Pinot Noir: The Devil is in the Details
Coined “the heartbreak grape” for its finicky nature, Pinot Noir is often said to be a creation of the devil. On the contrary, Pinot Noir may ironically be highly beneficial to your heart and the fickle grape just may be a gift from the Gods. Derived from the French words for “pine” and “black”, Pinot Noir most likely got its name from its dark purple color, and the shape of the grape cluster, which slightly resembles a pine cone. This temperamental grape is difficult to cultivate and transform into wine, but once harvested, it produces some of the finest wines in the world.
The Cote d’ Or, or the “Slope of Gold”, is a narrow, thirty mile long stretch of hills in France’s Burgundy region. This environment seems to be optimal for growing the demanding vine. Although Pinot Noir grapes thrive in the Burgundy region, they are planted all over the world. In the United States they are grown predominantly in California, with Oregon, Washington, Michigan, and New York also producing substantial volume. In Oregon, the Willamette Valley shares the same latitude as the Burgundy region, and provides the same cool, damp, foggy climate, which is favorable for producing world class Pinot Noir.
This grape is high maintenance. The climate and environment must be optimal. It is highly sensitive to light, needs a steep terrain, mineral-rich soil, and requires specific pruning. Also, both the vine and grape are very susceptible to a variety of afflictions, including fungal diseases, rot, and falling prey to insects and birds. Once mature the grapes must be picked promptly or their thin skin will shrivel and dry out quickly. The sensitivity of the grape continues through the fermenting process, making Pinot Noir highly unpredictable in bottling. Once bottled, it lacks longevity, reaching its peak at approximately five to eight years past the vintage. These complications are the reason the grape has the reputation for being difficult. It is also the reason why Pinot Noir, when compared to other red wines, is produced in smaller quantities.
Despite all the “heartbreak” in production, Pinot Noir has the potential to taste like silk. When consumed in moderation, it can be compared to an elixir of the gods. Ever wonder why the French rarely worry about heart disease even though their typical diet is so high in fat? Some experts believe daily consumption of red wine in these regions has led to some of the highest life expectancies in the world despite their culinary inclinations. Furthermore, in regions where red wine is produced, the locals live sixty five percent longer than their other French counterparts.
Pinot Noir, due to its affection for a cooler climate, produces heavy levels of Resveratrol, an antibiotic developed in the skin of the grape, which fights fungal diseases and other environmental toxins. Resveratrol triggers the survival mode of cells and is a highly potent antioxidant, boosting the immune system, deterring the development of some cancers, and protecting against heart disease. Needless to say, the French who consume Pinot Noir regularly may have found a way to eat what they want and live longer, healthier lives. Pinot Noir, with its elusive notes and charm, can produce a broad array of bouquets, textures, and flavors. Traditionally, the wine tends to be a lighter-bodied, fruity red with an aroma indicative of currant, black cherry, or raspberry, as well as flavors reminiscent of sweet red berries, plums, tomatoes, and cherries. This balance crafts Pinot Noir as one of the world’s most versatile food wines, pairingwell with all types of dishes. It works especially well with robust stews and spicy meats. It also harmonizes well with grilled salmon and mushroom dishes. To show off the delicacy and quality of this wine, rich recipes will work best, while a slightly chilled bottle will go well with lighter fare. It’s hard to go wrong either way.
Pinot Noir may be difficult to please but it’s worth all the trouble. This is a red wine that should top most food pairing lists and what’s more, could possibly raise your life expectancy. So, raise a glass to your health.