I'm Good Wine Gal. I blog about "good wine" and how to find it! Why is Pinot Noir the heartbreaker? Why do some love and other hate Pinot Noir? Why do grape growers and winemakers curse Pinot Noir? If you want to know more, read on. Better yet, you might want to drop in to this week’s wine session with Mark Shipway.
Aloof and subtle
Pinot Noir has allure. In the glass, she can go from simple and supple to complex and beguiling. “Unforgettable” sings Nat King Cole, in every way – that can be Pinot Noir. She will tease you, encourage you and then pull you in. From supple to sublime Pinot Noir can scale. If you are looking for love, then swipe right at Pinot Noir.
She gets around
Pinot Noir has a delicate and distinctive personality. When made with finesse Pinot Noir expresses tremendous sensory appeal. Pinot Noir is not rich or mouth filling. She’s not the steak wine your father orders at his favorite steakhouse. Instead she offers perfume and freshness with a balance of fruit, spice and savoury flavours at its soul. She lends herself to a wide variety of dishes but not necessarily steak.
Extra Care in the Vineyard and the Winery
Pinot Noir is thin skinned with tight clusters and sweet flavour (liked by birds, bears and every vegetarian in between). Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon and its thick skins that provide color and some protection to the fleshy interior, Pinot Noir is the opposite. Thin skins make for highly sensitive berries. Therefore careful attention to pruning and protecting these berries (preferably by hand), from the harsher forces of nature, is required if a grower is to succeed. In addition, tight clusters challenge growers especially in humid climates as mildew, dampness and frost threaten. Good breezes can help and organic sprays can treat mildew – all this to say when growing Pinot Noir, a master in the vineyard is as important as a master in the cellar.
For the winemaker, the question is how do you extract color and flavour in the right balance? Thin skins don’t have the color chemistry of Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon, resulting in wines that are pale ruby in the glass, pale enough to see through. Extending skin contact in the fermenting must is part of the sequence of careful steps required to draw out Pinot’s personality. The ideal is to capture delicate aromas of red fruit like strawberries, raspberries, red currants, cranberries and rhubarb along with spices like cinnamon and savoury notes like forest floor, mushroom and earth. Oak is often a part of the story but the strength of the toast and age of the barrels will come into the mix to ensure balance instead control.
Unlike Bordeaux blends where you can adjust the amount of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot to suit, with Pinot Noir in most instances it’s 100% Pinot Noir. Sink or swim.
Look for texture
One of the sensory pleasures of good Pinot Noir is texture. Silky is a signature. This is part of the intrigue and allure. Another sensory pleasure is the perfect pairings - grilled T-bone pork chop, roasted chicken breast and classic Beef Bourguignon. Perfect partners call for perfumeand freshness (acidity) to elevate the experience. Elevated experience is music is what it’s all about.
What about price?
For wine lovers, price is the heartbreak. What should you pay for a “good” Pinot Noir? Here are some generalizations. For what it’s worth, Red Burgundy takes prices from expensive ($70) to ridiculous (a lot) in the blink of an eye. Oregon ($40 +) is a bargain when compared to Burgundy. New Zealand (40 +) is also a great option as are the southern regions of Argentina ($30 +) and the coastal vineyards of Chile ($30 +). This is not to say that you can’t find Pinot Noir for less. I recall a Romanian Pinot Noir - Chevalier de Dyonis (under $20) made by a couple of Canadian winemakers. It shows simple yet classic structure and style. Don’t forget BC. We have some great Pinot Noir in all prices. Try Carson (the wine maker from Meyer Family). It’s a truly a special bottle.
Below is a list of recommended bottles for our upcoming session:
Bodega Chacra Barda Pinot Noir 2018 $53.83 | Marquis
Coldstream Hills Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2018 $29.99
Harpers Trail Pinot Noir 2018 $25.49
Tantalus Pinot Noir 2018 $29.99
Carson Pinot Noir 2017 $43.39 | Marquis
Domaine Michelle Philipon
Maranges Vieilles Vignes 2018 $39.99
Domaine Tortochot Morey-St-Denis 2017 $59.99
Domaine Tollot Beaut 2017 Chorey-les-Beaune $60.78 | Marquis
Domaine A.-F. Gros Hautes Cotes de Nuits Rouge 2017 $67.74 | Marquis
Veramonte – Ritual $29.98
Thorle Rheinhessen Spatburgunder 2016 $25.99
Greywacke – 2016 Marlborough $56.43 | Marquis
Rippon - 2016 Mature Vine Pinot Noir $86.86 | Marquis
Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Santa Maria 2016 $38.99
Domaine Drouhin Dundee Hills 2016 $49.99
Evesham Wood 2018 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley $43.39 | Marquis
Siduri Santa Barbara Pinot Noir 2017 $52.08 | Marquis
Recommended Food Pairings from Fiona Beckett
Comté – semi-hard, unpasteurized cow's milk cheese