I have a great fascination with Pinot Noir. This fascination stems from its ability to showcase and highlight the terroir. Though terroir is a key aspect of every winery, I always find that Pinot Noir showcases the influences of the land much more than other varietals.
Take Pinot Noir from Burgundy, Willamette Valley and the Okanagan Valley – each of these Pinot’s will be showcased differently. The flavour profiles will have the underlying characteristics of Pinot Noir (raspberry, strawberry, earth) but the body, colour, and secondary and tertiary flavours will vary.
Burgundy is the fathering region of the fickle Pinot Noir grape and sets the world standard of the wine. Many iconic wineries, many iconic versions of Pinot Noir. Most Pinot Noir from Burgundy is known for is bright fruit and acidity, often coupled with secondary and tertiary flavours of truffle, mushroom and dark earth. Some often say Burgundian Pinot’s have a barnyard characteristic. It is this quality that is often considered classic Burgundian, and showcasing the bright red colour of the grape. The high-end Pinot Noir’s, like Chateau Romanée-Conti, are often aged for many years, and grow and develop in the bottle. With enough bright acidity to hold the wine for years, these wines are enjoyed both young and old.
Willamette Valley has grown its reputation for Pinot Noir. A main focus for wine makers in this region, often pursuing old world flavour profiles from the grape. Yet there is always something so classically Willamette Valley in the wine. Traditional flavours of bright strawberry, raspberry and earth sing through, but they are often combined with notes of sour cherry and smoke. The acidity typically shines through, but the colour is often richer and deeper than that of Burgundian Pinot Noir. A heavier and richer version of this heartbreak grape provides a richer body and more weight on the palate.
The Okanagan Valley is also making a name for being world-class producers of Pinot Noir. Winning awards for the best Pinot Noir’s in the world. Pinot’s here vary from those classic old world Burgundian barnyard profiles, to more New World profiles of fruit driven wine. The constant in these wines is the acidity on the profile and colour. The colour is often not as deep and heavy as that from Willamette, but not as bright and light as that of Burgundy, it falls somewhere in the middle of the scale. Though the overall presentation of flavour varies, the underlining flavour profile of Okanagan Pinot is one of freshly stewed strawberries and Rainier cherries.
There are many more presentations of Pinot Noir, from New Zealand to Russian River Valley to Casablanca Valley. Each representation highlights the differences in terroir. Colour, body, weight and underlying flavour profiles. Each glass of Pinot Noir speaks to the land and highlights something new, exciting and different.