Virgin Wines: Pinot Noir
Some of the most esteemed and expensive wines in the world are made from Pinot Noir. These are the great reds from Burgundy. If you think that Pinot Noir is only for the rich and fusty however, think again. Pinot Noir is grown all around the world and makes a variety of styles, one of which you are sure to love.
Pinot with Style
Pinot Noir is a thin-skinned grape making light-coloured, light to medium bodied wine with a glut of flavour and complexity. It ranges from strawberry and redcurrant rich for the newer styles of Pinot Noir, to flavours of ripe grapes, black cherries and spices, accented by mushrooms, ripe tomatoes and even barnyard in older, more traditional Burgundian Pinot Noirs. These flavours may not sound as if they'll be very appealing, but Pinot Noir aficionados love them.
Pinot Noir is one of the two signature red grapes of Burgundy in France and the only one grown on the Cote D'Or, where the best Pinot Noirs are considered to come from, owing in part to its well-drained limestone slopes which the difficult to grow Pinot Noir loves. Mostly barrel aged, Burgundy reds are fine wines of great finesse, prestige, and expense. Some of the most prestigious red wines in the world, such as those from Gevrey Chambertin, Vosne-Romanee, and Chambolle-Musigny for example are all made from Pinot Noir.
Not everyone has the kind of pockets deep enough for top-end Burgundy, so for better value Pinot Noir try the less prestigious Bourgogne Rouge AC, still made from Pinot Noir, still from Burgundy, but with no posh name attached. Or try the Pinot Noirs from Jura, across the valley from Burgundy. The style is lighter, but so is the price.
Other regions of France where Pinot Noir is used include Sancerre and Alsace where light style reds and rose wines are produced in both areas. Champagne and Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir doesn't only owe its prestige to its role in Burgundy reds; it is also one of the three permitted grapes used in the making of the world's greatest sparkling wine, Champagne. More Pinot Noir grows in Champagne than in any other region of France. It can be blended with Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, or used on its own, making Champagnes called Blanc et Noirs.
Pinot Noir around the World
Pinot Noir is the most widely planted red grape in both New Zealand, mostly around Martinborough and in Germany, where it is known as Spatburgunder. In Italy, Pinot Noir is known as Pinot Nero, and is used to make Burgundy-style Italian reds.
Pinot Noir has taken to the USA like a duck to water, especially in California's Russian River Valley and Washington State. Try Pinot Noir from Chile and Argentina, which may be darker and richer than their Burgundian counterparts, but very good value.
Pinot Noir is a tricky grape to grow well. It's prone to pests, especially Sharpshooters, little leafhoppers that pass on Pierces Disease and are capable of wiping out whole vineyards, rot, frosts, you name it and Pinot Noir will suffer from it. It's also difficult to ferment and make into wine. It's a violent customer in the winery, and can bubble clean out of the vats! Skilled and careful handling is needed to turn this fiddly grape into the fantastic wine loved by so many. Small wonder some of the best Pinot Noirs are also the most expensive. When you next take a mouthful of Pinot Noir, whether from France, Chile, and New Zealand or beyond, take a moment to raise your glass to the skilled winemaker who tamed those capricious Pinot Noir grapes.
Perfect Pinots and Food
Try Pinot Noir with simple but rich dishes such as grilled salmon or plain roast beef and go easy on the spices, which may overpower the complex flavours. Any dish featuring a heavy dose of mushrooms would match the flavours of Pinot Noir well. Many French dishes featuring wine as an ingredient, such as Coq au Vin or Boeuf bourguignon are based on Pinot Noir, so these would also be a great choice.