Pinot Noir. It is, without doubt, my absolute favourite grape variety.
Don’t get me wrong, I love ALL wines but Pinots have a special place in my heart.
My love might have something to do with time spent grape picking in Burgundy, sleeping in the vigneron’s barn after eating a hearty meal prepared by Madame vigneron accompanied, of course, with plenty of their product.
My knees still hurt at the thought of the vendage but my heart will never forget the wine.
Pinot's have many faces depending on where it originates and can therefore prove to be disappointing to some searching for their definition of Pinot Noir.
A notoriously difficult grape variety to grow, the Pinot Noir has very delicate, thin skin that can be succeptible to frost, wind, rain, hail and any other harsh environmets.
It's ironic though that the Pinot thrives in cooler climates rather than warmer climates and sun scorched areas. So to say that the perfect set of ingredients, climate wise, have to be achieved to produce the best grapes and ultimately vintages, is an understatement.
Unlike other hardier grape varieties it often takes just one hail storm to ruin the whole crop leaving little or no vintage at all.
Depending on where the wines originate will also depend on how your Pinot is going to taste.
Typical flavours and aromas of Pinot Noir range from black and red cherries, raspberries, strawberries, roses, currants, vanilla and a whole host of descriptors such as stinky barnyard and mushroom.
The wine is almost always light red in colour with high acidity and low tannins which makes it appealing to those looking for a lighter wine to drink.
However - not all Pinots are the same!
Pinot Noir's home is Burgundy where classic Pinots command extortionate prices and are sought after world wide. It's here that the difference between your bog standard Pinot and Grand Cru Pinot's start.
Basically it all depends on where it's grown - how much sun it gets, what soil type it's grown in etc. I'm talking about terroir.
In Burgundy the growers believe that terroir gives the wine the personality of where it comes from, it's own identity, and there are none more complex personalities than in Burgundy.
Parcels of the best prime vineyard land renowned for producing the greatest Pinot Noirs are coveted and IF sold their prices are rarely disclosed.
Hence, the some of worlds best wine comes from an area 10,000 km. sq and with hugely diverse geography. Small in comparison to other large wine producing areas.
Pinot Noir is also successfully grown in other countries around the world - Chile, USA, New Zealand, Australia to name a few.
Pinot's from these countries have their own personalities tending to be bigger, richer, fruitier and fruitier than their French counterparts - very likeable by all who drink them!
This year for Christmas I dove into my cellar and pulled out a few bottles that I thought might be interesting to try with whatever we were eating.
The summary is testimony that not all Pinot Noirs are the same. They were all from Burgundy but all different, one light and easy to drink, another heavy and almost too tannic, quite different yet all with their own personalities.
Here’s a summary of what I chose, where I got them from, what I ate with them and what they tasted like in both wine-speak and for you wine beginners, non-wine speak.
I bought the three wines from Vinatis where I buy a lot of wine.
I am not affiliated with them in any way but they do have some good prices and deliver to my door in 24 – 48 hours, which is pretty good for rural France!
2010 Domaine Machard de Gramont Chorey-Les-Beaune
Grand Vin de Bourgogne
I bought this Pinot a couple of years ago as Chorey Les Beaune is where I grape picked (poor knees!) so it was more for sentimental reasons rather than taste that I bought it and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.
I had this with an aperitif with a mélange of things to eat:
Apple and walnut baked Brie
Homemade black olive Tapenade – with plenty of garlic
Chunks of baked Chorizo Sausage
Dried Mountain Ham
and whatever else was kicking around
Wine-Speak – Light and opaque cherry red in colour with fast legs.
Incredibly fragrant on the nose with red fruits, raspberry and red cherries.
Slight oak, vanilla with a very slight hint of earthiness.
Fruit disappeared quickly.
In the mouth it was hot – for a Pinot.
Good fruit on entry, smooth, lightweight with slight tannin and with a short, but hot, finish.
In short – balanced apart from the heat.
Non Wine-Speak – This wine was awesome!
It’s a classic light Pinot Noir taste that was great with the food but would be equally as good without.
It’s an easy drinking wine for those looking to get started with Burgundy reds.
Hardly a classic Pinot pairing to say the least but it all worked really well and my only complaint was that I didn’t have a second bottle open.
2007 Lupé Cholet Domaine du Château Gris
Aloxe-Corton 1er Cru Les Fourniers
I had this little tinker with my Christmas lunch but rather than go for the classic turkey we had Roast Pork Loin and crackling with a sausage and chestnut stuffing and all the trimmings.
Oh my goodness it totally worked and, yes I did have a second bottle open!
Wine-Speak – Dark cherry red colour from rim all the way to the core. It looked elegant!
On the nose it fragrant and pretty with ripe dark red fruits of cherries and blackberries.
More than a touch of established vanilla with the telltale barnyard nuances.
On the palate it was smooth, with balanced tannin and acidity.
Fruit came through from start to finish leaving you wanting more.
A smooth and elegant length so typical of a great Pinot.
Non Wine-Speak – A fantastic example of Aloxe-Corton! If you can get it, try it.
It’s fruity without being over the top and leaves a great taste in your mouth at the end.
Price point doesn’t break the bank and it’s incredible with or without food.
You won’t be disappointed with this.
2006 Domaine Michel Caillot
Beaune Les Avaux 1er Cru
I bought a case of this a few years ago and have been trying it at regular intervals since. It hasn’t changed much and I doubt it will.
We had this little guy with Christmas dinner leftovers, which were just as good as the day before.
Wine-Speak – Dark! Dark black cherry rim to almost inky core.
It looks full-bodied.
On the nose, dark unripe fruits of black cherry and blackberry.
A very slight touch of coffee and licorice.
Earthy but with a grainy, gravelly minerality.
Palate – dark unripe fruit immediately followed by a quick bitter finish – almost coffee like.
Medium tannin lingers for a long time.
In short – not for me!
It was a darker, heavier Pinot but with bitterness that makes it almost unlikeable.
Funny enough though, it worked with the leftovers especially since I had shredded and pan-fried the Brussels sprouts with some pancetta, a good match despite the aftertaste, which one got used to.
Non Wine-Speak – Ok, not bad but think there’s better out there at the same price point.
It may be a bit big for Pinot beginners or those who prefer a lighter wine.
It’s a full-bodied Pinot but the bitterness could turn you off
Pinot Noir Any Time!
Despite the fact that they all taste different, to me, they are still some of the most easy drinking wines out there...if you can afford them!
"It’s a hard grape to grow…thin skinned, temperamental, ripens early…it’s not a survivor like Cabernet, which can grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention…it can grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who takes time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression.”
Quote from the movie Sideways