Welcome to Drunk Wine School! We’re here to help you feel more comfortable around a topic that can sometimes feel intimidating. Wine is meant to be enjoyed so, grab a glass and follow along to learn more, drink better and have fun while doing it.
Today we dive into Pinot Noir with our special guest, resident Oregon Pinot Camp alum, Mike. We all drink Pinot, but why is it at every dinner party and what’s the difference between the $75 bottle labeled in French and the $20 bottle from California. Aside from our education and experience, we consider ourselves Pinot Noir experts mostly because Titus Burgess served us a lot of his Pinot by Titus wine at a party last year and now obviously we sound exactly like he does in The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt singing our intro. (If you’re not sure what we’re talking about, we recommend you hop on Netflix after this episode.)
Pinot Noir is a very appealing grape to the masses and that’s because it’s easy to drink. The wine is generally lower in tannin and alcohol with vibrant acidity, bright fruit flavors and an ability to pair with food like no other. It’s quite a chameleon of a grape, as well; there is so much variety in its style depending on where you get it from, so that’s how we break it down. When shopping or ordering off a menu, you’ll likely be seeing these three regions offering up Pinot: France, Oregon and California.
The home of Pinot Noir, the place where it can range in price from $15 to $1,500 one bottle to the next. Burgundy specific... the wines are light, lean, delicate and earthy. When talking about “terroir” in wine, or the influence of a microclimate on the grape, this is a great reference point. Labeling on a bottle gets specific here and we mean right down to kilometers. As a general rule of thumb, the more specific the geographical boundary, the more expensive the bottle. “Village” level Burgundies are lower in price than something labeled “Premier Cru” or “Grand Cru” because they can get the grapes from a wider space geographically or use more of the grapes off the same vine, which can influence the quality. To show you and even remind ourselves, we tasted Burgundies from two different villages from the same producer. Yup, there’s for sure a difference in those kilometers! So fun!
Similar to the “Burgundian” style, Oregon is pumping out some incredible and impressive, delicate wines. Some of the most wonderful and internationally respected wines in the country are coming out of here. The thing about Pinot Noir is that it’s difficult to grow and make properly. It’s a fragile grape and needs the perfectly cool climate to ripen. It’s fickle nature is another contributing factor to some higher priced bottles. The acidity is fresh, the wines are floral and lean and usually a great value. Oregon doesn’t quite have the prestige on a label that Burgundy does, or at least not yet, so high quality wines can be bought for a much more reasonable price. #PinotNoirLifeHack
Oh California Pinot Noir, what a tumultuous relationship we have with you. This is where the difference in styles really starts to show. California fruit is always going to be a little riper and present in the wine so this is when we step away from calling Pinot Noir earthy or delicate and lean more towards words like juicy and fruity. Since we mention the need for a cool climate for Pinot to thrive, if you want brighter fruit and a lighter style of Pinot Noir from California, pay attention to the coastal areas like Sonoma and Santa Barbara. The other route some winemakers take here is to embrace California’s reputation for big red wines and make Pinot Noir with methods that we don’t necessarily agree with. When shopping, many consumers will look for names on the shelf that are recognizable whether it be from experience, commercials or billboards. The issue we have with some of these bigger wineries making Pinot Noir in California is that they will add things like dye, alcohol, sugar, preservatives and even other wine to darken the color, build up the body of wine and produce as much as possible. To us, that’s not the point of Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir deserves better and you do, too. You know which ones we means.
Alternatives to Pinot Noir
• Gamay: Burgundy, France
• Cabernet Franc Loire Valley, France
• Zweigelt or Blaufränkisch: Austria
• Frappato: Sicily, Italy
• Lacrima di Moro d’Alba: Marché, Italy
• Poulsard: Jura, France
• Schiava: Alto Adige, Italy (aka Trollinger if you’re in Germany)
Thanks for watching. We hope Pinot Noir is a little more demystified for you next time you need to pick up a bottle of the most universally liked red wine. Or record a music video with your landlord, whatever role Pinot Noir plays in your life. As it goes, like subscribe and share!