Oct. 31, 2012 - Issue #889-Human Trafficking Problem
Figuring out the 'bitch goddess' of wine
The necessity for a very specific climate (warm days, cool nights, high humidity but not much precipitation) makes Pinot Noir only able to thrive in specific little pockets around the world. Its ancient home is the Burgundy region of France, where it has been cultivated since around the 4th century AD. Since then, it has become one of the most celebrated varieties in the world and can command some of the highest prices: top producers like Romanée-Conti and Dugat-Py can release their wines at a couple hundred bucks a bottle, while older bottles can go for over $1000. Yet despite its rich history, the vast majority of Burgundy is exceedingly average; an unfortunate percentage is even quite bad. Because growing conditions in Burgundy vary considerably from year to year, the variation in quality between vintages is very high—it’s best to buy Burgundy from certain years as opposed to certain producers: look for bottles from 2009, 2005, 2003 and 2002.
A good year in Burgundy results in a wine with a high concentration of both tannins and acidity, providing the backbone for wines that can easily age for upwards of 15 to 20 years. Older Burgundies can also develop a fascinating array of different flavours: the typical red fruit flavours are overlaid by toasty, smoky French oak as well as the grape’s signature earthy, gamey quality—akin to damp earth or even barnyard in particularly pungent bottles (it tastes better than these descriptors make it seem).
Many producers in the New World have also tried their luck at growing the grape, though only a few regions have been able to produce good quality Pinot Noir. The grape has found a welcome home in New Zealand, where the maritime climate makes for good consistency between vintages. New Zealand Pinot Noir is a lot more fruit-forward than Burgundy, and is typically ready to drink immediately upon release; most aren’t wines to put in the cellar. Chile has also had some success with the grape, especially in the cool Casablanca Valley; Ontario’s Niagara region and Oregon’s Willamette Valley also make notably good Pinot Noir.
Another factor of Pinot Noir’s acclaim is its ability to pair well with a wide variety of foods. Its lighter body doesn’t overwhelm most dishes, while its naturally high acidity cleanses the palate between bites. It is also one of the few reds that can pair well with fish—Pinot Noir and salmon is a classic combination. It also works well with chicken and poultry, especially duck—another classic pairing. Heartier examples of Pinot Noir can stand up to lightly seasoned red meat dishes, while more fruit-forward New World examples are probably best on their own or with light, tapas-style dishes. V vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
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