Pinot Noir 101
Inclement weather gives way to bursts of sun during the month of March, inspiring us to look forward to the coming of summer. March also happens to be Pinot Noir Month. So, how does a single variety of grape deserve a whole month of appreciation? Perhaps it’s because pinot noir is the perfect complement to spring.
A Fickle Grape That Likes Dank Weather
With a pale color in the glass and a zesty acidity on the palate, the pinot noir grape is much more delicate than cabernet sauvignon. With thin black-skinned grapes in tightly wound bunches, pinot noir struggles to gather precious sun in the valleys where it grows best. The grape prefers areas with a long spring and fall, but these interim months can trouble vineyards with grape rot and freeze. Still, the effort is worth it because the resulting wine is fascinating to drink.
The Taste of Pinot Noir
With flavors ranging from cranberries to black cherries, pinot noir has great variation. A pinot noir from France tends to have rustic earthy flavors, lower alcohol, and higher acidity, while from California, it develops more rich black cherry flavor, higher alcohol content, and a lush character. Besides regional variations, one of the major factors that affects a pinot noir’s taste is oak barrel aging. Longer aging imparts richness and a vanilla-like flavor, whereas less aging results in tart cherry flavors. Match a pinot noir to the spring weather this March using this guide:
Fruity, light, and tasting anywhere from cranberry and pomegranate to dark cherry. These wines start at around $20 and are not too complex — perfect on a brisk but sunny day.
The darkest pinots from New Zealand come from the Central Otago and have a cherry, baking spice, and cola-like finish. A decent New Zealand pinot noir will cost about $25. With more power in its punch, a Kiwi pinot noir will keep you warm in the late afternoon on a gray day.
Madeline Puckette is the host of winefolly.com, a wine learning website serving up wine courses, videos and articles to inspire wine drinkers everywhere. A certified sommelier through Court of Masters, Madeline Puckette offers an alternative approach to loving wine: learn by drinking. Follow Madeline @Winefolly as she finds the most passionate people behind the wine.