Spotlight On: Pinot Noir

Spotlight On: Pinot Noir

Today is National Pinot Noir Day, which gives us the perfect chance to celebrate an integral component in the traditional sparkling wine blend, and, in fact, the grape responsible for some of the world’s finest wines. Known widely for producing elegant, refined, and delicate Burgundian wines, and fun, chillable, fruit-forward renditions from the new world, the grape also produces exceptional bottles in its white form- namely, as part of a traditional method sparkling wine, or a blanc de noirs.

As a relatively early ripening varietal, Pinot Noir is ideal for the English Climate- as compounds such phenolics develop early and the grapes can be harvested with an optimum ratio of sugar to acid, reliably in a cooler climate. However, despite its acquiescence with our climate, effectively cultivating this grape can be the vigneron’s greatest challenge. Due to its tightly packed clusters, the varietal is particularly susceptible to viticultural challenges, such as rot and mildew, especially in wet climates.

Is Pinot Noir red or white?

The skins of the grapes are the determinant of the wine colour- as such, a wine will be fermented either on or off its skins in accordance with the wine style sought. Of course, some black grape varietals are intrinsically less adaptable for fermentation as a white wine- not true of Pinot Noir. A truly versatile grape variety, Pinot Noir capable of producing exceptional red and white wines. Burgundian winemakers have vinified on the skins for hundreds of years, to create delicate and seductive reds. And similarly, Sparkling Winemakers, such as the Champenoise, or, indeed, us at Hambledon Vineyard, can extract the clear juice and ferment this off the skins, to capture its unique characteristics, without colour or tannins, to become an exceptional white sparkling wine.

At Hambledon Vineyard, Pinot Noir is also a key blending component in our Classic Cuvee Rose- being made into a red wine as a blending component in our Rose d’assemblage- made from 86% Chardonnay, and 14% red pinot noir.

Where is Pinot Noir Made?

The varietal is classically associated with fine Burgundian wines- featuring in some of the world’s most sought-after bottles: Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Domaine Leflaive, Maison Joseph Drouhin, to name a few. In this part of the world. Typically, light-medium bodied, with silky tannins and alcohol levels of 12-15%, the best examples can age for years in the right conditions, maturing with aromas of forest floor, mushrooms, and bonfire smoke, when truly mature, displaying some game aromas also. The most exceptional examples maintain the purity of the cherry and raspberry fruit aromas of youthful bottles.

Aside from Burgundian examples, the grape is also grown in various locations across the old and new world- being the second most widely planted grape in Germany (next to Riesling) and grown as Pinot Nero in Italy. New World examples are becoming increasingly prolific- with examples found in Oregon, New Zealand, Argentina and beyond.

As referenced earlier, Pinot Noir is a key blending component in traditional method sparkling wines- in particular, in the Champagne Region of France, also showing in Crémant de Bourgogne, and, of course, English Sparkling Wine, as with Hambledon Vineyard’s range. For many Sparkling Wine producers, Pinot Noir is indispensable. In sparkling wine, the grape lends a distinctive richness, often in the form of Cherry or baked apple notes- and certainly refines the palate.

What do you eat with Pinot Noir?

In its many styles, Pinot Noir is a notoriously versatile wine, and the elegance of old-world examples resonates with timeless dishes that reflect its nuanced attributes.  For example, rich, comforting coq au vin on a chilly evening harmonises perfectly with the earthy, rich character of a burgundy, for example. Conversely, for a New World bottle, the brighter fruit characteristics, and bolder structure welcome robust flavours. Why not opt for a bolder pairing, with Peking Duck pancakes?

A Blanc de Noirs, on the other hand, is ideal for aperitif, shared with friends over simple canapes. Oysters are a perfect centrepiece, their delicacy resonating with the wine’s finesse.  Alternatively, for vegetarians, a goat cheese and fig crostini is the perfect simple start to an evening, with the creamy goats cheese and the sweet figs balancing perfectly with the blanc de noir’s acidity and fruit profile.