The Spectrum of Pinot Noir

Finding the Perfect Pinot Noir

There’s a point in time when the typical wine lover begins searching for an intellectual component to their wine appreciation. Enter Pinot Noir. Originally from France’s Burgundy region—Pinot Noir makes an intensely flavored, complex, high-acid wine with incredible longevity. Pinot Noir is the most highly prized wine in the world. It’s considered the most sensuous of wines because of its enticing, sometimes earthy perfume and soft, round, silky, but still structured texture. Some say those who love Pinot Noir are the most passionate of all wine lovers. Pinot Noir enthusiasts will spend time curating bottles of rare wines and socializing with those who share their passion for the varietal. Pinot Noir is a favorite of sommeliers and winemakers alike. Some consider it the “thinking person’s wine.” Pinot Noir slowly evolves and transform itself in the glass rewarding those that are patient.

The Perfect Food-Pairing Wine

Given its higher acidity and lower tannin—Pinot Noir is a versatile food-pairing wine. It pairs well with roast chicken, pork, salmon, mushrooms and lentils. Pinot Noir complements diverse cuisines from French to Middle Eastern dishes. Stuck on what wine to pair with your feast? Choose Pinot Noir.

The Multiple Personality Grape

Pinot Noir has the ability to express so many different personalities all over the world. It’s very fickle and can have quite a range of flavors depending on the vintage and where it’s grown. The expression of Pinot Noir grapes varies greatly. For example, slight differences in soil, sun exposure, or microclimate (different air currents in the vineyard, for example) result in very different wines.

In Pursuit of Pinot

The spectrum of Pinot Noir can range from subtle and nuanced to fruit forward and bold in style. Pinot Noir is grown in many different regions. To simplify your wine buying experience, set your sights on three major Pinot Noir winegrowing regions: France, Oregon and California. Explore wines from these areas to better understand your style preferences.

The Pinot Noir Spectrum

French Pinot Noir—Red Burgundy

Burgundy, France is a much cooler climate than California and the wine style reflects a more nuanced style. Many wine enthusiasts believe Burgundy is the pinnacle of Pinot Noir expression. Pinot Noir produced in Burgundy is can sublime. Burgundy is known for it’s earthy aromas like mushrooms and forest floor along with subtle red cherry, cranberry and floral notes. As Burgundy ages, it becomes more complex with a myriad of aromas and flavors emerging. The texture of the wine and depth of flavor evolves rewarding Pinot Noir lovers. 

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Oregon Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley

The Willamette Valley is roughly at the same latitude as Burgundy, France. Oregon Pinot Noir is said by many experts to be closest in style to that of Burgundy, with a more delicate and elegant flavor profile. The Willamette Valley has a similar cool, rainy climate and volcanic soil to that of Burgundy. Pinot Noir is typically grown in the higher altitudes of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  Willamette Valley Pinot Noir are nuanced and subtle with flavors of pomegranate, rhubarb, cranberry, earth and hazelnuts with high acidity. Little known fact, over 99% of all the hazelnuts grown in the US are grown in Willamette Valley). 

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California Pinot Noir

A big leap in flavor and intensity from the Pinot Noir in France—California Pinot Noir are typically bigger, lush and more fruit-forward. Flavors range from sweet black cherry to black raspberry. Pinot Noir is grown in many areas in California. However, it excels in places that receive cooling breezes (and morning fog) from the Pacific Ocean. The ocean moderates the temperatures in places like Sonoma, Southern Napa Valley, and the Central Coast (including Santa Barbara.) The ample sun and controlled temperatures make it easy for winemakers to pick at the perfect moment when ripeness is optimal. Many of these wines have subtle allspice undertones from aging in imported French oak barrels.

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Finding the Perfect Pinot

By trying a variety of Pinot Noir styles, you’ll hone in on the regions and producers you enjoy. Understanding the winemaker’s style including whether they are influenced by Burgundy or not will also provide you with insight about their Pinot Noir style.

Sources: Decanter.com and Wine Folly.com

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