02/26/14
Special to the Jewish Week
Delicious But Difficult

Pinot noir frustrates winemakers, but wine drinkers love it.

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Pinot noir can drive winemakers mad. It’s difficult to grow and vinify, temperamental in the barrel and prone to closing down in the bottle for years before becoming drinkable again. But these challenges seem to inspire, rather than inhibit, winemakers who consider crafting a pinot noir the pinnacle of their profession.

One of the oldest cultivated grapes, pinot noir is grown in nearly every wine producing region in the world, but it seems to do best in cooler locations. It’s the principle red varietal in France’s Burgundy region, and is one of the grapes that can be used to create Champagne. Outstanding pinot noirs are also produced in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, New Zealand and California.

It is a finicky grape, prone to a host of horticultural issues and requiring special diligence in the vineyards and winery. Thin-skinned, susceptible to disease, genetically unstable and a challenge to ferment, pinot noirs can end up as thin and uninspiring wines. While it has lower levels of the flavor-producing compounds found in the more robust grape varieties, when handled correctly pinot noir produces some of the world’s most profound, nuanced and desirable wines.

Pinot noir became very fashionable for a while after one of the leads in the movie “Sideways” dreamily declared, “Its flavors are the most haunting and brilliant and subtle and thrilling and ancient on the planet.” It remains popular because it’s generally low in alcohol and very food-friendly, matching well with roasted chicken, grilled fish, lamb and veal, as well as mushroom-based dishes and a host of cheeses.

A lovely kosher version, produced in Israel, is the Yarden Pinot Noir 2009. It displays prominent oak and red cherry aromas along with blackberry, cranberry, licorice, and toasted herbs, with some spice in the lengthy finish. Consider it for the upcoming holiday season.

Last Update:

03/07/2014 - 08:17

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