OVERVIEWPinot Noir—i.e. the go-to, all-purpose red. If I’m grabbing a bottle to take to a dinner or some such, I’m typically going to grab a pinot noir. It’s versatile, never overly assertive, most any red drinker is cool with it, and even if the host doesn’t want to open it, they’ll feel fine about serving it at another time or giving it to someone else. An untasted bottle of pinot noir is like that sorta brooding, mysterious, attractive stranger at a party… you know their type, and you suspect that they could be incredibly artistic and enthralling. They so totally might be. (Or they might be the most boring thing you’ve ever engaged with. It happens, sorry.)
WHAT TO LOOK FORNamed for the Burgundy region’s Côte d’Or Pinot Noir grapes, the best bottles will be coming from that region, probably at a steep price tag. But you can definitely pick up great Pinot Noirs domestically. Look for bottles out of California’s Russian River Valley and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Don’t write off New Zealand or Chile either.
FLAVOR PROFILEAs far as flavor profile goes, a distinguishing factor across the board is a solid tannic presence. Tannins will be stronger in some than others, but just that—strong, but never overbearing. Pinot Noirs will be aromatically perfumed, and intense with ripe juicy fruit like cherries and berries. In good ones (the stranger at the party who doesn’t disappoint), you’ll typically get some delightful complexity with chocolatey notes of coffee and tobacco.
PAIRINGPinot Noir is a most excellent food wine. It goes great with...