Pinot Noir: pure strawberry aromas or is there more to it?

Boring and one-dimensional or sublime and velvety? 

I have a confession to make: I used to think that Pinot Noir was dull; a strawberry-scented, flabby drink for lightweight wine consumers.

I had to think again when I realised that some people really rave about it and that, in fact, it is used to make some of the world’s most expensive wines. The turning point came when I tried a sublime, velvety Pinot Noir from New Zealand – it was truly delicious! Since then, I have tasted some really wonderful examples right here in Chile.  So what is going on here?

How can Pinot Noir wines vary so much?

Pinot Noir grapes are notoriously difficult to grow – too warm and they can ripen too quickly, too cold and they may not ripen at all. If there is moisture in the air, rot can get into the tightly packed clusters of thin-skinned grapes and ruin them. Then it takes a skilled winemaker to coax the best out of the grapes.  But when everything turns out right, Pinot Noir can be truly exciting.

Typical Pinot Noir aromas: strawberry jam, earthiness, hint of wood, herbs...
Typical Pinot Noir aromas: strawberry jam, earthiness, hint of wood, herbs…

What is Pinot Noir like?

Pinot Noir is lighter in colour than many other red varieties because of its thin skins. Young Pinot Noirs can be fresh and fruity; an easy-drinking wine to serve chilled as an aperitif. An older one may become more complex and develop gamey, farmyard or earthy aromas. In fact there is a wide range of styles, some with more body and tannins than others.

Pinot Noir goes beautifully with salmon
Pinot Noir goes beautifully with salmon

Pinot Noir is a food-friendly wine. Fruity Pinots go beautifully with salmon or chicken dishes. More complex gamey ones can hold their own with duck or game. You could even try Pinot Noir with a mushroom dish – never the easiest food to pair with.

Some excellent Chilean examples:

Tabalí Talinay Pinot Noir 2014, Limarí Valley

Herbs and fruity on the nose. Lovely, fresh and fruity. [Click here for more information about Viña Tabalí.]

Viña Ventisquero Tara Pinot Noir 2014, Atacama

Exciting, acidic and fresh. On the nose, a herbal touch intermingled with strawberries.

Errazuriz Max Reserva Pinot Noir 2014, Aconcagua Costa

Herbal and fruity notes on the nose. Lovely mouthfeel with fine tannins, fresh and acidic, with a mineral touch.

Kingston Vineyards Alazan Pinot Noir 2013, Casablanca Valley

Fresh and refreshing, with pleasant acidity. Strawberry jam aromas.

Lomas del Valle Pinot Noir 2013

Pale ruby with purple hues, this classic cool climate Pinot Noir unveils strawberry jam and raspberry bubblegum but is surprisingly interesting in the mouth, with high acidity and plenty of red fruit.  [Click here for more information about Viña Loma Larga.]

Casas del Bosque Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2013, Casablanca

Light purple; classic nose of strawberry flavoured toffee with hints of chocolate and vanilla.  Dry, high acidity, slightly astringent tannins, good alcohol and fruit.  [Click here for more wine tasting notes for Viña Casas del Bosque or here for a review of their tour.]

Casa Marín Pinot Noir 2009

Liquid velvet. Shiny ruby in colour. An intriguing nose of black cherries, cedar and cinnamon and a meaty component with just a touch of farmyard. Very well rounded and velvety in the mouth with high acidity and medium tannins. High alcohol. Long in the finish. [Click here for more wine tasting notes for Viña Casa Marín or here for a review of their tour.]

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