The Sensuality (and Other ‘S’ Words) of Pinot Noir


There are a number of “S” words commonly associated with Pinot Noir.

Silky. Smooth. Seductive. Sensual. Sinful.

Sinful? Well, if you put all those other “S” words together, something sinful — the good kind of sinful — is bound to happen, right?

Among red winegrape varieties, Pinot Noir is perhaps the most perplexing to grow, yet can be the most rewarding when the right vineyard site, the right weather and the right winemaker converge — a vinous ménage a trois, so to speak.

The Pinot Noir capital of the world is the Burgundy region of France. The variety also is grown in that country’s Champagne region to make stunning (another “S” word) sparkling wines. In Oregon, a vast majority of the vineyard acreage — particularly in the Willamette Valley — is devoted to Pinot. And in California, pockets of the Central Coast, Sonoma County, Napa Valley and Mendocino County are noted for Pinot production.

The movie “Sideways” will be remembered most vividly for a pair of observations about specific wine varieties by the character Miles — one an obscenity-laced diatribe about Merlot, the other an almost poetic appreciation of Pinot Noir.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, we’ll save the Merlot comments for another occasion, and share Miles’ perspective on Pinot:

“It’s a hard grape to grow. As you know. Right? It’s, uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s, you know, it’s not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And, in fact, it can only grow in these really specific, little tucked-away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression.”

We couldn’t have said it better, but wine writer and educator Jancis Robinson once came close — and she did include one “S” word: “Pinot Noir is a minx of a wine. It leads us on a terrible dance, tantalizing with an occasional glimpse of riches in store for those who persevere, yet obstinately refusing to be tamed.”

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Tomorrow: Food pairing partners for Pinot Noir and sparkling wine — two great choices for Valentine’s Day.

Posted in Wine in the Glass
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