I’ve always said that Pinot Noir is the love of my life when it comes to picking and choosing wines, which many people don’t really get, but I’ve got my reasons to love Pinot Noir, the most romanticised wine in the world, and here’s why…
Pinot Noir – it’s one of the world’s most famous grapes and yet, this grape that likes to play hard-to-get is one of the most difficult to select.
Did you ever watch the film Sideways? Even if it’s over a decade old, you aren’t forgiven if you haven’t seen it – come on, it even had its own stage version remake that recently graced the London theatre scene. It’s a classic!
Anyway, I’m not going to ruin it for you – watch it! One thing I will say is that the protagonist, the disorderly Miles, loves Pinot Noir, and who can blame him?
Speaking poetically of Pinot, he muses ‘Its flavours – they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and…ancient on the planet…’ While he’s no wine expert or toffee-nosed sommelier, his words are perhaps some of the truest words ever to be muttered about Pinot Noir.
Why am I mentioning the shambolic character of Miles and this memorable movie? Well, it’s not just me these characters won over; they won over the world. Unbeknown to anyone, Miles’ passion for Pinot sent ripples through the wine industry and the effects are still described as ‘seismic’.
‘It can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked-away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it’ – more wise words from Miles.
Perhaps just like every Shakespeare stage actor wants the role of Hamlet or Romeo, every winemaker has this undesirable urge to produce Pinot Noir once in their lifetime, even if their acreage is unsuitable for the pernickety Pinot Noir grapes.
Plant out Pinot Noir vines in places that are a tad too hot, and your grapes are likely to turn into jam. Over zealous pinot noir wine growers might even pick their grapes earlier than they should in a futile attempt to overcome the sticky jam situation, only to end up with a thin and unpleasant astringent wine.
Then there are the others that let their Pinot Noir grapes hang around like loose tramps. The result is just as disagreeable as the above mentioned – alcoholic fruit bombs! An alcoholic fruit bomb might be appealing to smashed university students, but it’s hardly going to rouse any interest in the elite Pinot Noir wine circles (and to be fair, poor university students are unlikely to be able to afford Pinot Noir in the first place).
In fact, this predicament really got Californian winemakers wound up. Famous for almost every other wine under the sun, they just couldn’t get Pinot Noir production right. This led eager winemakers in California to form their own Pinot Noir production movement called In Pursuit of Balance (IPOB), or should I say in pursuit of the best Pinot Noir?
Pinot Noir wine taste descriptors favour the words ‘fresh’, ‘ethereal’ and ‘light’. The fruit flavours are just as exotic. Red cherry, blackberry and raspberry are just a few fruits of the forest that are lucky enough to be mentioned in the esteemed Pinot Noir tasting notes. Then of course there are the hints of the earth, which I personally find more amusing, because really, do I want to drink Pinot Noir with a hint of truffle or button mushrooms?
Miles refers to those special ‘specific, tucked-away corners of the world’, but where are they? Which lucky parts of the world have the essential climate to grow this elegant red grape variety?
All good Pinot Noir winemakers will be quick to tell you that the Pinot Noir grape must be given time to ripen nice and slowly, just like a beautiful blossoming relationship. The weather (like my wine) must be just right. Too warm, the acidity levels dramatically fall even before the grape has had a chance to develop. Too cold, and those evocative aromas of Pinot Noir will never get the chance to come to fruition.
Wine history tells us that Burgundy is one of the ideal places to make Pinot Noir. Other Pinot Noir wine regions of the world worth mentioning include Oregon, Sonoma Coast, Santa Maria Valley, Germany, Chile, and Australia.
But it’s the cooler climes of the New World wine region of New Zealand, more specifically Central Otago and Martinborough that Pinot Noir wine enthusiasts are raving about.
So why do I love Pinot Noir so much?
If I were to personify Pinot, I’d morph it into a female – at times she can be incredibly fickle and extremely high maintenance, but its her superior beauty and warm passion that captivates me. She’s sensitive and exquisite, so it’s really no surprise that she’s the most romanticised wine in the world – in a way, she’s a bit like me, but only wine!
Pinot Noir is often consorted with wine snobbery, and for this reason the casual wine drinker or the wine novice often eschews it. But there’s also another reason why I love Pinot Noir, and that’s because it pairs with all types of food, which just goes to prove she’s not that problematic- try it, and you too will soon discover that the subtleties of Pinot Noir are something else – they’re positively wonderful!