Olive Oil's Wine Dinner #2, 11-19-08: Pinot Noir

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Pinot Noir is grown in many wine regions of the world.  From Southern New Zealand to the Pacific Northwest, this grape flourishes under ideal conditions.

Pinot Noir prefers slightly less heat than Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.  It also prefers cooler nightime temperatures, and a little more humidity.  Pinot noir tends to do well in maritime climates, closer to either large or small bodies of water, such as rivers or lakes.  These regions include:

  • The willamette valley, oregon
  • the russian river valley, california
  • the carneros region, california
  • the cote d'or, france (Burgundy)
  • The southern part of Argentina and Chile
  • The south island of New Zealand
  • The northern part of Italy

Compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Merlot, the Pinot Noir grape has a thinner skin.  This results in a wine that is:

  • less "tannic" or textured in the mouth
  • has less deep color, is not so opaque
  • is not as weighty on the palate as its thicker-skinned cousins

In France, the best area for growing Pinot Noir is between Lyon and Dijon, and is known as the Burgundy region.  In France most wines are named after the region (Bordeaux, Sauternes, Champagne, Burgundy, Rhone).

The wines of Burgundy are both white and red, and are made from the Chardonnay grape for the whites, and the Pinot Noir grape for the reds.

The wines are classified by quality level, which generally comforms to the price being higher as you go up the scale.

The simplest wines are called AC Burgundy (or Bourgogne).  These are wines from anywhere within the designated Burgundy area.

The next highest level are the Village wines, which come from a particular town, such as Pommard or Gevry-Chambertin.

The next level is the 1st growths or Premier Cru.  These are from very good vineyards within the villages, such as Pommard Rugiens, Meursault Charmes, Puligny-Montrachet Combettes.

The very highest level is the Grands Crus.  These are the best of the best, the finest vineyards.  These are Le Montrachet, La Romanee-Conti, Chambertin.