It is common to associate rich and delicious holiday foods with deep, robust wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah. But what about Pinot Noir? This silky, succulent wine is a surprisingly perfect pairing to many traditional holiday dishes. Read on to learn why you should be pouring Pinot at your next festivity.

Get to know Pinot

Pinot Noir is believed to have originated in France, which currently has the highest number of Pinot Noir plantings. It is primarily produced in Burgundy (Bourgogne). The name is derived from the French words for “pine” and “black.” The name “pine” describes the tightly packed grapes within a cluster, which resembles a pine cone.

The U.S. is the second-highest Pinot producer. Some of its well-known Pinot-producing regions are the Willamette Valley in Oregon and California’s Carneros, Central Coast, Sonoma Coast, and Russian River AVAs. WIth its cool climate and long history of grape-growing, the Anderson Valley has recently emerged as an up-and-coming Pinot Noir AVA. New Zealand is also quickly gaining a reputation for producing high-quality Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir is not only made into a red table wine, but is also used for sparkling wine (it is one of only three grapes allowed in Champagne). It can also be pressed and fermented without skin contact to create a white Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir’s flavor profiles

Because it is grown in so many locations and produced under varying styles, it can be difficult to describe Pinot Noir’s flavor profile. In general, it is easiest to think of Pinot Noir as having a lighter body and higher acidity (making it incredibly food-friendly), and being lower in tannins. Its fruits are brighter as opposed to the deep, mature, and ripe fruits of other varietals.

Old World (namely, French) Pinot Noir is typically more earthy. Alongside cherry and floral notes, it exudes aromas of mushroom and even potting soil. It can also have spice notes such as cloves. Winemakers often allow more contact with the grape skins, which makes the wines more tannic: this allows for even longer aging potential. New World (namely, California and Oregon) Pinot Noir tends to have more spice aromas such as vanilla, allspice, and clove. These wines tend to be more rich and lush on the palate.

Pinot Noir food pairing

Because of its approachability and its complexity, Pinot Noir is a beloved grape for hosts. It is a true crowd-pleaser! Pinot Noir pairs beautifully with duck breast with orange or cherry glazes, grilled salmon, molasses and apple-cider braised pork shoulder, porchetta, grilled or sauteed mushrooms, mushroom risotto, thyme, and truffle oil. It is a beautiful accompaniment to herbs such as thyme, chervil, chive, and dill. Pinot Noir pairs well with soft, mild cheeses like mozzarella and goat cheese and semi-hard cheeses like gouda.

Despite being lighter in body than wines such as Syrah, Pinot Noir pairs wonderfully with sausage and cured meats such as pepperoni. Don’t shy away from adding these to your next charcuterie board!

Pinot Noir and holiday food pairings

Consider the following dishes and pairings for this holiday season:

Appetizer pairings

  • Figs and dried fruits
  • Havarti with dill
  • Baked brie with cranberry sauce
  • Goat cheese crostini with walnuts and thyme
  • Garlic and butter mushrooms
  • Sausage-stuffed mushrooms
  • Butternut squash and pecan salad
  • Roasted potatoes with thyme
  • Maple-glazed sweet potatoes
  • Cedar plank grilled salmon
  • Turkey with mushroom gravy
  • Thyme and rosemary stuffing with apples and walnuts

This 100% Pinot Noir comes from a mere one-acre plot of the Frattey Shams Vineyard in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley AVA. All grapes were hand-harvested in early October and late September of 2018, then hand-sorted and cold-soaked before undergoing fermentation in open top French oak barrels. Winemaker Alex Crangle produced only 191 cases of this vintage.

The 2018 Pinoli Cole Pinot Noir exudes aromas of red cherries, wild berries, Eastern spices, and wildflowers. This leads to a palate replete with vibrant red fruits, cherry skins, and hints of orange peel. The silky texture is balanced with smooth tannins and bright acidity.

Would you like to serve hand-selected, organic wine from a sustainable vineyard at your holiday soirees? Contact Quigley Fine Wines to speak with a wine professional, or to choose your wines in person, visit our tasting room during business hours.

By Rhett Graff


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