Pinot Noir grapes: the iconic French grape that is famously difficult to grow and vinify. Yet winemakers worldwide can’t help themselves because Pinot Noir makes such a high-quality, complex, and delicious wine. The fascination with this delicate grape extends to wine lovers who appreciate Pinot Noir for its finesse and food-friendly nature.
From the earthiness of a classic Burgundy (the name for Pinot Noir grape wines from this namesake French region) to the fruity intensity of Oregon Pinot Noir, this wine covers a spectrum of signature aromas and flavours. These features make it the perfect partner for the dinner table.
Pinot Noir Typical Tasting Notes
First things first. What does a typical Pinot Noir wine taste like? The answer is that there is no typical Pinot Noir. Even within the Burgundy wine region, no two Pinot Noirs are alike. A wine from a top vineyard will have more depth and complexity than a fresh and fruity take made from a blend of fine grapes harvested from across a village or the region. A light and crisp Alsace Pinot Noir is at the other end of the spectrum to a concentrated, full-bodied style from Central Otago in New Zealand.
In a sense, there are as many Pinot Noir wines as there are regions, wineries, and winemakers.
That being said, common features include tart red fruit flavours (especially cherry), high acidity, and mellow yet firm tannins (that satisfying grippy feeling in your mouth). Where winemakers use oak, there’s a touch of spice and, the more mature this wine is, the greater the complexity with layers of mushroom, forest floor and game.
This range of styles and expressions is something to celebrate when it comes to food pairing. In fact, Pinot Noir lovers expect this diversity from their favourite grape. So many Pinot Noirs, so little time…so let’s get started!
What Foods And Dishes Go Well With Pinot Noir?
When approaching any food and wine pairing, there are a few tried-and-tested rules that are worth keeping in mind. Whilst reds match particular dishes, whites are the perfect partners to another type of grub entirely and dessert wines pair well with their own set of recipes.
What makes a wine go like a dream with specific foods is down to its flavours, acidity and tannin levels. How light or full-bodied it is and its alcohol level play an important role too.
When focusing on how to get the most out of Pinot Noir food pairings, keep the following in mind:
- It’s a dry red wine which means it doesn’t go with very sweet food.
- Pinot Noir has high acidity making it perfect for fatty, creamy dishes because the tartness cuts through the fat. Think Pinot Noir and roast chicken!
- This popular wine has medium tannins which make mid-weight meat, vegetarian dishes, and cheeses ideal.
- It displays bright, red fruit so it goes well with marinated meats.
- Styles of Pinot Noir pair well with salty food because this component balances the wine’s acidity.
What Foods Should I Avoid With Pinot Noir?
Successful wine and food pairing bring out the best in the dish and what’s in your glass. With this in mind, spicy dishes are a big no-no with dry red wines like Pinot Noir.
The tannins and acidity clash with the components of such recipes so avoid spicy Asian food – gorgeous as it is! The exception is big New World Pinot Noir. It’s still as dry as a bone, but its fruitiness can give the impression of light sweetness that goes hand-in-hand with spicy food.
With light wines, it’s best to avoid sweets too. With a more layered Pinot Noir like Beaune du Château from Bouchard Pere et Fils, you can get away with very dark chocolate. Chocolate with at least 70% cocoa goes down well with this red as does a dark chocolate souffle or mousse.
Steer clear of very light seafood such as oysters. The wine will overpower this cuisine so save your favourite crisp white for this pairing. The exception is Pinot Noir as it appears in traditional-method sparkling wine like Nyetimber, Classic Cuvee. A glass is a great way to kick off a celebration and perfect for light shellfish!
It is worth noting that the delicate Pinot Noir style is light in tannins. This makes it ideal with seafood like scallops, shrimp, or even lobster dishes. Flaky tuna, salmon, and trout also match a light Pinot Noir. Whoever said you can’t pair red wine with fish has never met Pinot Noir!
To pair meat successfully with Pinot Noir, you need to categorise your wine from light to mature.
Delicate Pinot Noir (Alsace, young Burgundy) matches:
- Light game recipes with rabbit.
Premium Burgundy like a glass of Volnay, 1er Cru, Clos des Chenes from Domaine du Château de Meursault goes with:
- Roast game poultry.
- Pork and lamb.
- Fillet steak.
- Beef bourguignon.
- Anything with truffles!
Big, fruity New World Pinot matches:
- Roast turkey.
- Crispy duck pancakes (the fruit in the wine loves the light spice!).
- Grilled salmon or tuna.
- Roast pork, and duck.
Cured meats go like a dream with salty prosciutto and salami. Yes, they make Pinot Noir (Nero) in Italy too!
Cheeses that pair perfectly with Pinot Noir, especially a California cool-climate style such as La Crema Monterey, includes:
- Goat cheese.
- Smoked cheeses.
- Blue cheeses.
For vegetarians, there are plenty of tasty dishes you can serve Pinot Noir with. These include:
- Creamy mushroom or truffle risotto.
- Mushrooms sautéed in garlic.
- Buttery-grilled asparagus and aubergines.
Pastas and pizzas with rich tomato sauces (the fruit in Pinot Noir goes hand-in-hand with the tangy tomato).
Its range of expressions makes Pinot Noir one of the world’s most food-friendly wines.
That being said, you are allowed to bend the rules though! Guidelines are important but there’s no match for experimenting and discovering what works best for your taste buds when it comes to finding your favourite Pinot Noir pairing.
That just leaves us to say bon appetit and cheers!