What is Pinot Noir Wine?
Pinot Noir wine is the subject of much discussion and argument in the world of wine. For lovers of fruit-filled Cabernet, Pinot Noir can taste somewhat weak by comparison. But those who love Pinot Noir wines love them completely. According to the most loyal devotees of this wine, particularly those produced in its spiritual home of Burgundy in France, Pinot Noir, at its best, cannot be surpassed.
With Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir is used to make some of the finest Champagnes in the world. This grape can produce elegant wine but the fruit itself is delicate, thin-skinned and requires delicate and skilled handling.
The difficulty in growing, harvesting and processing Pinot Noir has in the past been apparent in the cost. The cries of ‘you can have good Pinot Noir wine or cheap Pinot Noir wine but you can’t have both’ until recently rang true. However, in Australia, greater planting, more experience and better technology and skill have meant an increase in access to high-quality Pinot Noir wines.
Common Pinot Noir Wine characteristics
Pinot Noir is a more delicate wine but no less complex than other red wine varietals. As a cool-climate grape, the wine it produces is light but it is by no means a lightweight. It is a sultry wine, silken with a peacock-feather finish.
Region makes a significant difference with Pinot Noir. However, Pinot Noir tastes light and silky with red fruit ranging from strawberries to black cherries. Some Pinot Noirs, notably from Tasmania, will show mushroom, truffles and spices and even some gaminess.
The cool-climate region is very apparent in the natural acidity with aromas of vanilla, cherry, spice, forest floor and truffles. With low tannins and a light spattering of red berries, Pinot Noir is a spring-heeled wine can dance on the palate.
Pairing food with Pinot Noir Wine
The best Pinot Noir is a light and dry red wine and is quite versatile when it comes to matching with food. It pairs best, and most famously, with duck. It also compliments oily, fatty fish like salmon or mackerel, roast chicken or pasta dishes. The more tannic styles can pair well with richer foods such as game fowl or beef bourguignon, a dish from Burgundy in France, naturally.
Assembling a cheese platter to pair with a Pinot Noir should involve creamy Brie, a blue with a little tang and goats cheese with a bit of bite. The lightness of touch from the Pinot Noir balances well with the rich creaminess where the fruit elevates the earthy taste of the goat’s cheese.
Notable Pinot Noir Wine regions
To start at the top, Burgundy in eastern France is both the spiritual home of the wine and home to the most sought after, obsessively collected examples of Pinot Noir wine in the world.
Australia’s cool-climate vineyards have in recent years made good Pinot Noir far more accessible in terms of taste and cost. Tasmania has uprooted a few green apple trees to make way for growing new red Pinot Noir wine. Those wines from the island compare favourably with their equivalents from Burgundy, perhaps more so than any other Australian region. Tasmanian Pinot Noir wine at its best shows spice, truffles, dark berries and cherry while remaining silky and elegant.
Victorian Pinot Noirs are varied and regions influence the wines they produce. The Mornington Peninsula is known for fuller, more muscular wines that are full of fruit. Geelong boasts some of Australia’s leading boutique producers of Pinot Noir wine. Geelong wines are more savoury with lots of power while retaining the characteristic silkiness expected from Pinot Noir. The Yarra Valley produces soft, elegant, feminine Pinot Noirs with light fruit and herbal notes.
The New Zealand powerhouses of Pinot Noir production are Marlborough, Martinborough and Central Otago. Like Australia, climate and soil types have a noticeable impact on the wine produced in these regions. Marlborough produces fruitier yet subtle wine whereas signature Central Otago Pinot Noir is viscous, full-bodied and very muscular.
The future of Pinot Noir Wine
The trend in Australian Pinot Noir wine has seen an increase in accessibility and a reduction in cost. However, the hope for continued growth in demand for this popular and versatile wine must be tempered by the difficulty in growing the Pinot Noir grape. It is delicate and sensitive and requires skilled handling from vine to bottle. The search for excellence in Australian Pinot Noir wines continue. It may be that one eventually knocks Grange from the top spot and although it’s unlikely that Pinot Noir wines will ever outnumber Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon on the shelves, its future as a popular part of the Australian wine scene remains solid.
- Pinot Noir