Unlike any other grape I know, Pinot Noir has nervous energy that (simply put) is addictive. Zesty, full of life and honest, this thin-skinned grape likes to grow in cool climates graced with plenty of sunshine. From Burgundy, France to Oregon to Central Otago region of New Zealand, Pinot Noir has mastered the art of expression. No other grape provides such “sense of place” in the glass. No other grape is as nervous. Here’s why.In the vineyard, Pinot Noir presents a challenge for grape growers. For starters, the vine demands specific growing conditions (cooler than for most reds) and only lives to be about 35 years old, so replanting is required more often than say for Cabernet Sauvignon. The best Pinot Noir is made when yields are kept low making it a costly vine to grow. Additionally, the grape’s thin skins means vineyard pests, moulds and hail can easily damage the berry.Once in the winery, Pinot Noir is fragile and must be treated with kid gloves.. Thin skins means less tannin making it easier to oxidize. Plus, the delicate nature of Pinot Noir makes it very transparent, so fermentation techniques can often be spotted in the glass. One winemaker in Oregon told me, “Pinot Noir tastes like whatever you do to it, so it is best to leave it alone in the winery.” By doing so, the true aromas of Pinot Noir unfold on your palate and definately ring with terrior.Tasting a good Pinot Noir is like hitting the sweet spot in tennis or golf, you hear that ping or feel it in your swing and all you can think of is…I wanna do it again! Here are some noteworthy Pinot Noirs we tasted at Cellar Door last week:2006 Peregrine Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand ($40) :black and red fruit aromas pop out of the glass along with some fantastic green, spicy notes. New Zealand is a cool growing region with lots of sun, so the wines tend to be ripe and high in acidity making them perfect partners for the table. 2007 Torii Mor Pinot Noir,Dundee, Oregon ($24) Red and black fruit with forest floor earthiness and smoke. This wine is drinking well now but could hold in your cellar. Easy to sip Pinot Noir at an affordable price, this wine rocks. 2007 Jermann Red Angel Pinot Noir, Italy ($37) Crafted in the northeastern region of Italy, Red Angel offers brambly red fruit with lots spice and mouthwarming alcohol. Slight earthy, smoky aromas provide just enough depth to keep this wine from being too cheerful. 2007 Morgon 12 Clones Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, California ($32) Soft red fruits, spice with a velvety mouth feel and mouth warming alcohol. This little wine packs a punch. The oak is sitting on top of the fruit and could benefit from a few years in your cellar. That said, a nice lean piece of beef would suffice.
About the Author: Marianne Frantz
A Certified Wine Educator, Marianne holds a Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) of London, and has also earned the Advanced Sommelier qualification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. After successfully participating in an educational competition sponsored by the Wines of Australia in the spring of 2008, Marianne became an educational Ambassador for Wine Australia USA. She is also a Certified Spanish Wine Educator.