The region of Burgundy is the spiritual home of pinot noir. But it's in the cool climates of Australia and New Zealand where some of the most exciting pinot noir is being produced. Read about pinot noir
Its light-bodied mouthfeel, supple texture, bright acidity and low-intensity tannins make it one of most delicious and versatile red wines available today.
Pinot noir is one of the lightest and most accessible reds, particularly compared to full-bodied Australian stalwarts shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. But like a fun game of Uno that turns strategic, accessibility doesn’t mean simplicity – pinot noir is a playful and intriguing wine with a complex flavour profile. A deep red fruit salad will hit you at first sip. You’ll taste plum, cranberry, raspberry, cherry and other red fruits, before hints of vanilla, cloves, liquorice, cola and even tobacco take over. These secondary notes give pinot noir an earthiness that beautifully balances out the grape’s natural fruitiness, and which is underlined if it spends time in an oak barrel (although many Australian pinots go straight to bottle.)
The terms ‘dry’ and ‘sweet’ are used by the wine industry to declare levels of residual sugar in wine. Like almost all of Australia’s favourite reds, pinot noir has zero residual sugar, so is considered dry. But as even the most seasoned oenophiles will admit, wine-tasting terms can be confusing, and many people mistake ‘dry’ and ‘sweet’ for ‘earthy’ and ‘fruity’. On this scale, pinot noir is more of an earthy wine, despite its punchy red berry notes.
‘Body’ can be thought of as a measure of intensity, with the scale ranging from light-bodied to full-bodied. While lighter red wines exist – schiava and gamay for example – pinot noir is the lightest-bodied red wine that most Australians will have actually heard of. Medium-bodied grenache and merlot are the closest to pinot noir in intensity, while cab sauv and shiraz sit at the heavy-handed, full-bodied end of the spectrum. Dry and earthy but light-bodied; if we were to sum up the pinot noir experience in one word, it’d be unique. It’s one that novice red wine drinkers can enjoy just as much as those who have spent a lifetime sucking bottles dry.
Light-bodied pinot will benefit from being chilled to slightly lower than room temperature. This doesn’t change the structure or flavour of the wine itself, it just changes how your palate interacts with it. Serve pinot noir slightly cooler than a fuller bodied wine – aim for around 13C. There’s never been a better time to invest in a wine fridge.
Allowing a wine to breathe for 15-20 minutes before serving can open up its aromas, soften and broaden its flavour profile and enhance its characteristics. But aeration works best when the wine has higher tannin levels, like your cab sauvs and shirazes. Low tannin, light-bodied reds like pinot noir don’t really need to breathe. In fact, because pinot noir is best enjoyed slightly chilled, allowing the wine to sit for 20 minutes might actually see the tasting experience going downhill.