A little Heartbreak with Pinot Noir
If you're like me and enjoy a love-hate relationship with Valentine's Day, then this post will provide you the perfect reading material on the romance filled holiday. The perfect partner to your box of chocolates & bottle of booze! Pssst...send me chocolates! <3
Some grapes have a plethora of synonyms that get attached to them over the years & the most appropriate one to use at any given time is usually dependent on the region you are in. Chenin Blanc in South Africa referred to as Steen or Charbono becoming Bonarada in South America, to name a few examples. While knowing the synonyms are important for understanding a grape's newfound home, the nicknames a grape can pick-up for its wine producing traits gives an extra sense of personality to each of them.
Pinot Noir, a finnicky but universally adored grape, has picked up a hilarious title due to its difficult growing nature: the heartbreak grape. I also really dig Jancis Robinson's use of the word "minx" to describe Pinot Noir----accurate as hell. Soil type, temperature, sun exposure, elevation, and microclimates all have to be to Pinot Noir's liking before the vines will even consider baring fruit. To add to the growing concerns, Pinot Noir will sneakily morph into an entirely new grape when the situation suits its fancy! There are actually over 14 variants (somebody call in the TVA from Loki) of this grape varietal due to its tendency to mutate on a whim. Pinot Blanc & Pinot Gris are two of the more recognizable variants birthed from Pinot Noir's, let's call it this for now, temper tantrum. Pinot thrives in cooler, continental climates with limestone & shale soil deposits. The grape has less tolerance when combating harsh vineyard conditions unlike its thicker-skinned friends Cab & Syrah. It's prone to damage from wind & frost, and due to the size of its berries, tends to yield only small amounts of quality grapes when grown successfully. In the winery, if you've successfully made it to harvest with Pinot, the grape can be sensitive to certain yeast strands and fermentation methods. So why even attempt to produce Pinot Noir? Simple: everyone wants to recreate the glory that is a red Burgundy.
Its spiritual home (where it truly rose in prominence & is synonymous with) is in Burgundy, France. The geology of the region over the past million-plus years has created incredible levels of diversity in the terroir. This is part of the reason why the region of Burgundy is so deeply loved by winemakers & wine professionals alike. The idea that drinking wine from grapes produced in one row of vines of a vineyard can taste dramatically different from the wine produced from the row next to it is exhilarating & furthers the power of Burgundy as wine region. Some key sub-regions to look out for are Cote de Nuits & Cote Chalonnaise if you're looking to secure a red burgundy for the Valentine's Day.
Once grown & vinified successfully, Pinot Noir can showcase a wide array of flavors & styles that are true to the region it is from. The great light bodied reds of Burgundy & Oregon display the complex red cranberry & earthy-mushroom tones that are to die for. The new world regions like New Zealand & Chile accent more of the anise & raspberry characters in the grape. The flavor profiles don't even stop there, honestly. Additional factors like the oak treatment vs stainless steel, or other added nuances from the winemaker can create even more layers on top of what a region's terroir already provide. If a still red wine isn't your thing, Pinot Noir is also prominently used to produce kind of zesty roses & is one of the three major grapes of Champagne if bubbles are more your thing.
I enjoy my Pinot Noirs with roasted chicken dishes, grilled salmon, and sometimes chocolates if I find the right combo. It also plays well with spicier fare like Indian cuisine. Over this past Halloween I actually tried a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir with a Reese's Cups and I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the almost PB&J flavoring that got pulled through as a result. Pinots make fantastic entry-points into red wine due to their inherently lighter style. They also tend to vibe towards food friendly more often than not, as I highlighted earlier. Treat your special person or yourself to a bottle of this heartbreaker tonight. You'll fall in love all over again, trust me!