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Parsing the many facets of pinot noir

People all over the globe are sipping a liquid jewel of the wine world, because Aug. 18 is International Pinot Noir Day.

The pinot noir grape produces a heavily perfumed red wine with a bouquet of raspberries, cherries, strawberries, earth, spices and herbs. It’s a light- to medium-bodied wine, with high acidity that ages well. Capricious and finicky as it is on the vine, a fine pinot is elegantly sippable on its own, and also a very versatile and food-friendly wine that will work with a variety of foods.

This notoriously sensitive grape makes up for its cultivation and fermentation difficulties by being not just the most highly prized wine in the world but also the healthiest.

Pinot noir, which translates as black pine, is the signature red grape varietal of the French region of Burgundy. There, as is common in Europe, the wine bears the name of the region, not the grape. In France, pinot noir is known as red Burgundy. But don’t stop with just one pinot! Pinot gris/grigio and pinot blanc are simply color mutations of pinot noir. Each grape DNA was analyzed and they were found to be identical. Pinot meunier is part of the pinot family too,

Pinot noir is one of the oldest wines and comes in at 1,000 years older than cabernet sauvignon. It is a noble grape of antiquity. As the Romans moved through Europe, they left their vines behind like breadcrumbs. Centuries later, Cistercian monks near Dijon began working the vines, keeping meticulous notes that eventually became the idea for the French term terroir, which in basic terms is the concept that wines reflect their growing environments.

The ultimate glass for pinot noir has a large bowl to allow the aromas to open and swirl, with a narrower top that has a small lip or a slight flare around the top. The purpose of this lip is to direct the wine directly onto the tip of the tongue, not farther back. This will give you the prime opportunity to experience the beautifully balanced nuances of this complex wine.

Oregon pinot noir is usually a few steps lighter in color and texture than California pinot noir; and it’s usually more tart. It also tends to be a little more austere, somewhere between California and France. Expect cranberry and bing cherry flavors with secondary aromas of truffle mushrooms and sometimes even a green dandelion stem flavor.

In Burgundy, pinot noir is usually very herbaceous and light. Earthy aromas dominate, including smells similar to a brown paper bag full of mushrooms or wet leaves. Along with the earth are faint floral smells of roses, violet and a smell of fruit that leans toward raw, freshly picked cherries.

A giant leap in flavor and intensity from the pinot noir in France and Germany, California pinot noirs are bigger, lush and more fruit-forward. Look for flavors ranging from sweet black cherry to black raspberry and secondary aromas of vanilla, clove, Coca-Cola and caramel. (Source: winefolly.com)

So, on this festive day, drink up to pinot.

Reach Paula Bandy at pbthegrapevine@gmail.com and connect with her on Instagram at @pbthroughthegrapevine.