April: My Pinot Noir Month
I don't drink enough Pinot Noir. Maybe you do. I don't. I drink a lot of... everything. I think I had wine A.D.D. or something. But, I am trying to spend some time concentrating on single varietals or regions.
April (and part of March) was Pinot Noir month for me.
About this little grape They say that this is a tricky little grape to grow for various reasons. Where to start? It's a thin skinned grape so it is more sensitive to climate variations, frost, insults from other grapes, and rot. The weather needs to be just right - Pinot Noir likes it a bit on the cool side - but if it's too cool the wines can taste green and thin and if the weather is too hot, the wines can be flabby. This grape, like many a movie superhero, mutates easily and the clones of the grape can vary widely in terms of quality.
And there's more. Soil. Amount of yield. But, I am trying to keep these short and "tiny".
In the glass
Since red wines get all their color from the skins of the grape and being that Pinot Noir is a thin-skinned grape, the wines are much lighter in color compared to your Merlot or Cabernet (in California they allegedly like to throw a little Syrah in to the blend to darken the color). The flavors and aromas will include red fruit (cherry, strawberry) as well as some earthiness (I find mushroom a lot) and vegetable flavors like green peppers.
Where it's at
Due to the general crankiness about where it grows, there are not a lot of places that grow it well. Probably the most famous are Burgundy and Champagne (although in Champagne it's debatable that it grows "well"). Pinot Noir is one of the three primary grapes used for Champagne and is the primary red grape for most of Burgundy.
Next door in Germany, Pinot Noir is their primary grape for red wines. Outside of Europe, you'll find good examples from Australia, New Zealand, Oregon, California, and many many other places.
What I am drinking
It's blasphemous to say this when writing about Pinot Noir, but I don't drink a lot of Burgundy. Why? Basically I am lazy and don't have the patience to explore all the producers and have been burned a few times with high priced wines from good producers that turned out crappy.
Currently I am a big fan of German Pinot Noirs (sometimes referred to as Spatburgunder) because they seem to possess many of the same characteristics of their French versions but with better quality control. Blasphemous. But that is what my mouth hole tends to tell me. The same red fruit, light color, and earthiness - but a bit more austere. A bit more rigorous. A bit more German.
Or as I wrote to someone the other day: It's Burgundy, but made a bit further north. And by Germans.
I could be imagining all of this so do don't send a mob of angry Burgundy producers to my apartment.
I may like the German ones, but I seem to also be drinking quite a few new world Pinot Noir from New Zealand and Oregon. The examples from NZ are all quite interesting and tend to have very little of the earthiness that their European versions do and feature perfectly ripe fruit and some toasty oak. In my brain, the NZ ones are very delineated between all the components. My brain notices fruit. It notices wood. But they seem separate. I suppose this isn't a good thing, but I don't mind it.
Austria produces Pinot Noir as well. I only had two examples from Austria and they were both a bit stinky, but once they aired out (sometimes a day later) they were interesting. My brain thought the fruit was a tad riper than Germany and Burgundy. I didn't take very good notes on the Austrians unfortuantly.
Oregon Pinots tend to strike a nice middle ground - fruitier and riper than Burgundy but not as big and wonky as the ones from California.
California. I don't drink a lot of California wine and I drink even less California Pinot. So, I am going to shut up about this one - except to say that the CA ones I had in April have been a bit too large and a bit too ripe and fruity for my tastes.
Pinot Noir month was fun, although I realize that I only touched the tip of what is on the market.
What'd I learn? Oregon and Germany are my go-to choices for everyday Pinot.
I haven't decided what to do for May yet.