Actor Miles Raymond describes his favourite wine, pinot noir, in the Oscar-winning 2004 movie Sideways , as follows: “Only somebody who really takes the time to understand pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh, its flavours. They’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle.” This descriptive parlance provides a great backdrop to the pinot noir varietal, a bit of light and dark resulting in a delicious contrast found in your glass. The history books credit French monks as the earliest known cultivators of pinot noir, using the grapes to make wine as early as the 14th century. Since then, the grape has become one of the most popular in the world. A great pinot noir will have complexity, elaborate aromas, refined texture, freshness, silky tannins, and finesse.This week, we shift our focus to our grape varietal of the month – pinot noir.
What is Pinot Noir?
Pinot noir is both a grape and the name of the wine varietal consisting of 80%-100% of such grapes. The name comes from the French word for “pine” (pinot), because the grapes grow in pinecone-shaped clusters, and “black” (noir), a reference to their dark hue. Pinot noir is used to make four different types of single-varietal wine, meaning the wine is 100% pinot noir grapes; red pinot noir, ros pinot noir, white pinot noir, and sparkling pinot noir. Pinot noir is also used in blended wine, such as in Champagne, blended ros, and Sancerre.
For our newbies to wine and even some of our more experienced wine lovers, there may be some doubt about the varietal, especially if you blind-tasted this glass of red decadence. At times, there may be some confusion on the palate, as sometimes our senses confuse pinot noirs with merlots. Here’s how you can help to make this distinction:
• Pinot noir and merlot are both tannic red wines with similar berry flavours.
• Merlot is darker in colour, with flavour notes of dark fruits like blackberries. Pinot noir is lighter in colour with tasting notes of red fruits like raspberries.
• Merlot is most often used in blends. Pinot noir is mostly produced as a single varietal wine.
5 Tips For Serving Pinot Noir
• Perfect temperature: Pinot noir is best served slightly chilled at about 55F — a cooler temperature than your usual reds.
• Don’t decant: Pinot noir is ready to be served out of the bottle and does not necessarily need to be decanted.
• The right glass: Drink your pinot noir from a large, bell-shaped glass to best enjoy its nose or aroma.
• Bottoms up: Drink pinot noir within a day after opening to keep the wine at its prime.
• Age gracefully: Pinot noir can be aged for up to eight years. Be careful as the wine must also be correctly stored under the right temperatures.
Pinot Noir Pairings
I discovered a few years ago that the pinot noir varietal is that grape that could be paired either with red or white meats, as the varietal is high in acidity and low in tannin. Pinot noir is light enough for grilled fish, but it is also complex enough to stand up to richer fare, such as roast chicken or beef stew. Other great pairing for pinot noir include:
• Charcuterie, ham, and other cold meats
• Soft, nutty cheeses, such as taleggio, gruyere, brie, or goat cheese
• Pts and terrines
• Grilled asparagus
• Spring vegetables, like peas
• Gamey meats, like lamb
• Roasted meats, like turkey or ham
Have you been enjoying the series? We want to hear from you. Continue experimenting with these great varietals. If you are unsure where to purchase, there are many supermarkets and wine shops that carry these wines. The newly opened Fresh Foods is well merchandised and has the wines stocked by varietals, making your wine shopping experience that more convenient. Also, check out MegaMart or your local supermarkets. If you do not see the wines in your supermarkets, please make it a point of duty to request that the store begin to stock these wines. Cheers!
Readers’ Grapevine Club: If you are new to wines and want to join us on our wine discovery, then this is for you. On the third Thursday of each month, I will highlight your feedback on our grape variety/vine of the month. Let’s talk Provence Ros; after all we are heading into summer! Wine purveyors, we are looking forward to your feedback!
Extraordinary wonder and joy are interwoven through ordinary life; seek them relentlessly. Please share with me your wines, spirits and cocktail experiences or comments on the above article at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow me on IG @debbiansm #barnoneja.
An Alumna of the US Sommelier Association
CEO of the Academy of Bartending, Spirits & Wines
President, Jamaica Union of Bartenders and Mixologists (JUBAM) Limited
Marketing Studies Lecturer – The University of Technology, Jamaica
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