Pinot noir is among the most popular wine varieties around the globe. While this soft and supple red wine is grown and made in many countries, we are lucky to have access to some of the best and best-priced pinot noir from New Zealand and Australia. It is also a wine that matches perfectly with a broad range of food, especially that produced by the bounty of autumn, from mushrooms to good pork and crackling with good old apple sauce. So, let’s take a quick snapshot of key points about this remarkable wine.
Pinot noir’s home is France’s Burgundy region, particularly Cote-d’Or. In that part of the world, pinot noir is famous for its savoury fleshiness and ‘farmyard’ aromas. In Australia and New Zealand, the wine tends to have a light to medium body with aromas reminiscent of black and/or red cherry, raspberry and, to a lesser extent, currants and many other fine, small red and black berry fruits.
Winemakers from across the globe describe pinot noir as the ‘fickle mistress.’ This is because it is extremely temperamental to grow in the vineyard. It can be prone to disease because of its thin pale red skin and it must be treated with kid gloves in the winery. The wine’s colour when young is often compared to that of garnet, as it is frequently much lighter than other red wines. It possesses a tremendously broad range of aromas, flavours and textures.
With a change in the season from summer to autumn, it is the right time to talk to customers about pinot noir as a great match for seasonal food. Pinot noir is one of the most versatile red wines to match with food and a great option in a bar, club or restaurant. On warmer days, it can be offered slightly chilled as a more complex alternative for rosé drinkers. It can also work well when one customer chooses red meat and the other white meat, or flavoursome fish. The diversity in pinot noir styles is unrivalled by any other variety, from the Grand Crus of Burgundy to New Zealand’s South Island – and everything in between.
Light, fresh styles of pinot noir are great with charcuterie, ham, salumi, soft cheese and pâtés. These styles, often from France, are also a great match with light, creamy pasta dishes as well as a salad with goat’s cheese or late-season grilled
asparagus and other green veg dishes. The richer, heavily fruited wines of Australia and New Zealand go easily with seared salmon and tuna dishes, roast chicken and lighter red meat dishes such as beef carpaccio, or even a classic Italian dish such as vitello tonnato. Then there are the rich, full bodied pinots, such as those from New Zealand’s Central Otago and those grown in a hot vintage. Pinot noir produced in a hot year can express deep, dark and brooding flavours with assertive spiciness and musky aromas. The bigger flavours of these styles are a perfect match for rich duck dishes such as cassoulet, duck with olives, or even a full-flavoured duck a l’orange. A coq au vin, made with pinot noir, tells the perfect story about food and wine matchmaking. Come Christmas, these big pinot noirs, with their light spicy notes, are good wine to drink with herb stuffed turkey, glazed ham and even lovely blue cheeses such as gorgonzola dolce.
Diners love to know a little bit about the wine they are drinking. First up, pinot noir grown for dry table wines is generally low yielding and has less vigour than many other varieties. This means it can cost a little more to make. It also explains why it can be a dollar or so more costly per glass. It is also considered the sexiest wine in the world. Joel Fleishman of Vanity Fair once described pinot noir as “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.” On top of that, Master Sommelier Madeline Triffon once called pinot noir “sex in a glass.”
Sommelier and director at Vinified Wine Services
As seen in autumn 2023