Pinot Noir is one of the oldest grape varietals known with records showing it was cultivated in its home of Burgundy, France, as early as the first century A.D.
In Australia it was first planted in the Hunter Valley NSW after the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 to moderate success until producers discovered it was better suited to cooler climates. Today it thrives in regions such as Tasmania, the Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills and WA’s Great Southern.
About the Variety
Pinot Noir is one of the lightest bodied of the red varietals, which, combined with its delicate mouthful of fine tannins, means that drinkers can take some time to develop a palate that truly appreciates its subtle nuances.
It is best grown in cooler climates and is very sensitive to a wide range of influences from bugs to weather to canopy control. It is low yielding, mutates easily and needs constant care, all of which makes Pinot Noir a costly venture to produce a wine.
Its general flavour profile can be complex with intense ripe, red fruit characters of cherry, raspberry and strawberry combined with spicy elements. It has fine but dense, velvet-like tannins and a soft, delicate palate.
Pinot Noir speaks of terroir more than any other red varietal in that it shows its place of origin. Traditionally, it has the ability to age but most Australian Pinot’s should be enjoyed within five years.
Pinot Noir succeeds in a variety of underlying geological conditions which gives rise to a variety of soil types. As with all grape types, optimal wine quality is obtained when vines are grown on well drained soils. Whilst Pinot Noir can be grown in a wide variety of soil types, heavier clay-loams and silty-clay-loams provide the optimal balance to maximise fruit growth and rich earthy flavours. Whilst soil type will impact vine growth, climate will also affect growth and play a large role in determining site suitability for Pinot Noir.
In Australia, Pinot Noir thrives in cool climates with Tasmania and the Yarra Valley in Victoria leading the way. Other Victorian regions such as Geelong and the Mornington Peninsula also produce excellent Pinot, as does the Adelaide Hills.
More recently, Pinot’s with attractive new world flavours are emerging form the Western Australian regions of Pemberton and the Great Southern as well as the elevated area of Tumbarumba in NSW.
One of the most harmonious food and wine matches of all is known to be Pinot Noir and duck. The gamey nature of Pinot Noir is a simple match for dark poultry and it will work with almost any game birds, along with other gamey meats such as rabbit, kangaroo, and milder pork recipes.
Pinot’s earthy nature pairs perfectly with mushroom and truffle dishes. It is also a natural match where figs, cherries or beetroot are prominent, while cheese lovers can enjoy Pinot with brie and milder blue cheeses. Tip – when drinking with cheese try your Pinot a little chilled.
With its light tannin structure, Pinot is also a good option as a red wine match with Asian food. However, anything with complex spices will overpower Pinot, so go for delicate dishes such as chicken teriyaki, soft shell crab, dumplings and Peking duck.
Due to its light and silky nature, Pinot also works well with fish, such as smoked salmon or seared tuna.