Dubbed ‘the heartbreak grape’, Pinot Noir is responsible for producing some of the world's very best (and, let's face it, most expensive) red wines.
At their best, Pinot Noirs are light and dry, with lots of red fruit flavours and subtle, silky tannins. Try two different Pinots together and you can really taste the difference in the terroir of where the two wines have been grown.
However, the fragility of the vines provides many challenges for the wineries who grow them. The grapes ripen early and don't thrive in hot climates. In cooler climates, where you’re more likely to have early autumn rainfall, rot can become a real issue. Finding the perfect conditions to grow Pinot Noir is half the battle - hence the infamous nickname. It's also part of the reason why some bottles can carry a hefty price tag.
The greatest Pinots come from the grape's ancestral homeland in Burgundy, but even here there is huge variation as you move around the different villages. The very best come from the Côte de Nuits. Here you'll find bottles from producers such as Domane Romanée Conti, whose wine has been described by the great Jancis Robinson as ‘haunting’ in its complexity and the length of finish.
One of the great things about Pinot Noir is that it can be drunk when the wine is young. Something like a Cabernet Sauvignon, with its higher levels of tannins and acidity, needs to be aged. But for a Pinot Noir, you can crack open a bottle within 4 years of the vintage and have a really fantastic experience. That said, Pinot Noirs from the very best vintages can also be aged for decades and turned into things of true beauty.
Along with Burgundy, you can also find fantastic Pinot Noir from across the border in Germany, where the grape is known as Spätburgunder. Northern California and Oregon are also making some top-notch examples, as well as New Zealand, especially central Otago and Marlborough.
You'll also find gems from the cooler regions of South Africa and, perhaps surprisingly, Romania. You can find some really delicious, great value Pinot Noirs from Romanian vineyards and we have a cracking example here at Reserve which you can try. And an honourable mention of course has to go to our very own bottles. The quality of the UK's Pinot Noir is improving with every vintage it seems (lucky us!) and producers such as Gusbourne and Tillingham are creating some of the best we've tried from our home turf.
When it comes to pairing Pinot Noir with food, the possibilities are endless - yet another reason we love Pinot. Depending on the style of wine you choose, the more structured, richer Pinots can be paired with traditional dishes such as Beef Bourguignon or Coq-au-vin. They also go perfectly with the leaner cuts of steak. With lighter styles, try matching herby pork dishes, creamy mushroom dishes and even salmon fillet. At the lightest end of the spectrum, light charcuterie and cheeses can be a real match made in heaven too.
To celebrate Pinot Noir Day, we’ve put together 6 of our favourites from around the world. This selection showcases many different styles of Pinot and suits lots of different budgets, so there's something for everyone.
If you're tempted by all of them, we’ve also put them into a pre-made case of 6 and you can get a 10% saving too.
Romania might not be the first place that comes to mind when you’re thinking about what wine to drink. However, winery Cramele Recas has slowly built up a fantastic reputation for quality wines at great price points using both international varieties and local Romanian grapes. Founded by Brit Philip Cox, they now produce 65 different wines and their Pinot Noir is one of our top selling red wines. It’s light and soft, full of juicy red fruits and super smooth tannins. The perfect wine for everyday drinking.
This estate was founded back in 1955 in the town of Leistadt and has stayed in the family since. It focuses mainly on Riesling and Pinot Noir and one of the real trademarks of their wines is the streak of clean, refreshing minerality coming from their unique limestone rich soils. Lots of bright strawberries and raspberries coupled with a slight savoury character make it a great wine to pair with game birds, especially when they are served with a berry jus.
Producer Andrew Gunn started out in the coastal region of Elgin way back in 1997, when he set about converting an orchard into a vineyard. Named after the west coast of Scotland where Andrew’s family originate, Iona Wines has become one of South Africa’s leading producers, focusing on respecting the land and truly expressing the terroir in their wines. The cool climate and long, dry ripening season in Elgin is perfect for making high quality Pinot Noir, and Iona age the wine for around a year in old oak barrels to add depth and harmony to the wine. There’s an outstanding freshness to the wine with bright fruit, a soft, silky texture and a spicy complexity. This is an absolutely spot-on Pinot to pair with a salmon fillet.
Ranch 32 is all about the place - that place being Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey County in northern California. The climate here is cooled by the afternoon winds which sweep through Monterey Bay and into the valley. The wine spends a year in French oak barrels to add complexity and create smoother, rounder tannins. This oak ageing adds a touch of mocha and vanilla to the plush red fruit flavours and the finish is long and elegant. A great wine to try with pork, and if you're in need of any inspiration, a favourite here at Reserve is a fantastic Ottolenghi recipe for pork tenderloin with caramelised garlic and orange salsa. It would work a treat.
Murray and Robyn Butt were the among the first in the Dillons Point region of Marlborough to pioneer growing grapes. You might be more familiar with this region in the wine world for its stunning Sauvignon Blancs, but this cool, coastal area also makes tip-top Pinot Noirs. It's sheltered by the Wither Hills range and has a long, warm growing season, meaning the fruit ripens beautifully. Their Pinot Noir is soft and smooth, full of strawberries and raspberries with herbal elements and hints of liquorice complexity.
Finally we come to the homeland that is Burgundy. Domaine Billard Père et Fils have around 12 hectares of vineyards all around the iconic village of Beaune. The winery focuses on sustainability and has recently introduced organic farming techniques to the wine-making process. Yields are kept low, all grapes are harvested and pruned by hand and fermentation takes place using only indigenous yeasts. Nestled in the valley between Meursault and the Hautes Côtes de Beaune, Auxey-Duresses fell somewhat under the radar for many years but is now getting the recognition it deserves for its top quality village wines. This particular bottle is aged for around 12 months in French oak barrels, 20% of which are new. The result is a rich and dense wine, full of fruit and savoury notes. This is a wine that will continue to develop in the cellar over the next 5 years, after which you'd find more of the mushroomy, earthiness associated with aged red Burgundy.