Fall is the season of change—as the trees shed their leaves and temperatures drop, both people and animals begin hunkering down for the cold, dark winter months ahead. The wine industry also changes this time of the year as wine enthusiasts stow their crisp white and rosé wines and replace them with bolder, richer reds that pair well with hearty fall dishes.
Pinot Noir is a wine chameleon—it evolves in response to its surroundings, taking on an entirely new personality in every terroir. This light-bodied red wine variety is extremely sensitive to even the slightest changes in climate, which is why there’s such a notable difference between New-World Pinot Noir and Old-World Pinot Noir. While New-World Pinot Noir is often fruit-forward, heavily oaked, and extracted, Old-World Pinot Noir is generally more delicate, acidic, and earthy.
The vast majority of labels made by Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) are meant to be aged for decades and not opened a moment too soon. However, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Échezeaux is perhaps the one exception. While you can lay this charming wine down for many years, you can also enjoy it while it’s young. In fact, it often retains a youthful vibrancy even after it’s spent 20 or 30 years in storage.
Willamette Valley Pinot Noir has an excellent reputation among fine wine collectors. These wines are even compared to Burgundy’s in terms of their flavor profile. Master of Wine Jancis Robinson told the Los Angeles Times that producer Bergström makes some of her favorite Oregonian Pinot Noir in part because it reminds her of fine Burgundy. “I love Bergström’s wines because they are an exciting expression of what Oregon has to offer,” she says. “Josh Bergström trained in Burgundy, so they have a purity and a lack of palate-numbing sweetness too.” The best Willamette Valley Pinot Noir vintages achieve this purity and freshness when the weather conditions in the valley are just right. Too much or too little rain and sunshine can significantly reduce the quality of the vintage as a whole.
Pinot Noir is one of the most versatile wines to pair with food—from fresh spring vegetables to rich paté, you can serve this wine with a huge range of dishes. In fact, when I’m invited to a dinner party or bring my own wine to a restaurant, I very often take along a Pinot Noir, especially if I’m not sure what dish is going to be served. The wine’s perfect balance of bracing acidity, sweet fruit, and complex aromatics make it a joy to drink on its own or paired with nearly any dish.
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The ripe “fruit bomb” style of much Pinot Noir over the past 10 years has finally fallen out of favor in the United States. Colder regions like Alsace are growing more robust and richly-flavored Pinot Noir than ever as the weather in the region becomes hotter, yet this wine style is still losing ground…