Give your Cabernet, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and other big red wines a rest this hotter than normal Summer. They will be there in your cellar when the chill in the air returns, when they can be much more appreciated. Until then, enjoy the lighter style reds that can be enjoyed just as well. This session, let’s focus on one of the world most famous and sought after red varietals: Pinot Noir.
Grown throughout the world, Pinot Noir is a French word that translates to Pine – Black. Even though a tough grape for winemakers and vineyard owners to grow, when made correctly, is it often referred to as “Heaven in a Glass”. Whereas Cabernet Sauvignon is best described as having Power & Finesse, Pinot Noir is best known for its Grace & Elegance.
Cherry, Raspberry, Strawberry and Black Cherry are its main fruit characteristics with rose petal, tea leaf and spice notes rounding out its flavor profile. Depending on the region and country in which it is grown, other flavor factors are sure to be included in the mix. Most fall into the 12.5% to 13.5% alcohol range yet for those who like them a bit more expressive, you can certainly find ones that meet or exceed the 14.0% range.
You can find excellent version of the grape made in countries such as Chile, South Africa, Australia, Italy, including most Western European and Eastern bloc countries such as Romania, Croatia, and Slovenia. Countries such as Italy and Germany (where it is known as Spatburgunder) produce many excellent examples that highlight their regional cuisine.
There is no more highly regarded country that is known for its passion of the grape and highly collectable bottlings than France. The Burgundy region is its home and some of the most sought after wines produced here can fetch a small mortgage. A single bottle of the most expensive wine in the world, Domaine de la Romanee Conti – Romanee Conti can easily garner $18,000 or more for a current release. Older vintages, at auction, can boggle the mind. A few years ago, a single bottle of 1945 Romanee Conti sold for $558,000.
French Pinor Noir are typically light in style, with a subdued fruit character, a mineral earthy quality and a subtle mushroom nuance.
Pinot Noir grapes are also grown in the Champagne region of France but they are not made single bottling of the grape. Rather, they are one of the main varietals, including Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier that are blended into the great sparkling wines of the region.
New Zealand, best known for its crisp and citrusy Sauvignon Blanc is also a big player in the making of Pinot Noir. It’s taken them a few decades to master but great examples are fruit driven with a tinge of acidity.
Locally, Michigan and Canada are also producing some very enjoyable Pinot Noirs. Not the easiest grape to grow in our regional climate, but hats off to those winemakers who work hard and strive to give us pleasure with their unique versions.
There are 2 regions in the United States that excel and are known for producing some of the best Pinots in the world. First up: Oregon. The Willamette Valley, just outside of Portland, is the heart and soul for Pinot. Their flavor profile can best be described as a combination or California and France, big fruit and a touch of earthiness. Sub-regions of the valley such as the Dundee Hills, McMinnville, Yamhill-Carlton, Eola-Amity Hills and Ribbon Ridge are producing world class wines which can be noted by their high ratings and even higher prices.
When it comes to high volume, high ratings and some of the most unique versions of Pinot Noir in the world, California holds the crown. It is one of the State’s most highly planted grapes by acreage. Depending on the regional AVA in which it is produced, the flavor profiles can differ from across the county to across the road. Weather you prefer the style made in Napa, Carneros, Sonoma Coast, Russian River, Anderson Valley, Central Coast, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Lucia Highlands, San Luis Obispo, no matter the region, spectacular bottling are made in each county.
Big fruit and spice dominate its flavor character, while prices can range from under $10 to well in the hundreds of dollars.
No matter which Country of Origin of region you select for your Pinot Noir of choice this Summer, my suggestion is once again to put a slight chill on the wine before serving. You can use an ice bucket, an ice chilling wrap or sleeve or just put it in the fridge for 20 minutes or so and you’ll be a happy camper. Weather you pair it with lighter fair, salads or anything off the BBQ, just remember what Miles, who’s favorite variety of wine was Pinot Noir, said in the movie Sideways….. “I’m not drinking no %#@*&^ Merlot”.