which they were created, with traditional methods creating very different wines from those produced by modern methods often employed by many New World regions such as California, Oregon and New Zealand.

Varying Styles
The wine expresses a wide range of bouquets, flavors and textures, testing the ability of wine tasters everywhere. The wine also appeals to a very wide range of wine drinkers, with some styles, especially Burgundy styles, appealing to those who prefer more tannic structure. Other styles appeal to the palette that enjoys a light fruitiness, with more modern vinification methods leaning toward this style.

Supply and Demand
The very broad appeal of Pinot Noir has created a demand somewhat in excess of its supply, making a bottle of Pinot Noir a bit more expensive, typically. The grape is very difficult to grow, and is not as widely cultivated as some other varieties, but this hasn’t stopped wine collectors and enthusiasts from enjoying as much of it as possible! The thin-skinned grape is susceptible to disease in both the bunch and vine, extremely sensitive to wind, frost, crop yield, soil types, pruning techniques and fermentation method. Despite the many adversities faced by growers, the grape continues to gain popularity among vintners and wine enthusiasts alike.

Flavor Profile
Testarossa Pinot Noir
Testarossa Pinot Noir (Photo credit: ilmungo)
In a very general sense, Pinot Noirs exhibit the flavors of red and black berries, with stronger, more traditional styles offering earthy qualities such as herbs, mushrooms, leather, game and warm spices including cinnamon, clove and smoky tobacco. The lighter tannic structure of more modern Pinot Noir wines lessens their aging potential, though top-notch Burgundies can be aged up to several decades. For most, between five and ten years is what one can expect to get out of Pinot Noir.

Varietals and More
Pinot Noir is also used in the production of champagne, rosès and vin gris, which are white wines made from red grapes. The skins of the grape have very little color producing matter in them, so the juice is basically colorless, making it a good candidate for a light blush or champagne. Varietals are typically described as garnet-colored, and are generally much lighter in color as compared to other red wines.

Pairing
Pinot Noir is among the most versatile food wines out there, with silky tannins and light fruitiness that makes pairing easy. Enjoy with just about any meat from Pork to wild game, cheese, chocolate, mushrooms and fresh herbs. You can find a Pinot Noir in many different styles from stronger styles suited to those who prefer harsher red wines to fruitier styles, so choose a style to match your meal!

This completes my exploration of Pinot Noir. Join me next time for a look at Sangiovese, an Italian red grape variety.
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