Thursday, October 8, 2015

Global Pairing Pinot Noir with Food

By Liza B. Zimmerman

This delicate and hard-to-produce wine has long brought out the best in a wide variety of dishes. Burgundian classics are now so different from California standards and Oregon’s evolving Pinot revolution that it is worth a closer look as to how and why some of these wines work so well with food.

The way a dish is prepared, and the ingredients it is paired with, are also essential to sorting out the Pinot Noir picture. Andrea Fulton, the sommelier at the Dayton-Oregon based Joel Palmer restaurant, says that Oregon Pinot Noirs just love mushrooms. I would wager than any forest-influenced, slightly funky wines might.

Her additional list of what food ingredients make Oregon Pinot shine include umami flavors (such as truffles, wild mushrooms, mustards, peppercorns, coriander, and horseradish; scented green herbs (rosemary, thyme, tarragon, oregano, summer and winter savory, chervil, mints and basils); and aromatic sweet spices (clove, cinnamon, mace, allspice and nutmeg). A to Z makes some great, and very affordable Pinot Noirs, that would pair well with many of these ingredients.

California Pinots and Beyond
Some of these Pinot Noirs, particularly the style many producers have adapted on the California Coast, can be bigger, more elegant and plush. Roar makes a handful of Pinots that are great examples, with an alcohol level pushing 15 percent that should be paired with big, grilled meats: maybe a steak or a leg of lamb. You could also do slow-cooked oxtail in the crockpot with this one. Heron is another nice choice with lower alcohol and an easy-food pairing profile: perhaps grilled pork or a stuffed Italian pasta would work well with this.

The Chileans and Argentines are also turning out Pinot Noirs with some success. Some of those, such as   Marques de Casa Concha Pinot Noir, planted by the iconic Chilean winemaking family Concha y Toro, is grown close to the cooling climate of the Pacific Ocean. This is lighter style of the grape that might work with grilled chicken or a red sauce.

Old World Insights
Burgundy has long been the iconic homeland of the grape, but unfortunately many of the wines are becoming more expensive and less available. Harsh winter weather keeps yields down and prices up. Some producers are still making lovely and affordable wines, including Domaine Michel Juillot. The fruit-structure on many of these wines can be a bit delicate, so perhaps pairing it with a creamy pistachio-studded pate before or after dinner would be divine.

The Southern French, particularly in the Languedoc-Roussillon, are turning out some stunning varitally labeled wines. They run more to the rowdy Syrah- and Cabernet Sauvignon-inspired, but the Pinot Noirs can be impressive as well, such as the C’est La Vie Vin de Pays Pinot Noir, which is blended with Syrah. The luscious light the vines get in the Southern part of France can help them stand up to simple, heartier dishes such as duck or a roasted guinea hen. You can also bring out a little hard cheese as an appetizer with them before you dig into your dinner.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

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