The Pinot Noir Grape

The Pinot Noir grape originates from the Burgundy region of France.  In France, wine made with Pinot Noir is labeled after the region.  It is one of the most popular wine grapes in the world and is grown in all major wine regions.

Pinot Noir is a small dark grape that has a thin skin.  Subtle differences in wine growing regions and changes in weather from year to year can have drastic effects on the wine.  The grapes like warmth and sun, but do not hold up well to heat.  Morning mist is beneficial to the wine, but too much moisture will cause bunch rot.  The vines bud early in the spring but are easily damaged by frost.  If the finnicky nature of the grapes didn’t make farming them a large enough challenge, typically low yields add insult to injury.  So, why don’t farmers consider focusing on other grapes?  Pinot Noir is in such demand around the world that a high-quality Burgundy or Pinot Noir can command top dollar.

Pinot Noir wines are generally light to medium bodied wines.  There are large differences in flavor profile depending on the regions they are produced.  Releases from Burgundy are known for their balance of acidity and tannins, reserved character, and flavors of cherry, leather, oak, truffle, black pepper, and earthiness.  Burgundies can benefit from aging well beyond 10 years.

Oregon has similarities to Burgundy in its cool temperature, mist, and rolling hills.  Oregon adds volcanic soil to the mixture and is producing some truly exceptional Pinot Noirs.  Oregon Pinot Noirs are medium bodied and slightly more acidic than a Burgundy, but still hold balance.  Common flavors include cherry, barnyard, earth, truffle, vanilla, and floral notes.  Higher quality Pinots from Oregon can benefit from aging up to 10 years.

California’s warmer climate produces bolder and more fruit forward Pinot Noirs.  The bolder flavors of these releases include cherry, berries, tobacco, black pepper, cola, and vanilla.  Sonoma and the central coast produce many of California’s highest rated Pinots.  Higher quality Pinots from California can benefit from aging up to 10 years although I tend to drink these releases sooner rather than later.

Pinot Noir, because of its reserved nature, can pair favorably with a large variety of items.  You can enjoy it with pork, duck, chicken, grilled meat, hard or soft cheeses, and chocolate.

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