Pinot Noir (Pinot Nero)
One of the world’s most sought after grapes and one of the hardest to perfect, Pinot Noir thrives best in cooler regions. Each vintage is a challenge, so much so that few areas in the world are capable of really mastering this vine. However, that challenge has produced some of the best wines around and has made Pinot Noir not just fascinating, but a wine to be followed as well as enjoyed.
Its origins remain unknown although many have their theory. It has links to many leading varietals and almost every area has evolved its own clones to cope with their locality. It is very sensitive to the terroir and climate, making it one of the hardest grapes to cultivate. It has tight clusters of grapes, often subject to problems, and thin skins which are light in tannins and colour. In hot areas it ripens too fast, losing some of its amazing complexity. In cool climates it struggles to ripen presenting other challenges in winemaking.
It does however produce some of the finest red wines in the world and nowhere better than Burgundy, where some 11,000 acres in the Cote D’Or deliver a rich, soft wine with plummy, jammy flavours mixed with truffle and cedar hints. The velvet tannins and balancing acidity give depth, while careful ageing delivers a long and lasting finish. The Chalonnais and Maconnais add another 9900 acres. Domaine de la Romanee-Conti is widely considered among the world’s greatest wine producers, and make some of the world’s most expensive wines. Elsewhere in France the Jura produces much lighter styles, while the Alsace & the Loire also make a Rose. The other key area is Champagne, where the qualities of Pinot Noir, along with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, are the foundation stones of Champagne, such is the complexity and amazing ability of this grape.
Other parts of the world have struggled in the past to make this grape work but not now. In the USA Sonoma, Napa, Russian River, Monterey County, and Carneros to name a few, produce superb examples. In Chile, the Leyda Valley and Casablanca produce some delicious intense, rich fruit flavoured wines, as does Australia in the cooler regions. The New World tends to make younger styles with cherry, raspberry & strawberry flavours. Wines not designed for long ageing but for enjoying now or over the next few years.
New Zealand has spent years developing Pinot Noir and now they are highly sought after wines around the world. In 2006 a New Zealand Pinot Noir won red wine of the year in London. Grown in Canterbury, Marlborough & Martinborough, the lighter fruit driven style comes through. But their star is Central Otago, near Bannockburn, one of the most Southerly vineyards with schist like soils. Here the Pinot Noir thrives –the fruit is superb, fresh, full of warmth and style –these wines are excellent, more than justifying their rise to fame. Try Urlar from Gisborne and Invivo from Central Otago.
Pinot Noir is a great wine to enjoy on its own, especially the New World styles, but equally it’s a lovely food wine, excellent with meats, pastas, and particularly cheeses –a wine to really enjoy and savour.