Hello Prince Albert! This week I’m taking a look at one of the most prestigious grapes in the world, Pinot Noir! This varietal can be polarizing for wine drinkers as some view it as light and low in intensity while others view the style as a treasure trove of subtle, enigmatic flavors.
One of the biggest influences on the flavor and style of Pinot Noir is the region where the grapes are grown, also known as “terroir”. For instance, Burgundy, France is considered the homeland of pinot noir as the soil conditions, aspect and elevation along with ideal weather conditions create the perfect setting for balanced wines with potential for aging. A great example is the bottle of Nuits-Saint-Georges which even at $100 is considered an entry-level product from this region.
Other regions like Sonoma, California create wines full of power and fruit often assertively oaked to provide a contrast of spice to the rich fruit. Sourcing fruit from vineyards near the California coast creates wines that are full of fruit but still contain enough acidity to stop the wines from tasting flabby.
Winemakers must be cautious when making good pinot noir as the wine can easily become over-oaked and astringent which ruins the delicate flavor. Also, allowing grapes to ripen too fully can create wines with a flabby character (all fruity flavor without acidity). The reason this can occur so easily is because the pinot noir grape is quite thin-skinned and is susceptible to many vineyard hazards like frost or sun burns.
Just like chardonnay, the treatment of pinot noir in the vineyard and winery can completely transform the final product and thankfully, there are so many styles to try. If you prefer a fruit-forward wine, try some pinot from Sonoma, Napa, Chile or Canada. These wines will often deliver flavors of cherry pie (cherry, strawberry, nutmeg, cinnamon) with a touch of sweetness.
If you happen to enjoy truly complex pinot noir then be prepared to pay more money for the pleasure as great pinot can get pricey to produce. This mostly comes down to the reputation of the growing region, good barrel management and finishing techniques like MLF (malolactic fermentation) which softens and rounds out the wine creating delicate textures.
My favorite wine this week is the pinot from Burgundy. Silky, gentle and with hints of complexity, it was the most pleasing to me; however, the other pinots where also highly enjoyable and all three got the “Very good” rating. Your preferred drinking style will help inform you on what you enjoy most but don’t be afraid to explore a bit. Here are my wine picks of the week!
Cotes des Roses Pinot Noir 2019: (Pays D’OC France). Dry red, medium ruby color. The nose opens with scents of black forest cake, cocoa, sweet spice, confectionary cherries and a hint of gaminess. On the palate, the wine is subtle and balanced with flavors of fruity cherry and strawberry with a quick midpalate. Assertive oak comes in next with gentle pepper and warming spice on the medium-length finish. Medium tannins and medium acidity with medium-minus body. This delicate pinot noir is a great sipper and what it lacks in complexity it makes up for in its balance of light fruit and spice. Good price point as well. Barrel char and toast linger lightly on the finish. Very good! $26, 13% ABV
Enkidu Pinot Noir 2017: (Sonoma County, USA). Off-dry red, medium ruby color. The bouquet of this red begins with animal notes (barnyard and goat cheese) and shifts to ripe dark cherries as well as dark chocolate and hazelnut tones. To the taste, sweet cherry/red berry fruit is at the forefront with a long midpalate of ripe red fruits. Silky spice soon kicks in with tangy black pepper and a rush of welcome acidity to brighten it up. The pepper notes carry into a long, smooth finish of delicate leather, smoke and black pepper blended with sandalwood. Medium-plus body, high intensity and medium-plus tannins create a flavorful fruit and spice bomb. Fruit forward and intense with no developing flavors. Drink now and enjoy! Very good! $50, 14% ABV
Henri de Villamont Nuits-Saint-Georges 2017: (Nuits-Saint-Georges AOC, France). Dry to off-dry red, medium ruby color. A delicate bouquet of cooked cherry, forest floor, nutmeg, cocoa shavings and hints of animal rise gently from the glass. On the palate, the wine is delicate, soft and gentle with subtle but fruity notes of tart cranberry, savory earth and just-ripe cherries. Some gamey spice comes in at the end of the midpalate and blends into cedar, sandalwood, earthy cocoa and delicate pepper spice. Low tannins with layered flavors and medium-plus body. Acidity is low and the finish is long with alternating flavors going from spice to silky fruit back to tingling spice. Further sips reveal soft cheese, herbs and meaty leather. Silky, soft and gentle with notes of cherry and strawberry. The wine is fantastic but will not develop much further. Drink now or within 3 to 5 years. Very good! $100, 13% ABV
Cheers and thanks for reading!