Pinot Noir Wine Guide





Wines made from Pinot Noir are amongst the most popular and widely championed by critics and consumers alike, yet this tantalisingly romantic grape is also one of the most temperamental varieties in the world. Here is a little bit of information to hopefully assist you in your efforts to buy Pinot Noir wine…

Origins

Cultivated in Burgundy and Champagne during the 4th Century, Pinot Noir is a difficult grape to nurture due to its fragile skin that is susceptible to sunburn, breakage and disease, yet it is now responsible for some of the world’s greatest wines.

Where is Pinot Noir grown?

Away from the widely championed area of Burgundy, where this black grape is chiefly associated, Pinot Noir initially didn’t travel well but that is certainly no longer the case. Alsace and the Loire are noted producers and premium quality Pinot Noir wines are also commonplace in California, Chile, Australia and particularly in New Zealand, so when buying Pinot Noir wines make sure you venture outside of the Old World.

Wine Styles of Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir generates complex and seductive wines that are often fermented in new French oak barrels, boasting red-fruit character and silky, smooth tannins. The aromas range from pure cherries, redcurrants and raspberries to more rustic notes. This complex grape variety, alongside Chardonnay and occasionally Pinot Meunier, is also a chief ingredient of many Champagnes.

When to drink Pinot Noir

Grand Cru Burgundies are deemed to hit their peak between ten and fifteen years, but the majority of Pinot Noir wines are best drunk relatively young due to their light, soft tannins. A top New Zealand Pinot Noir, the Schubert 'Block B' for example, is at its best at about six years old.


Our top three Pinot Noir wines under £20
 
 
Vavasour Pinot Noir, Awatere Valley 2010

Based on the northern tip of the South Island in New Zealand, Vavasour are producing award winning wines across their superb range and this light in colour, delicately scented Pinot Noir is worthy testament to their burgeoning reputation. This elegant Pinot Noir is aged for eleven months in French oak barriques, providing a subtle aromas of raspberry, cherry and herbs.

Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Les Lavières 2002/04, Domaine Louis Jadot

Louis Jadot have an important holding in this Premier Cru vineyard, which lies close to the boundary with neighbouring Pernand-Vergelesses. This beautiful Pinot Noir from Burgundy boasts silky soft tannins, complemented by generous fruit and slightly spicy complexity.

Robert Mondavi Winery Pinot Noir 2008, Carneros

Los Carneros in California is famed for its nutrient-lean soils and cool evening fog that drifts in from San Francisco Bay and blankets the Robert Mondavi vineyards. These varied growing conditions enable the development of richly textured and vibrantly flavoured Pinot Noir wines and this one is seductively smooth in the finest traditions of this widely championed varietal.


CellarVie Wines’ best value Pinot Noir:

Cono Sur Single Block Visión Pinot Noir 2010, Colchagua Valley

Chile is an emerging market in terms of producing stellar Pinot Noir wines. The tepid climate of the Colchagua Valley provides optimum growing conditions for this notoriously temperamental grape varietal and the Cono Sur Single Block Visión Pinot Noir is a perfect example of this. Aged for three months in French oak, this Pinot has a nice balance of juicy strawberry, red cherry fruit and flavours of buttered cinnamon. This wine can also tastes delicious when slightly chilled so don’t be afraid to pop it briefly in the fridge before drinking.
 

Did you know?

The name Pinot Noir is derived from the French words for "pine" and "black" which alludes to the grape varietals' tightly clustered deep, dark purple, pine cone-shaped bunches of fruit.

Nearly every affliction known to affect vines is common and often widespread among pinot noir vineyards. The Pinot Noir grape is susceptible to Spring frosts despite being relatively tolerant of cold climates and this grape also affords the Pierce's Disease, carrying sharpshooter leafhopper the perfect home. The aforementioned pesky insect has the capacity to destroy entire vineyards in less than three years.

Pinot Noir sales rocketed in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Asia in the aftermath of the release of Alexander Payne's 2004 comedy drama, Sideways. The Oscar nominated film’s lead character, Miles, was a huge advocate of this charismatic grape varietal.


What to eat with Pinot Noir

When done correctly good food brings out the very best in good Pinot Noir and in this regard it is amongst the most versatile wines to pair with food. Lighter pinot noir styles are flexible; to such an extent why not be bold and pair it with meatier fish dishes like tuna or salmon.

Lithe pinot noirs are obviously not well suited to overwhelmingly heavy foods but leaner meats such as pheasant and venison are a delightful pairing.
New World Pinots tend to be versatile and capable of a plethora different food matches whether its pork loin or a range of different salads.

Old World pinots are normally more savoury and earthy than their New World counterparts and veal is often quoted as being a great food and wine marriage. Nuits-Saint-Georges for example would be too heavy for fish and seafood but casseroled game or duck works very well.


Perfect Pinot Noir food match:

Rare Vineyards Pinot Noir 2010, Vin de France and Roast Beef

A great value Pinot Noir accompanied by one of the UK’s favourite dishes; a heart-warming winter roast beef that matches the richness of texture and earthy tones of this wine from a region on the cusp of the Pyrénées Mountains. Although Pinot Noir wines are often slightly lighter than some of their red grape counterparts, this easy-drinking wine compliments beef nonetheless.
 
Main image by Naotake Murayama 
 

Written by: Ben Moss

Ben Moss 

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