Know Your Pinot Noirs: From France To New Zealand
Did you know Pinot Noir is the 10th most planted grape variety in the world? It’s also the only red wine grape of Burgundy, one of France’s prime wine regions. It’s a wine that goes well with all sorts of dishes, and does especially well with Asian cuisine — think sushi, Shanghainese xiao long bao, games or a range of fish dishes. It is a rather versatile food pairing wine.
Pinot Noir as a plant is quite complicated and can be difficult to grow, but a good Pinot Noir is one of the most popular wines in the world, with a massive following of hardcore wine enthusiasts. A number of Pinot Noir regions celebrate National Pinot Noir Day, World of Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir Summit and other exploratory journey uncovering this elegant varietal.
What it tastes like
Pinot Noir wine goes against some of the stereotypical characteristics of red wines. For example, it’s ideal to chill Pinot Noir to a temperature around 12 or 13 degrees. The wine is also light and pale, and generally contain fewer tannins than other reds. It usually has subtle fruity flavours like cherry, cranberry and raspberry, combined with other notes like cola, caramel, liquorice, vanilla, and clove. Of course, the intensity and flavours you get depend upon the individual.
Is all Pinot the same?
Pinot Noir is considered a dry wine, which means it tends to be less sweet due to a lack of residual sugar after fermentation. However, Pinot Noirs can have differing levels of sweetness, degree of ripeness, and alcohol due to the different techniques used. Today, there is an estimated 120,000 hectares or more of Pinot Noir cultivated over the world. It takes a particular climate to be able to grow these uniquely dark and dense grapes – they’re fragile and susceptible to disease and also difficult to ripen evenly. Besides the Burgundy region of France, there is the Sonoma County in the United States, the Baden and Mosel regions of Germany, and the Penedes and Ronda regions in the south of Spain, among many others.
Pinot Noir by country
The location of the vineyard plays a significant role in the taste, due to different ambient temperatures, hours of sunshine, soils, picking dates, microclimates and rootstock. Here are a few notes regarding how the taste of Pinot Noir can differ from region to region:
In the country where Pinot Noir first started, you’ll find a lighter version of the wine with earthy aromas that dominate and may remind you of mushrooms or wet leaves. It still has the floral and fruit aromas, but they’re a bit more subtle. In comparison, Pinots from other countries tend to be bigger and richer in flavour, tasting fruitier than the Pinots from France. As for the French region most associated with Pinot Noir, it’s none other than Burgundy. Many of Burgundy’s Pinot Noir is produced in small quantities and can age well to develop complex fruit and forest floor flavours.
Spain makes many great wines, from indigenous to international varieties, but Pinot Noir is usually not usually considered to be one of them. So the ones that actually tend to stand out. The vast majority of Pinot Noir is grown in Catalonia, where it is used in still wines and Cava. One such winery is Gramona, which makes a very pleasant GRAMONA BRU Pinot Noir 2017 ($87) with lively acidity. Cortijo Los Aguilares in the Andalusia region also makes brilliant organic Pinot Noir, like this 2018 vintage ($83), bright and flowery with a very complete and mature bouquet and elegant tannins.
The largest producer of Pinot Noir after France and the US, the wine is commonly called Spätburgunder in Germany. The wines from the Baden, Pfalz, and the Nahe are all worth finding and drinking – generally, German Pinot Noir features a solid mix of earthiness and raspberry and cherry aromas. Red wine, especially Pinot Noir production has also increased in the Mosel, which results in brilliant wines like the Weingut Huls Spatburgunder Estate Pinot Noir 2017 ($72).
In California, Pinot Noir is often a few degrees higher in alcohol than you find in France. The increased alcohol levels producers a fleshier, ripe, darker, more concentrated wine, than you find in its European counterparts, with a side of vanilla, clove, cola and caramel. The grape has also enjoyed a string of successes in Oregon and Washington State. Sonoma County’s Buena Vista, which is California first premium winery, does the excellent Buena Vista Carneros Pinot Noir 2017 ($66).
New Zealand has some of the best examples of Pinot Noir that are grown in cooler conditions. As New Zealand’s largest red wine variety, the Pinot Noir here is typically low in colour pigmentation, has a perfumed nose and shows red fruit such as cherry, raspberry and blood plum flavours balanced by smooth tannins. These age well and develop complex truffle, game and earthy characters as they get older.
Shop for Pinot Noir Online
If you’re looking for the perfect Pinot Noir to serve at your next get-together, we have a large selection available, most ranging from $50 to $150. This International Pinot Noir Day (18 August), shop all our Pinot Noir at 10% off, and we’ll ship it to you anywhere in Singapore.