One of the more recent trends in the world of wine, is the increase in the popularity for pinot noir. It seems that the market has responded to the customers yearning for more flavoursome, younger drinking wines. Often this has come at the expense of its alcoholic content. Remember, alcohol is created from the fermentation of sugars in the grape juice, so if we do not ferment these all, then some sugar is left in the wine, which softens it and makes it more fruity.
The name, comes from the French words for pine, and black. It is believed that the word for pine is in relation to the growth of the grapes in shapes very similar to pine cones. The vines themselves tend to suffer from many diseases, and they have the reputation for being very hard to grow. They are similar to the cabernet sauvignon grape, except that pinot noir tend to thrive more in moderate to cool climates. Although, like most grapes, they are grown throughout the world, they are best known as being part of the Burgundy region of France. One famous wine critic described the pinot noir grape as…
“the most romantic of wines, with so voluptuous a perfume, so sweet an edge, and so powerful a punch that, like falling in love, they make the blood run hot and the soul wax embarrassingly poetic.”
I think that this is an apt description, as it is a wine that is as much for the nose, as it is for the mouth. Sometimes overpoweringly strong bouquet’s, the wines will tend to be fruity, yet they are almost always powerful. Not in terms of alcoholic content, but more so in the depth of flavours that they generally contain.
Pinot noir, is directly linked genetically, with pinot gris. Pinot gris is a white wine grape, but its DNA is almost identical to the pinot noir, but for the part that determines skin colour. Also, Gamay (the grape that makes beaujolais.) is an early ripening cousin of pinot noir. The grape, it seems has been copied several times, and in several countries. Methinks it must be pretty incredible if it has been worked with so widely.
Like most grapes (rather unfortunately.), pinot noir has been taken from France, and has been grown in other parts of the world. The major regions outside of Burgundy, are Australia’s Yarra valley, Austria, Canada’s short hill’s bench, Germany (where it is called spatburgunder.) and Italy. To a lesser extent it is also grown in America, New Zealand, and also in England!
It is, however, Burgundy that continues to produce the worlds best pinot noir. Although the region produces many vines, pinot noir is considered to be one of the true burgundies, along with chardonnay, gamay, and aligote. Burgundy is one of the finest wine producing regions of the world, and as such, you can guess that pinot noir is pretty special. It is one of the most complex wines you can get. As mentioned earlier, it is famed as much for its bouquet, as its flavour. Several smells can be detected, going from fruit to floral, herbs to spice. You can detect cherry, raspberry in the first instance, with undertones of violet or rose petal. Also it tends to have a slight scent of cinnamon, making it a lovely Christmas tipple. Occasional little nuances of green tea finish it off. So you can see from this, that you get a lot from this powerful little grape.
In terms of flavour, it is a very fruity wine. The grape has low to moderate tannin levels, leaving the true taste of the fruit to come through. Cherry, and plum come to mind. It still is defined by its aroma, though, as this complexity carries forward to the mouth. Very easy to drink, the wine is very versatile in terms of food pairing. It has been described as the ultimate food wine. The only one that would go with most foods, if you happened to be stuck on a desert island and only had time to grab one bottle.
Now wine critics don’t like this term. It is widely thought that a wine must be expressive in its own right, and not simply be defined by the food it goes with. But it still seems to be true. Pinot noir is fruity enough to go with lighter meals, such as lobster, or seafood in general. It compliments spices quite well, as it also does with bitter vegetables. However, it has enough tannin there to make it ideal for red meats as well. The only thing that it cannot cope with is incredibly spicy dishes, such as balti.
So, to the newby – this is the wine for you. Impress your friends with your knowledge of the vine. No matter what the meal, this wine can match it perfectly. You will never again be the Christmas party jackass, that pulls out a soave for a steak, or a Bordeaux for a salad. Grab a bottle today, there are plenty out there. Go French, as they are generally all good. Other countries offerings tend to be a bit more hit and miss. Either way, try it. Embrace it, and it will serve you well! G