The Many Styles and Flavors of Pinot Noir – Winnipeg Free Press



One of the first wines I tackled when I started writing Uncorked 17 (!) years ago was Pinot Noir. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise; among wine geeks, it tends to be a favorite varietal to contend with. A grape famous for its fickle cultivation, Pinot Noir is made in a wide range of styles around the world (including here in Canada) and, when done right, can produce deep wines of exceptional complexity. .

More so than most wine varietals, red or white, Pinot Noir styles range from fruity and juicy in warmer New World wine regions to subtle, earthy and complex in Old World examples. It is also used in the making of rosé in some parts of the world and is a key grape in the production of some of the best sparkling wines in the world, including from the Champagne region of France.

Gary Nylander/Canadian Press Files

Pinot Noir is the star of wines produced around the world, embraced by producers here in Canada, from the Okanagan in British Columbia to the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia.

Much of the variation in Pinot Noir styles depends on climate. The grape does especially well in cooler to moderate wine regions; its thinner skin not only results in lighter colored wines, but it also makes the grape more sensitive to extreme heat, frost and excess direct sunlight. This is one of the reasons why Pinot Noir has been dubbed the “heartbreaking grape” by industry players – when things go wrong growing Pinot Noir, they go horribly wrong, and no amount of aging oak or other tricks in the basement can usually solve the problem. problem.

When things are going well, however, Pinot Noir generally delivers lovely red berry and cherry flavors with low tannins and moderate acidity, with secondary flavors often described as earthy, mushroomy, or even reminiscent of the forest floor (what a whatever the taste).

Pinot Noir first rose to global prominence in wines from France’s Burgundy region, where many of the top red wines made from the grape often come from a few rows of vines in a particular vineyard, and which can cost hundreds of dollars. . A wine from a neighboring vineyard, made in much the same way, can bring very different flavor profiles (albeit at an equally prohibitive price).

At the other end of the flavor spectrum are the increasingly popular, fruit-focused examples of Pinot Noir from California, especially regions such as Sonoma County and the Santa Lucia Highlands. In warmer vintages, Golden State examples tend to be darker in color, sometimes bringing highly extracted fruit flavors and more noticeable oak aging that sometimes sees the resulting wine bordering on medicine (think flavors of cherry cough syrup) and end with a higher alcohol. levels.

Between these two extremes is a plethora of Pinot Noir that is both delicious and relatively easy on the wallet. Over the past 17 years, the number of wines made from Pinot Noir available in Manitoba liquor stores and private wine stores has grown and now includes examples in multiple price ranges and from regions ranging from Austria, South Africa, Bulgaria, New Zealand, Chile and beyond. All of the above regions produce well-priced Pinot, accessible to newcomers to the varietal, but with enough character to please long-time enthusiasts.

Here in Canada, growers in Ontario’s Niagara region and British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley have embraced the grape, as have those making wine on Vancouver Island, in the Similkameen Valley in British Columbia, Prince Edward County and the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. Many Canadian Pinot Noirs hold their own on the world stage with ease, with many landings at very reasonable prices.

Pinot Noir is also extremely food-friendly. It’s an ideal red served lightly chilled with the typical holiday turkey dinner, and also works beautifully with pork dishes, duck, cedar-planked salmon, milder stews, mushroom risotto, most cold cuts/appetizers and more.

Twitter: @bensigurdson

Wines of the week

Henry of Pelham Family Estate 2020 Pinot Noir (Niagara Peninsula, ON — $18.49, liquor stores and beyond)

Raspberry, cherry, floral, spice and subtle earthy notes come through quite nicely on this Ontario pinot noir. It’s light and dry, but the red berry and cherry flavors bring freshness and depth, with a hint of acidity and light tannins that provide concentration and the earthy component of white pepper adds complexity. wonderful for the price. Drink this accessible Pinot Noir now. 4/5

Jean-Claude Boisset 2019 Les Ursulines Pinot Noir (Burgundy, France – $29.99, liquor stores and beyond)

Plum, earth, black cherry, mocha, and hints of leather and pepper bring old-world aromatic charm to this French Pinot Noir. It’s dry and lightly bodied, with a decent core of ripe fruit and structure to match with medium tannins, a touch of acidity and an almost saline medium-length finish. Combines a modern fruity profile with Old World charm; a very good introduction to French Burgundy. 4/5

Lapis Luna 2018 Pinot Noir (North Coast, CA – around $27, private wine shops)

This California pinot noir brings aromatic notes of ripe cherry, mocha, savory spices, red licorice and meat. It’s light and dry, with notes of red berries, cola, earth, smoked meat, plum and spice front and center, light tannins reminiscent of black tea and a slightly warm finish. of 14.1 alcohol. There’s a lot going on here, with great depth of fruit and a tip of the hat to Burgundy. Drink now or keep for up to two years. Available at Kenaston Wine Market, Calabria Market or Ellement Wine + Spirits. 4.5/5

La Crema 2019 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast, CA – $38.99, liquor stores and beyond)

Medium ruby ​​color and deep aromas of cherry, red licorice and plum accompanied by subtle notes of pepper and earth. It’s dry and medium-bodied, with flavors of ripe cherry, raspberry and candied plum but preserved by light tannins and acidity, while a hint of spice comes with a bit of heat from barrel aging. oak and 13.5 percent alcohol. A good example of Pinot Noir for those who like things more concentrated and extracted. 3.5/5

Ben Sigurdson

Ben Sigurdson
Literary editor, beverage author

Ben Sigurdson edits the books section of Free Press and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.


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