Pinot Noir is often separated into two categories: New World and Old World.

Most wines can be divided in this fashion, but it’s important to note what defines a wine as new versus old. Aside from the differences in structure and character from the winemaking methods and terroir, the most basic difference between these two Pinot Noir styles is geographic location. Old World essentially refers to Europe, with Burgundy, France being the motherland. New World typically refers to the United States, Canada, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia and other locations that aren’t bound by the strict winemaking regulations that Old World winemakers have to abide.

“Pinot Noir is best known for being an extremely elegant grape—the best examples are generally medium-bodied (not too rich or heavy) with great acidity (think ‘freshness’ when you take a sip) and have really generous and abundant aromatics of fresh fruits, florals and earthy characteristics,” Thomas Pastuszak, wine director of The NoMad, says. “The best food wines tend to be those that stand-up to cuisine while refreshing the palate after every sip and, in general, Pinot Noir does this so well!”

Thomas Pastuszak NoMad

Thomas Pastuszak NoMad

While Pinot Noir is generally an excellent wine to drink with a meal, New World Pinot Noir is specifically enticing for food pairings, thanks to its prominent fruity character, acidity, higher alcohol, weight and overall structure. “New World Pinot also has a combination of fruity, herbal, and spicy that makes it a match for a wide variety of dishes,” Stacey Gibson, advanced sommelier at Park Avenue Wines in Portland, OR, says. Old World Pinot Noirs are typically lighter in body, lower in alcohol, have great acidity and lean more towards an earthy character, boasting flavors reminiscent of mushrooms, wet leaves and minerality. They still pair well with food but are much different than New World Pinots.

Stacey Gibson of Park Avenue Wines_Credit Matt Gonzalez

Stacey Gibson of Park Avenue Wines

Photo by Matt Gonzalez

Before diving into Pinot Noir food pairings, it’s important to think about it in two ways: complementary and contrasting. This framework stands true for almost all food and beverage pairings, and it’s important to keep in mind depending on the dish and format of the meal. For complementary New World Pinot Noir pairings, you want to consider the characteristics of your selected bottle and pair those flavors accordingly. For example, a rich and jammy Napa Valley Pinot Noir would play well with a rare steak with a black cherry reduction. If you were to contrast the same wine with a food pairing, you might choose a dish that’s rich with herbs and spices to balance the fruit-forward character of the wine. To dial-in the focus, we tapped a few sommeliers and wine educators to learn which New World Pinot Noir bottlings pair with specific dishes, so you can apply the concepts at home or at your restaurant.

Rex Hill Pinot Noir Paired with Salmon

Rex Hill Pinot Noir Paired with Salmon

Suzor “The Tower” Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton 2015 with Oven-Baked Pork Chops

“The rosemary in the recipe will be a great complement to the dark cherry spice in this wine,” Gibson says. “A blend of two differnt vineyards and about 25 percent new oak, its age gives it a grownup feel while still having primary fruit flavors of strawberry and black cherry.”

By Farr Pinot Noir ‘Farrside’ 2016 (Geelong, Australia) with a Cheeseburger

“Nick Farr is making some of the most exciting Pinot Noir in Australia, and having trained at some of the best estates in Burgundy (specifically Domaine Dujac), the quality of the wines is unsurprisingly high,” Pastusuzak says. “I’m a big fan of pairing a classic cheeseburger with well-made Pinot Noir (love ‘high-low’ opportunities!). This Pinot offers a little more fruit, weight, body and structure to stand-up to a cheesy, beefy burger. All the while, it has loads of acidity and freshness to clean-up the fattiness of the burger after taking a sip, to get you ready for the next bite.”

2015 Rex Hill Alloro Vineyard Pinot Noir Willamette Valley with Smoked Salmon and Dill Tartine

“The bright acidity and delicate but complex red fruits along with the vein of minerality pairs perfectly with the fatty and delicate salmon in olive oil,” Carrie Kalscheuer, director of education at Rex Hill Vineyards, says. “When combined, these two hit all points on the palate, creating balance and deliciousness.”

Carrie Kalscheuer of Rex Hill

Carrie Kalscheuer of Rex Hill