As I’ve mentioned many times, Pinot Noir is my first wine love. It is the wine that drew me into the world of wine (and it had nothing to do with our friends from Sideways) where I haven’t looked back since. And while I have certainly expanded my palate over the years and drink many other varieties, Pinot, in all its forms, will always have a special place in my heart.
Pinot Noir is the quintessential cool climate red variety. Its thin, delicate skin just cannot take the heat of warmer climates. It is made in a number of regions around the world – some certainly better than others. And while I do enjoy the crisp elegance of a Blanc de Blanc champagne, there is no denying the beauty Pinot Noir lends to Blanc de Noirs giving the wines that structure and body evocative of Pinot. Even more, Pinot Noir is the classic food red wine. Its versatility always sees it landing on the Thanksgiving table or during those meals when you just can’t figure out what the heck to serve. In honor of National Pinot Noir Day, I’m highlighting some of my favorite regions around the world for Pinot Noir.
So this is where I began my Pinot journey and a place where I still return time after time. Carneros straddles the southern parts of Napa and Sonoma and gets is cooling influence from San Pablo Bay, the northern extension of San Francisco Bay. Wines from this region and many California regions in general, are more fruit forward and less earthy. I love sitting and sipping on these which always please with red cherry and strawberry flavors.
Umm, yeah, they kinda started the whole Pinot thing. I have certainly learned to enjoy red Burgundy. In fact, it’s probably the Pinot that made me want to always pair food with my wine. I generally don’t sit around and sip on a glass of Burgundy as its earthiness and acidity make it a natural with food. After all, this is what the French envisioned. Good food with good wine. While Pinot Noir is made throughout the region, the Cote de Nuits is ground zero for the grand crus. For earlier drinking, I find myself drawn to those from Cote de Beaune which seem to exhibit a bit more fruit.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
I didn’t drink a great deal of Willamette Pinot for many years for fear that I’d grown too accustomed to the fruit of CA Pinot and that I would not enjoy their reputed earthy qualities. Yeah, I was dumb. After a trip to the region and many bottles later, it’s one of my favorite wines to reach for. For me, it truly does bridge the styles of Burgundy and California. Lots of tart cranberries, cherry, pomegranate, and earthiness with high acidity, make this more of a food wine for me than a sipper. Of course there are exceptions and I find myself doing both.
Central Otago, New Zealand
Depending on from where the wine comes on the island nation, the wines from New Zealand can be quite different. Given how warm the region can get and the intense sunlight, New Zealand’s Central Otago region makes some of the more “masculine” Pinots I’ve had. These can be big and full-bodied, with high alcohol and concentrated red fruit flavors. So if you want a little more oomph to your Pinot, give these a whirl.
Known here as Spatburgunder, Pinot Noir can successfully ripen in the warmer parts of the country. These are beautiful, light-bodied, high-acid wines with both nice fruit and earthy flavors. Despite its northern location in the country, the region of Ahr is predominantly planted with red grapes with Spatburgunder leading the way. I was thrilled to discover these.
The southern regions of Argentina have quickly been emerging as fertile grounds for Pinot Noir. And while there is some Pinot in Mendoza where we get all that yummy Malbec, the cooler southern regions are where the grape shines.
Of course there are other regions around the globe that do a fantastic job with Pinot including Russian River and Santa Lucia Highlands in California, Tasmania in Australia, Walker Bay in South Africa, San Antonio in Chile and so many more. One Pinot at a time.