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Wine Talk: The Holy Grail of Wine – Pinot Noir

Wine Talk: The Holy Grail of Wine – Pinot Noir

Last month, my boozy friends, we discussed Pinot Blanc, this month, I will be chatting to you about the red version… Pinot Noir.  Pinot Noir is one of my favourite red wines, it has this beautiful red colour – more of a light garnet. Has this amazing nose of red fruits and berries with a slight hint of barnyard which makes it so interesting.  Just so happens, that the 18th of August was International Pinot Noir Day..

It has been crazy hectic the last couple of weeks. So my fellow readers, I do apologise in not writing as often as I should.  Let us get straight into it, shall we? Today I will discuss with you, what is Pinot Noir, why is it such a fickle grape, what food goes well with this varietal, some of my favourite options, and what glass to serve it in. Let us get straight to business!

What is Pinot Noir?

Pronounced Pee’No Na-Whar. Pinot Noir is a red wine grape variety which is very popular in a region in France called Burgundy. Pinot Noir is a French word meaning; pine and black. If you had to look at a bunch of Pinot grapes, you will notice that they are tightly clustered together in a pine cone shape.

This varietal produces a red wine, which is lighter/paler in colour, flavours are subtle as it has less tannin, but yet has an interesting complexity. Elegant soft mouth feel, with notes of strawberries, cherries, mushrooms and lovely earthiness, or what us wine folks call… forest floor. Delicious!!

Found this on twitter and thought to share this with you.

Pinot Noir – The Heartbreak Grape:

Pinot Noir, my dear wine friends, is a weak wine grape varietal. It suffers from a variety of diseases, (This is your friend who is always sick and is prone to pick up any bug that goes around) and let us not forget about its genetics, those unstable genetics which makes it highly prone to mutation. 

For this very reason gives many viticulturist and winemakers nightmares. This has to be one of the most  difficult wines to cultivate and make. From vineyard to cellar, it is said to be taming a wild butterfly.

Pinot Noir Grapes
Pinot Noir grapes on the vine – notice the cone shape and how tightly compact they are?

Viticulturist Nightmare:

Pinot Noir presents a huge challenge in the vineyard. If you love a challenge… this baby will be it! Sensitive to wind, frost, soil types, heat and even pruning techniques. As the clusters are tightly packed togethery they are prone to all types of “viticultural hazards”!. Pinot Noir loves dank weather, but then it makes them prone to rot. In warmer regions they are vulnerable to sunburn. Oh my word, Me and a Wine, we actually have something in common!

Winemakers Nightmare:

Don’t think for one second that the nightmares stops in the vineyard. Winemakers are constantly on their nerves. A harvest picker who is not as careful as they should be, can even damage the grape to the point where it can’t be used for winemaking. But folks it doesn’t stop there…

Pinot Noir is extremely sensitive to fermentation methods and yeast strains. As their skins are so thin, they are susceptible to bunch rot and other fungal diseases. Pinot Noir also has a tendency to produce low yields. This means you don’t get to produce as much liters. as you other cultivars. This makes it extremely important tht there is little room for mistakes. Sadly guys, this is quite common  for winemakers who are not familiar/experienced with Pinot Noir. Winemakers ends up loosing their batch. How heartbreaking!

“God made Cabernet Sauvignon, where as the Devil made Pinot Noir”

Andre Tchelistcheff

Pinot Noir Profile:

Wine Variety
Red Wine. Produces a lighter colour than most of your other red varietals.
Notable International Regions
Burgundy, Champagne, California, Oregan, Marlborough
Notable South African Regions
Coastal Regions (Walker Bay) and Stellenbosch
Flavour Profile
Roses, Vanilla, Fruits, Black Cherry, Mushrooms, Red Berries, Currants, Plum, Tobacco, Wet Leaves, Forrest Floor, Cola, Clove
Medium to High (Smooth Acidity)
Low to High Tannin (Soft Tannin)
Low to High Body (Better the quality, the more body it will present)
Age Potential
 2 to 18 years depending on the type of style
Serving Temperature16°C – 18 °C (Cool to the touch)

10 Facts About Pinot Noir

  1. Pinot Noir is a highly prized wine in the world.
  2. Pinot Noir is one of France’s oldest grapes dating back to the 1st century. Bernardine Monks cultivated the grape in Burgundy, to this day many of the oldest monasteries are still standing. It is 100 years older than Cabernet Sauvignon.
  3. Pinot Noir is called the Red Burgundy in France. So if you are making a lovely wine and it calls for a Burgundy, this would be your wine to use!
  4. Where you find Pinot Noir, you will find Chardonnay, as they are a natural crossing of each other.
  5. Dijon, France: is the famous region for Pinot Noir. Ironically this region produces more Chardonnay.
  6. Pinot Noir is the primary varietal used in Sparkling Wine production in Champagne.
  7. Pinot Noir doesn’t like heat. Most of the Pinot Noir you will find in South Africa is in the Hemel en Aarde Valley, Hermanus. Here you will find some of the best Pinot Noir our country has to offer.
  8. South Africa has 1181,72 hectares of Pinot Noir planted.
  9. Vegetarians will love Pinot Noir because it goes super well with roasted vegetable dishes, herbs and of course… mushrooms!
  10. Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Grigio is the same wine. The only difference is a colour mutation between the three.

Pinot Noir and Food:

What would wine be without its partner in crime – FOOD! Why should Pinot Noir be any different? Yes, it is a difficult wine to cultivate and make, but it is not a difficult wine to pair with. This wine can be well suited to a wide selection of classic, traditional or ethnic dishes.

This lighter bodied red wine is consistent with its acid levels, subtle and soft tannins, which is a firm favourite for most foodies, and this is why it is such a crowd pleaser.

So what food will pair nicely with a Pinot Noir?

Salmon, a lovely poached Salmon will pair really well with Pinot Noir. You might be wondering – Red Wine and Fish? Yes friends, even though Pinot Noir is a red wine, the tannin is light enough for Salmon and seafood.

Pinot Noir will pairs well with Duck – ooooh just think Cherry Duck Pie!

It also pairs well with chicken, rabbit, pork and a lightly seasoned piece of beef. I had paired mine once with a lovely piece of medium Biltong Sirlion Steak grilled, then thinly sliced, with a little drizzle of fig balsamic vinegar glaze. Absolutely stunning!

Pinot Noir will go super well with your difficult vegetables, because of the earthiness that this wine presents, it goes beautiful with beetroot, mushrooms, eggplants, grilled asparagus and Brussels sprouts. Think for a moment creating your own Charcuterie – Roasted baby beetroot humus, exotic forest mushroom pate, lightly smoked baba ganoush. (Keep an eye open – will be posting recipes shortly) Surprising enough, a lovely medley of stir-fried vegetables cooked with Hoisin Sauce and Chinese Five Spice will match pretty damn fine!

Oh and let us not forget the cheese!! A lovely mild Brie, Camembert, Gorgonzola,  and a little Swiss cheese like Emmental and Gruyere. To pair with the beetroot – Goats cheese. I even had a lovely raspberry infused cream cheese topped with red peppercorns and it was beautiful. It brings out a slight sweetness in the wine.  The perfect combinations. Try adding a little fig preserves, add a cherry jam. You are all set for a taste explosion!

“the most romantic of wines, with so voluptuous a perfume, so sweet an edge, and so powerful a punch that, like falling in love, they make the blood run hot and the soul wax embarrassingly poetic.”

Joel Fleischman of Vanity Fair

My Boozy Kitchen’s Recommendation:

Bouchard Finlayson – Pinot Noir 2016

This award-winning wine is a complex with a lovely smooth velvety feel in the mouth.  A rich ruby colour that is still ‘transparent’ and an earthiness on the nose. The wine has a bold palate complexity and you may identify dark red fruit with a savoury mixture of cherries, plums and cinnamon drifting into an extended palate feel.  I will also be writing more about this beauty in the near future, so keep an eye open. I am still dreaming about this wine! Here is a list of the awards it has won:

Gold Medal – International Wine Challenge, 2018
Trophy, SA Best Red Wine – International Wine Challenge, 2018
Trophy, SA Best Pinot Noir – International Wine Challenge, 2018
94 pts – James Suckling, 2018

Balance Winemaker’s Selection Pinot Noir 2016

A medium bodied wine, capable of chilling before serving, a match to an array of fine dishes with lighter meats. This wine reminds me of fresh cherries, hints of spiced teas and tilled earth. What I love about this one is that it is an easy drinking no thinking wine. I used it in cooking my Coq-Au-Vin, which I will be sharing the recipe soon!

My Boozy Kitchen’s Favourite Chardonnay Pinot Noir Blends.

Like I mentioned earlier, where there is Pinot you will find Chardonnay, and then blending the two. Is like cheese and tomato, vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, it is just a match made in heaven. Here are a few of my favourites.

Stettyn Family Vineyards – Chardonnay Pinot Noir

This full balanced wine with fresh ripe citrus, pineapple and sweet red apple flavours is complemented by a clean dry finish. Delicious with seafood, cold meats and cheeses, or simply enjoy a chilled glass by itself. Oh! Sometime is life is full of tough choices …

Mensa – Chardonnay Pinot Noir

Firstly, the label is awesome. So out the box! The reason why I bought it. You download the Mensa App on Google Play, scan the label, and it comes alive. It is brilliant! It tells a story, who doesn’t love a good story? My lips are sealed, you have to experience it yourself.

The wine brims with aromas of citrus, followed by strawberries on the palate. What I liked about this Chardonnay Pinot Noir is that the colour is more on the white side (like an onion skin colour – instead of your normal coral pink colour.) Yes it is very subtle on the palate, and yes you do taste the  hints of strawberries. It is just beautiful.

Carrol Boyes MCC Rosé

If you looking for that special sparkling for a wedding! This is your wine! Fermented in French Oak from premium parcels of Pinot Noir grapes, the Carrol Boyes 2013 MCC Rosé has fruity and floral notes – roses, red berries and Turkish delight – with a dry palate, making it a perfect accompaniment to white meat, seafood and chocolate. The wine is presented so beautifully it is the best MCC to use for weddings or very special occasions.

The selection is critically acclaimed and won the 2015 Michelangelo Award for Best MCC (awarded to the 2011 Limited Edition Pinot Noir Chardonnay).

Pinot Noir Around The World:

  • France: Pinot Noir in France, especially in Burgundy tends to have a herbacious, earthy aromas of wet leaves and mushrooms. Along with a hint of floral aromas of roses, violet and a smell of fruit that leans towards raw, freshly picked cherries.
    Germany: The Pinot Noir in the German region of Ahr has more of raspberry and sweet cherries on the nose with a good balance of earthiness.
  • Italy: Pinot Noir is found mostly in the Northern Borders of Italy were the climate is more suitable. Similar to the same profile of France, however the earthiness is more spicy with notes of white pepper and clove, smokiness and tobacco.

    United States of America – California: The Pinot Noir’s from the State of California presents itself on a very different level to the Pinot’s found in France. We are looking at  bigger, lusher  and more fruit. You will find flavors varying  from sweet black cherry to black raspberry and the secondary aromas of vanilla, clove, coca-cola, and caramel, instead of the typical earthiness.
  • United States of America – Oregan: Oregon Pinot Noir is slightly lighter in color than Californian Pinot Noir.  It is also more tart. You can find cranberry, and cherry fruit flavors with secondary aromas of truffle mushrooms and sometimes a hint green dandelion stem flavor. (I guess I will have to find a green dandelion stem to taste to expand my taste library.)
  • New-Zealand: On the southern island of New Zealand you will find a region called Central Otago. This region gets enough sunshine throughout the season to produce a rich Pinot Noir in a style which is similar to California. The different? New Zealand Pinot Noir is stronger in spice and has a lovely gamey-meaty aromas along with loads of fruit.
  • Australia: Due to the climate of Australia, Pinot Noir doesn’t grow well. Having said that, there is a region called Morington Peninsula in Victoria that makes pretty decent Pinot Noir. Here you will find a sweeter fruit notes more like blueberry and blackberry, but also carries a slight hint of spicy-gamey tinge that is similar to New Zealand.
  • South Africa: Like Australia, South Africa also struggles with Pinot Noir, however you will find some amazing Pinot Noirs on the Coastal Regions (More popular in the Walker Bay and Hemel en Aarde Valley) and Stellenbosch. You will find a gorgeous flavour profile of notes of  fresh red berries, like raspberries, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, adding subtle spices and hints of vanilla when young. It also presents a complexity of earthiness such as truffles, mushrooms, dried fruit and exotic spices as it ages.
  • Chile: South American Pinot Noir are very much similar to North American Pinot Noirs. The aromas lean more towards flowers like violets, roses and vanilla than fruit. 

The Pinot Noir Glass

Now wine friends, listen to me, if there is anything you going to take home on this article, let it be this! Believe it or not, but a glass can either make or break your wine tasting experience.

As we discussed, Pinot Noir is a fickle wine, and yes, serving it, you need to have it in a Pinot Noir Glass. Also known as a Burgundy glass.

According to the website called Pinosity the quoted Mark Baulderstone, Riedel Australia’s Managing Directorsays of how the design of a glass is paramount to telling the true story of a wine.

“Aroma is 70% of the experience when drinking wine,” he said. “When you have the right glass, the way the wine’s aromatic layers are presented as the winemaker intended. The wine should have a great expression of fruit first, followed by the other elements.” SIC

A Pinot Noir glass is a a bowl shape and size designed to maximize correct airflow for the varietal . This helps to deliver the wine onto the area of the tongue that best appreciates this cultivar.

So friends, thank you for taking the time out in reading my article and sadly this has come to the end of my article. If you haven’t subscribed yet, I think you should, because believe me I will be posting some amazing recipes that you would not want to miss out on. Let’s think poached pairs in Pinot Grigio, Coq -Au- Vin cooked in Pinot Noir, Roasted Baby Beetroot Humus and a few more! You would not want to miss out!

As usual I majory would love to hear from you. So please feel free to comment below and tell us what is your ultimate Pinot Noir experience! Once again, thank you for reading!

Happy drinking! xxx

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