By Elspeth Brown
Pinot Noir is one of the most delicate and beautiful wine grapes. It is one of my favorite varietals because of its versatility. Tasty and delicious on its own, it can be an amazingly food-friendly wine as well. Pinot Noir ripens early and because of its sensitivity, if planted somewhere hot, it will ripen too quickly and lose all the flavor nuances that make it truly special.
The Pinot Noir grape tends to showcase cherry, raspberry and tart strawberry fruit flavors when aged in stainless steel. The grapes that have been aged in oak barrels still exhibit bright fruit, but with a richer and fuller body. The cherry flavors are darker with more plum fruit instead of tart cherry. And when it is aged in oak, more violet flowers and blackberry are left on the palate. Whether a Pinot Noir is earthy or not depends on the terroir. A winemaker needs just the right area to make a perfect Pinot Noir.
The Burgundy region of France is one of the best places–if not the best place–in the world to grow the Pinot Noir grape. The limestone soil in the Burgundy region gives the wine its minerality, making it a great food wine. Burgundy has a very moderate climate with the coldest temperature in the winter around 30 degrees and summer temperatures staying around the mid-70s. With just the right soil and weather, the Pinot Noir grape thrives, producing a juice that has herbal notes and delicate fruit flavors to serve with a coq au vin, beef bourguignon or a local charcuterie platter.
Cooler areas such as Oregon, New Zealand and particular areas in California also produce beautiful Pinot Noir juice. New Zealand has an interesting predicament with a hole in the ozone layer above the country. While it can be harmful for the residents, it is somewhat magical for the grapes. The grapes can hang on the vine for a long time because, while the climate is temperate, the sun shines down with full intensity producing Pinot Noir that is fuller-bodied, spicy and earthy.
Papapietro Perry Pinot Noir is some of the best I have tasted. Ben Papapietro and Bruce Perry started making wine in Ben’s garage more than 35 years ago and now make Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley, Anderson Valley and Sonoma Coast regions of California. Their wines are rich and fatty, earthy but retaining ripe, juicy fruit. The Pinot Noirs are aged in French oak for 12 months, but stay extremely balanced with soft tannins.
When you drink an exceptional Pinot Noir, savor it! If you find a Pinot Noir that is rich but delicate, tannic but balanced, and smooth but substantial, treasure the wine because a huge amount of work and love went into making sure that this delicate, highly temperamental grape made it into your glass. Enjoy!
Elspeth Brown is the owner of Maggie B’s Wine & Specialty Store, 10 C South Main Street in Weaverville. For more information, visit maggiebswine.com or call 828.645.1111.