Madeline Puckette is the host of winefolly.com, a wine learning website serving up wine courses, videos and articles to inspire wine drinkers everywhere. A certified sommelier through Court of Masters, Madeline Puckette offers an alternative approach to loving wine: learn by drinking. Follow Madeline @Winefolly as she finds the most passionate people behind the wine.
Inclement weather gives way to bursts of sun during the month of March, inspiring us to look forward to the coming of summer. March also happens to be Pinot Noir Month. So, how does a single variety of grape deserve a whole month of appreciation? Perhaps it’s because pinot noir is the perfect complement to spring.
With a pale color in the glass and a zesty acidity on the palette, the pinot noir grape is much more delicate than cabernet sauvignon. With thin black-skinned grapes in tightly wound bunches, pinot noir struggles to gather precious sun in the valleys where it grows best. The grape prefers areas with a long spring and fall, but these interim months can trouble vineyards with grape rot and freeze. Still, the effort is worth it because the resulting wine is fascinating to drink.
With flavors ranging from cranberries to black cherries, pinot noir has great variation. A pinot noir from France tends to have rustic earthy flavors, lower alcohol and higher acidity, while from California, it develops more rich black cherry flavor, higher alcohol content, and a lush character. Besides regional variations, one of the major factors that affects a pinot noir’s taste is oak barrel aging. Longer aging imparts richness and a vanilla-like flavor, whereas less aging results in tart cherry flavors. Match a pinot noir to the spring weather this March using this guide:
Fruity, light and tasting anywhere from cranberry and pomegranate to dark cherry. These wines start at around $20 and are not too complex — perfect on a brisk but sunny day.
The darkest pinots from New Zealand come from the Central Otago and have a cherry, baking spice and cola-like finish. A decent New Zealand pinot noir will cost about $25. With more power in its punch, a Kiwi pinot noir will keep you warm in the late afternoon on a gray day.
A hot area for growing pinot noir, Sonoma imparts black cherry and raspberry flavors. The higher-priced wines from Sonoma tend to experience longer time in French oak, which also adds a vanilla flavor. Because Sonoma is popular, expect to pay about $30. A Sonoma pinot noir is great in the evening of a cold spring day.
Burgundy is known as the original cultivation area for pinot noir, lending to its very high demand. Value wines from this region have tart cherry and earthy flavors with a green stem note to them. They can be one of the hardest wines to appreciate after drinking American wine; however, once you do, they are delightful. Look for a premier cru (1er cru) Burgundy which starts around $34. A contemplative wine for a drizzly day.
Northern Italian pinot noir, also known as pinot nero, has simliar earthy notes to France, but get a bit riper, darker, and richer. Italian pinot noirs are a good value around $20, but range to upwards of $70. Perfect for a sunny spring day.
Patagonia is a brand-new growing region along the Rio Negro river in Argentina. Its wines tend to be priced from $15-$25 and offer a lot of spice and black cherry flavors. Argentinian pinot noirs bring the sun in a glass, when there’s none outside!
The great pinot noirs from Germany hail from a region called the Nahe, a warmer German wine-growing region which ripens its pinots with plum-like flavors, earth and fruit. German pinot noirs start around $13 and are perfect to drink right when the sun bursts through the clouds.
Delight yourself and your close friends this month and try different pinot noirs from around the world. With many excellent pinot noirs on the market for only about $20 a bottle, you’ll be surprised at how unique they taste from region to region and how fun they are to drink. If you need recommendations, go to your local wine merchant or ask Madeline online.