Seductive? yes, Elegant? yes, Irresistible? yes...Pinot Noir is all of these and so much more, mostly because it’s so silky and supple and a great start for those starting drinking red wines.
Originally, from Burgundy, Pinot Noir is the parent of many varieties including Chardonnay, Gamay, Aligoté, Muscadet, etc. It is very prone to mutate so it will adapt easily to any location and climate. Have you heard about Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier?… yep all of them are different mutations of Pinot Noir.
Yet, Pinot Noir likes cool climates, but does best in warm vintages or in locations with good day/night temperature differences. It’s early ripening, and sensitive to rot, due onto its thin skins and does best with a slow and long ripening season. The best soils for Pinot Noir are limestone, marl and clay (clay usually gives wines with bigger bodies and structure).
Best samples of Pinot Noir come from Burgundy, but also Oregon (especially in the Willamette Valley), New Zealand (Martinborough, Marlborough, Central Otago), Australia’s Tasmania and Yarra Valley. However the best spots after Burgundy are in cool climate California locations, places like Russian River, Carneros, Sonoma, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Maria, Santa Ynez Valleys, etc. Chile produces fantastic, inexpensive Pinot Noir in its cool spots of Leyda and Casablanca.
It likes low yields that will guarantee enough extract and concentration, though yields are higher in the new world, in Europe the rule is 35 hl/ha or less.
Stylistically it produces the lightest of all reds, its light color is a give away clue when tasting it blind next to other varieties.
Bodywise, Pinot Noir will produce wines with light to medium bodied, with good acidity (sometimes medium + to high) and low to balanced tannins. It does not like too much oak, since oak will overpower its delicate aromas. When it is used, it is always second hand and for a very brief time, only the top and most expensive wines will see new oak.
Fermentation temperatures are higher in Burgundy than in the New World, this will yield less fruity wines, more expressive of their terroirs. Sometimes producers choose to ferment whole clusters and or with their stems, macerations can last up to three weeks, followed by malolactic fermentation and aging in oak if any.
Pinot Noir most famous aromas are from red fruits such as strawberries, red cherries and raspberries. In warm climates it will also show a bit of black cherry. With age it will show aromas of forest floor, game, mushrooms, spice and white truffles. Old world styles will show more vegetal, herbal and mineral aromas, while New world samples will be more fruit forward and with higher alcohol.
If you plan to cellar these wines, you must know that Burgundy reds can last up to 15 years, California samples up to 10 years, New Zealand samples will be best to be consumed young and up to 5 years. It’s important to find out about the vintages, if critics recommend to consume wines early, follow their advice. Though with global warming Burgundy has seen some of its vintages in the last few years.
By the way, Pinot Noir is also a key element in non vintage champagne, together with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Blanc de Noirs is a champagne style made only from Pinot Noir grapes.
Pinot Noir from Burgundy are some of the most expensive wines in the world, this is due in part to a very limited supply, inexpensive Pinot Noir comes from Chile, California and New Zealand with Oregon in between.
Burgundy: Domaine Armand Rousseau, Domaine Romaneé Conti, Domaine Leroy, Jacques Prieur, Domaine Faiveley, Olivier Bernstein, Meo Camuzet, Louis Jadot, Alex Gambal, Albert Bichot, Francois & Denis Clair.
California: Aubert, Paul Hobbs, Arista, Donum. Ken Brown, De Loach, Lucienne, Pali Wine Co,Belle Glos, Ghost Pines, Domaine Della, Ken Brown, La Crema, Cakebread.
Oregon: Alexana, Argyle, Ayoub, Beaux Freres, Bergstrom, Chapter 24, Chehalem, Domaine Serene, Aldelsheim, Lingua Franca,Resonance, Purple Hands, Siduri,Willamette Valley Vineyards.
Here are some of the Pinot Noirs under $50, that I tasted lately:
Argyle Winery Nuthouse Pinot Noir Eola Amity Hills 2015, Oregon $50
Astrolabe Pinot Noir 2016, New Zealand $28
Cakebread Two Creeks Pinot Noir 2017, California, $45
Louis Jadot Bourgogne Rouge 2017, France $19
Resonance Pinot Noir 2017, Oregon $35
For more wine recommendations, you can follow me on Instagram: Silvinalawina.
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