History of Pinot Noir
Like many other well-known grape varieties, as far as we know, Pinot Noir originated in the Burgundy region of France. One of the oldest grape species in existence, it is thought that the species came into being sometime before the first century AD. It rose to prominence during the middle ages, cultivated by Cistercian monks. As the grape’s reputation for superior flavour grew, it became much in demand in Burgundy and beyond. Pinot Noir is the most widely grown red grape in Burgundy.
It’s not a particularly hardy grape and is also prone to mutation; as a result, there are a number of different pinot noir variations. When people speak of “Burgundy” wine, they quite often mean red wine which has been made from the pinot noir grape.
What Food Does Pinot Noir Suit?
As stated previously, the wide range of styles and presentations which Pinot Noir can deliver means that it’s difficult to make blanket statements regarding the dishes with which to pair it. As a generalisation, the light to medium-bodied nature of Pinot Noir means the wine tends to lend itself to lighter dishes that won’t overwhelm it. If your Pinot Noir is towards the more delicate end of the taste spectrum, it works well with fish, particularly salmon or tuna. Where tannins are more prominent in the taste of the wine, it may be better suited to complementing game (particularly duck or rabbit). Darker, richer Pinot Noir can work well with a strongly flavoured cheese (for example Danish Blue, Stilton, Roquefort or Gorgonzola).
A robust accompaniment to stews and casseroles, it can also work well with venison, pigeon and other game which is more strongly flavoured. Pinot Noir can also really come into its own when served alongside pasta: perfect to drink with a creamy pasta sauce (such as carbonara), a glass of Pinot Noir can add considerable impact to Italian cuisine, particularly fish or vegetable pasta recipes. In general Pinot Noir is a little too tannin-heavy to complement seafood or fish that have a more delicate taste. Too tart to make a good dessert wine, Pinot Noir is a versatile accompaniment to a wide variety of dishes.
What Does Wine Pinot Noir Taste Like?
Just like any other wine, the taste of a product made using the Pinot Noir grape is dependent on a number of different factors. Not only is it important to consider which variety of Pinot Noir grape is being used, the climate in which the grape is grown (the tiroir) also plays a key role in determining how the wine tastes.
As a general rule, Pinot Noir grown in Australia tends to have fruity notes and a fair amount of tannin. Although subject to variation, it’s normally a light- to medium-bodied wine. Getting the flavour right is always a challenge with a Pinot Noir grape: the subtle fruit flavours need bringing out, without being overwhelmed by oaking or other techniques which will add body, but at the expense of the understated Pinot Noir tones that make it stand out for all the right reasons.
Because of the challenges involved in both growing and fermenting Pinot Noir, there is plenty of lively discussion in vintner circles regarding the best way to make the best of this intriguing grape. Currently, Pinot Noir trends favour a lightly oaked or non-oaked wine, but this could change over time!
Pinot Noir in Australia
The Pinot Noir grape was introduced into Australia during the first half of the nineteenth century. One of the varieties planted by the well-known vintner James Busby in the 1830s, its popularity has varied over time. Because the grape is such a challenging variety to grow, there are a limited number of areas in Australia where it can be cultivated with any degree of success. The best Pinot Noir grapes are grown where the vines can thrive in a temperate climate with access to ocean winds to prevent the plants over-heating. Areas where Pinot Noir has managed to establish a recognised presence include the Yarra Valley, Tasmania, Sunbury and the Mornington Penninsula in Victoria and the Canberra area in the Australian Capital Territory. Current estimates suggest that around 19668 tonnes of Pinot Noir are grown each year in Australia to be used for making wine. Although not the most widely cultivated variety (mainly because of its narrow climatic parameters for successful growth), it enjoys a reasonable degree of popularity in the country, due to its versatility and the potential to make high-grade vintages during good years.
Where is Pinot Noir Grown?
As indicated earlier, Pinot Noir grows best in the more temperate parts of Australia, particularly areas close to the coast. NSW is home to a number of vineyards where Pinot Noir grapes are cultivated, especially the Southern Highlands. In Victoria, you can find Pinot Noir in Geelong, Beechworth and the Bellarine Peninsula. The Adelaide Hills, located in South Australia, has an intriguing landscape with a range of altitudes, aspects and soil types. This results in several different types of Pinot Noir being produced there: from earthy, rich vintages through to warm, fruity offerings, the Adelaide Hills provide something for every taste. You can also find Pinot Noir growing in Western Australia, Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania.
Outside of Australia, Pinot Noir is grown quite extensively in several different parts of Europe. Burgundy in France is still widely considered to be the epi-centre of great Pinot Noir. Known as Red Burgundy when it’s produced in the area, French Pinot Noir is widely recognised as some of the best you’ll find globally.
Despite their temperamental nature, vintners all over the world persevere in trying to grow Pinot Noir grapes; not least because the wines created from these grapes are often of exceptionally high quality. As well as Australian Pinot Noir, you can also find the grape and its wine produced in America (especially California and Oregon), other European countries (including Italy, Germany and Moldova) and Chile, in South America