Flavor Profile. Pinot Noir has over 200 different clones, far more than any other varietal. So pinots range from the very light-bodied to the medium- or full-bodied. (Side Bar/Wine Bar – clones of winemaking grapes share genetic materials but are not identical.) Bright fresh fruit notes, especially cherry, typify younger-drinking pinots, while aged Pinots may be more oak-influenced or exhibit smoky and/or leathery characteristics. For Thanksgiving, I recommend choosing a complex, medium-bodied pinot to complement the wide range of flavors in turkey, ham, protein alternatives and side dishes.
Food Pairings. With its nuances and relatively high acidity, Pinot Noir is more versatile than any other red grape varietal for food pairing. It goes well with casual dishes like pizza and pasta; pairs beautifully with duck and salmon; and can go up the ladder to lighter grilled meat dishes, especially pork and lamb. Portobello mushrooms – in pasta, in risotto or simply grilled, are fantastic with pinot.
Price. Pinot Noir, best when yields per acre are low, is difficult to cultivate in the vineyard and even harder to work with in the tank room. Accordingly, it’s more expensive than many other wines. Finding a good pinot in the wine shop or market for under $25 is challenging. Elite, collectible Burgundies can go for well over $1000 per bottle. Finally, most restaurants offer several pinots by the glass and more by the bottle – at the usual mark-ups.
Happy Thanksgiving, almost!
Photos used under Creative Commons from Jim Fischer