If the world of wine was a high school, Pinot Noir would be voted “Most Likely to be Everyone’s Friend.” Pinot Noir gets along with all types of drinkers – somms, experts, wannabe experts, wine snobs, novices, social drinkers, and newbies.
You can find Pinot Noir almost everywhere. It is one of the most widely planted grapes across the globe, with almost every major wine region producing their own Pinot Noir wine. But Pinot Noir grapes express their true self when grown in slightly cooler climates with long growing seasons. And because of its delicate nature, Pinot Noir is a very easy wine to pair with food.
PINOT NOIR BASICS
The home of Pinot Noir is Burgundy, France. It has been the pride and joy of the Burgundy region for hundreds of years. As it has migrated west, Pinot Noir has found a home here in Oregon. Out of the 72 varieties planted throughout the state of Oregon, 54% is Pinot Noir. The warm, dry summer and cool, damp winters allow Pinot Noir grapes to thrive, especially in the Willamette Valley.
There is an infinite number of resources about how the history, regional climate, soil and wind conditions contribute to the overall tasting profile of Pinot Noir wine. But if you are just starting to get to know Pinot Noir, here is a straightforward guide, outlined by five basic traits of wine – body, sweetness, tannin, acidity and alcohol.
TRAITS AND CHARACTERISTICS
No matter where in the world a Pinot Noir wine comes from, it will most likely be light-bodied. The wine will be lighter in color and less intense than say, a Cabernet Sauvignon.
While Pinot Noir wines are full of fruit flavors and aromas, it isn’t considered a sweet wine. It falls low on the sweetness scale, leaving room for subtle notes like mushrooms, cloves, and vanilla to shine through.
“Tannin” may be a new term if you are just starting out on your wine education journey. It can be hard to grasp and appreciate tannins at first, but once you understand how they contribute to the overall flavor profile of a wine, they might become your new favorite thing.
Tannins are a compound found in grape skins and contribute astringent texture and bitterness to a wine. Drinking a wine high in tannins will add a shag carpet texture to your tongue, dry out your mouth and make your lips stick to your teeth. Sounds great, right?
Tannins are the primary reason that many people find they have to work their way up to enjoying big red wines. But because the Pinot Noir grape has a very thin skin, the wines are low in tannins, thus making it a great introductory red wine.
All wine is acidic, but different grapes and winemaking techniques make wine fall across the spectrum of acidity. Pinot Noir is a great example of a high-acid red wine.
The average wine has an ABV (Alcohol-by-Volume) between 12-15%. Most Pinot Noirs will fall right in the middle, around 11.5-13.5% ABV.
TASTING AND PAIRING
Pinot Noir wine is known for its bright red fruit notes and subtle herb and spice aromas.
Red fruits that you may notice in Pinot Noir wine are cherries, raspberries, cranberries, and pomegranates. Herbs and spice notes that are common are cloves, vanilla, mushroom, gun smoke, and cocoa.
Regions are large dictators of what flavors and aromas come through in a wine. Generally, a Pinot Noir from Oregon will display more tart fruit notes, compared to a Pinot Noir from France or California.
All the above-mentioned characteristics of Pinot Noir make it a very approachable red wine. Because of its high-acid and soft (low) tannins, Pinot Noir is a very food friendly wine. It pairs deliciously with hard and nutty cheeses, rich duck and chicken dishes as well as earthy mushroom dishes. Ordering wine at dinner for a table filled with different entrees? Pinot Noir is always a great choice.
Since Pinot Noir is light-bodied and lower in alcohol, it is a great wine to drink on its own, without needing to eat alongside. And while the topic of drinking red wine out of the refrigerator can be a bit polarizing, Pinot Noir is a wine that can (and probably should) be served slightly chilled.
Though Pinot Noir is one of the most widely planted grapes around the world, Oregon Pinot Noir has its own subtle flavors and aromas. Find some of the best Pinot Noir wine Oregon has to offer.