Pinot Noir

by John Fischer | May 1, 2008 7:00 pm

Pinot Noir is the celebrated grape varietal that produces the spectacular red Burgundy wines from the Côte D’Or region of France. At their best, Burgundy wines are peerless. They have great breeding, incredible finesse, and their soft, elegant and sophisticated nature makes them eminently drinkable, yet their stunning array of incredibility complex and exotic savors makes one pause in order to fully take in the full extent of their hedonism. However, don’t sell short the wonderful Pinot Noir wines from Oregon and California. Their quality has increased by leaps and bounds over the recent past.

Although Pinot Noir is grown in vineyards in many localities, most will agree that in good years, the best examples of Pinot Noir come from the great Burgundy districts in France. The problem with Burgundies is that in average years, they are often outclassed by the rapidly improving Pinots from Oregon and California – excellent wines with a far more consistent quality base. Many of these wines can be virtually indistinguishable from high quality Burgundies. Pinot Noir wines from most other areas around the world are struggling and quality is often disappointing.

This medium to full bodied wine has an exoticism, recherché, and complexity that is unique to the varietal. At maturity, acidity is tempered and tannins are soft and plush. Look for flavors of beet root (especially in Burgundy) black cherry, raspberry, strawberries, cranberries, black currant, and mulberry that are seasoned with generous flavors of smoke, tobacco, leather, sandalwood, exotic spices and herbs. Even though there are no residual sugars, the alcohol and ripe fruity flavors in the mature wine give it a plush, soft, and slightly sweet finish.

Pinot Noir is a great match for a wide variety of dishes. They can complement wild game and beef steak, but still have the capacity to tidily blend with pork, poultry and meaty fish such as tuna, salmon or shark. Their food-friendly flavors blend with the flavors of any number of dishes. Of all red wines, Pinot Noir is probably one of the most versatile in wine food pairings. Isn’t it peculiar that they so often garner such a mediocre billing on the menus of most restaurants?

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