Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pinot Noir Part 1

Pinot Noir is nicknamed "the heart break grape", because it is a very difficult variety for grape growers. However, this black grape variety makes wines that are very easy variety to drink, unlike other black grapes. Pinot Noir is soft, light tannin, and do not need long term aging. They are enjoyable to drink even at a few weeks after fermentation.

This grape can only grow well in a moderate climate. If the wether was a little bit too cool or to hot, it's pretty much game over for the grape growers. Red Burgundy is made 100% from Pinot Noir and the best of the best red Burgundy wines can be aged. Otherwise, Pinot Noir are meant to be consumed while they are youthful and fruity. The best Pinot Noirs are oaked, but the oaky flavour can easily overpower this delicate wine. Also, Pinot Noir are often made into champagne and other sparkling wine, but that's entirely different topic all together.

Pinot Noir wines can be identified by it's pale purple or ruby color, red fruit notes (e.g. red cherry, raspberry , strawberry), and light tannin. There are very few other red wines with similar characteristics.

I am going to have to split Pinot Noir into a few posts (if not several), but here is the rough premium list anyway:

Bourgognes AC is the general appellation for red Burgundy, but each different village within Burgundy shows slightly different aspects of this grape. Generally, they are medium bodied, balanced red fruit and savoury aromas, light tannin and medium to high acidity. Names to look out for are Le Chambertin, Gevrey-Chambertin, Pommard, and Beaune, but don't expect them to be cheap.
New Zealand offers better value for quality Pinot Noir. Their wines are generally more full bodied, with lower acidity and more intense fruit, with a little spice. Marinborough and Central Otago makes some phenomenal Pinot Noir.
Germany also offers cheap quality Pinot Noir, if you can properly decipher the label. Look for Spätburgunder. These wines are intensely fruity with very soft tannin.
Casablanca Valley in Chile offers the best value for medium quality Pinot Noir. This is where I would start if I was just starting to learn about Pinot Noir.
Carneros and Russian River Valley in California produces great Pinot Noir, but don't bother with ones from outside these two regions. Oregon to the north is showing a lot of promise as well.
Yarra Valley in Australia is good too, but don't buy Pinot Noir outside this region.

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