|It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that pinot noir is the steamy smutty strumpet of the wine family, that slutty seductress of the night with the skirt too short, lips too full and CFM lashes gently batting in the breeze. While she has impeccable breeding, she is also fickle, temperamental and easy to covet but hard to own. But once conquered, the saucy wench with her French sophistication and wanton ways from Burgundy can be brought to heel and savoured at length.Pinot draws ribald comparisons as a matter of course. It is variously described by sage wine judges in conservative cardigans as sensual, voluptuous and sexy. Is it the wine of passion and love? Maybe. Does it evoke those images? Most definitely.
Its bouquet is connected intrinsically with the fecund world of the forest floor, mushrooms, animals and the farmyard which suggests an amorous romp with a buxom maiden in a sun-dappled clearing. Of course overenthusiasts who misinterpret this statement and wind up on their maiden romp with a farm animal may still be incarcerated in many countries.
Pinot requires a temperate climate to reach its full potential. Cool temperatures and low rainfall are the optimum conditions. But good crops and remarkable vintages are not simply assured by getting everything else right. Pinot is notoriously hands-on, labour-intensive and can vary between vineyards separated by metres. Leaf-plucking to let ripening sun through the foliage and even stomping the grapes with bare feet are common practice.
All of this means pinot can be unpredictable and often expensive. But when it’s good… it rocks.
Pinot’s home is the famous enclaves of France’s Burgundy region, but when abroad, it has found most favour in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley, New Zealand’s Martinborough, Marlborough, Canterbury/Waipara and Central Otago regions, the Willamette Valley in Oregon and several areas of California, most notably around Santa Barbara.
Matching pinot with food is first a matter of following the nose. If you have a big, bold galloper with attitude, it can be used as a replacement for the heavier red styles. Depending on the density of the aromas in the pinot, those classic farmyard and forest smells, which wallop you in the olfactory receptacle, lend themselves to eating game. Before you start sucking Bond Street off the old Monopoly board, assume game to mean duck, venison (or cervena), quail, pheasant, wild boar or maybe rabbit.
Don’t forget the ‘shrooms, man. That evocative forest floor “nose” is littered with fungi, so any mushrooms or truffles are eminently suited to the complementary flavours in pinot. Try a mushie omelette with a glass of the good stuff. There are worse ways to start the day.