Pinot Noir is one of the lighter black grape varieties. The flavour of the wine varies depending on where it’s grown, but usually it would be somewhere in the raspberry, strawberry, red cherry area of the spectrum. It is a low tannin variety (tannins are the substances that come from the skins and stalks and make your mouth dry out, just like a strong cup of tea) and it needs a light hand when it comes to oak treatment.
Pinot Noir has a reputation for being somewhat capricious and difficult – a bit of a diva if you like. When it’s good it’s amazing. When it’s bad it’s awful. The best Pinot Noir is delicate, perfumed, aromatic, complex and beautiful - the kind of wine to be sipped and savoured and appreciated; the wine of poets. The best are extremely ageworthy and take on an earthy, mushroomy, farmyard kind of flavour as they mature. Because Pinot is so delicate any imperfections in the wine seem all too obvious.
This particular grape has a thin skin (hence the lower tannin levels) which means her natural defences against the elements aren’t very strong. Pinot Noir suffers if it’s too hot, too cold, too wet, too windy or too humid so the climates she is suited to are somewhat limited. Sadly this all means that cheap and cheerful Pinot Noir is not easily found.
Pinot Noir needs a cool to moderate climate. Burgundy is the perfect home for Pinot Noir in France – it’s also one of the three grape varieties used in Champagne.
In the New World, Chile, Oregon, California and New Zealand are all capable of making great Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir and duck is a match made in heaven, but it also works brilliantly with salmon and tuna – especially if they are grilled, seared or barbecued. The earthy notes in Pinot make it a great match with mushrooms and also beetroot.
The fresh acidity of Pinot Noir cuts through the fattiness of lamb making both taste fabulous, the same principal goes for pork belly and pulled pork. The softness of Pinot also works brilliantly with rabbit and veal.
Cefiro Pinot Noir, Chile
Felicite Pinot Noir, South Africa
Mud House Central Otago Pinot Noir
Dog Point Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Mount Edward Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Neudorf Tom’s Block Pinot Noir, Nelson
JN Red Burgundy
Jacques Girardin Santenay 1er cru
Rossignol Savigny Les Beaune 1er cru Les Lavieres 2009
Tardy Hautes Cotes de Nuits 2009