4 Reasons Why Pinot Noir is the Perfect Wine for Summer

Posted by Ann Brydle on
DipWSET, Certified Sommelier (CMS), Certified Sherry Professional, French Wine Scholar, Italian Wine Scholar

Pinot Noir is one of the oldest grapes in the world, having been grown in Burgundy, France for over 2000 years!

The name is French for ‘black pine’ referencing the dark colour of the berries and the pinecone shape of the grape clusters.

Pinot Noir is closely related to Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris – in fact, the two white grapes are actually just mutations of Pinot Noir. And all three have a tendency to mutate in the vineyard. This unique trait means that Pinot Noir can adapt itself to local growing conditions and express even slight nuances in terroir.

So Pinot lovers will never be bored; wines from around the world, or ever next door to each other, have endless potential for variation and complexity that is hard to find in other grape varieties.

Wherever great Pinot Noir is grown, you can be sure there’s some lovely Chardonnay nearby. The two grapes are related and prefer similar growing conditions. And they are both key elements of top-quality traditional method sparkling wine (think Champagne), so where you can find these wines, you’re also likely to find some delicious bubbles!

1. The priciness of Pinot Noir reflects its quality

Pinot Noir is one of the most planted grapes in the world, despite it being famously difficult to grow. The grape is known as the ‘heartbreak grape’ because of its proclivity for persnickety behaviour.

Pinot is widely admired for the ethereal wines it can create, but can be such a frustrating challenge for winegrowers and makers alike. The grape often seems to defy any commonality for growing conditions, harvesting methods, and winemaking techniques.

pinot noir grapes in a vineyard

Pinot Noir is a cool climate grape, generally preferring a milder growing season. But it doesn’t like a climate that’s too cool and can struggle to ripen if there isn’t quite enough sunshine through the growing season. Burgundy, a very cool region, is widely regarded as having the best climate for Pinot Noir, but warm regions all over the world like California and Australia have been incredibly successful with the grape.

Depending on the climate, Pinot Noir can make wines that are delicate and perfumed with silky texture, or a little beefier with a ‘jamminess’ almost on par with some Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

Because it is so challenging to grow Pinot Noir, the average price tends to be a bit higher than other wines. But rest assured, investing in a great bottle of Pinot is always a good idea. The wines are high quality, with loads of intricate flavours, an elegant structure, and an easy-going versatility when it comes to food pairing. It’s not often you’ll be disappointed with Pinot Noir!

2. Pinot Noir is always full of character

Even though there can be great variability between Pinot Noir wines, there are some easy generalizations to make that can help you understand what to expect when you pour a glass of this tasty wine. Pinot Noir tends to be more delicate and lighter in weight than most other red wines.

It rarely makes a mouth filling and muscular wine like Cab Merlot blends. Its tannins are soft and silky, never too drying, aggressive, or grippy. The acidity is crisp and mouth-watering, giving that juicy feeling that entices you back glass after glass.

pinot noir for summer from british columbia

Pinot Noir makes aromatic wines and is capable of a wide range of flavours and aromas. It has plenty of red fruit character from cherry and red currant to rhubarb and cranberry; it can be floral with notes of rose petal or jasmine; it is earthy like mushrooms and wet leaves; and when it spends a little time ageing in oak it can take on sweet baking spice notes like cinnamon or vanilla. You can always expect to find a complex array of flavour and aroma with Pinot Noir.

Top-quality Pinot, particularly high-end Burgundies, can last for several years in the bottle, continually evolving and improving as time passes. But most Pinots are made with the intention of drinking early to get the most out of the vibrant fruit and juicy freshness.

Pinot Noir isn’t just for red wine. It also makes for excellent rosé wine with watermelon and strawberry flavours, or delicious sparkling wines (both white and rosé versions) with delicate notes of crunchy red berries. And if you look hard enough, you can find elegant white wines made from 100% Pinot Noir 

3. Pinot Noir regions are worldwide – so there is always a bottle for you!

There are several regions across the globe making excellent Pinot wines, so you never have to look far to find a great bottle.

British Columbia, Canada 🇨🇦

We might be biased, but local Pinot Noir from all over the Okanagan and Vancouver Island might be some of the best in the world. BC Pinot is bursting with bold fruit flavours complemented with floral and spice aromas. Vibrant acidity is a hallmark of BC Pinot and gives the wines an elegant structure.

Burgundy, France 🇫🇷

This cool region is the home of Pinot and is considered by many to be where the grape reaches its pinnacle. The wines are complex and nuanced with flavours of cherry, hibiscus, mushroom, and forest floor. There are several small sub-regions highly prized for making age worthy Pinot, like Gevrey-Chambertin, Pommard, or Nuit-St-Georges.

Loire Valley, France 🇫🇷

Pinot Noir from the Loire valley is similar to Burgundy, but with a lean towards fruitier, more youthful wines. These can be a great value alternative to pricey Burgundies.

California, USA 🇺🇸

The best California Pinot comes from the cooler areas like Santa Barbara, Carneros, or Russian River Valley. The wines are more focused on ripe fruit with a richer feel than most French Pinot Noir. The wines have a lovely mix of cherry, raspberry, vanilla, and cinnamon.

Oregon, USA 🇺🇸

Oregon’s Willamette Valley shares a latitude with burgundy and blends the savouriness of French Pinot with the rich fruitiness of California Pinot. Wines here are charming and supple, though there are more structured, age worthy wines as well.

New Zealand 🇳🇿

New Zealand is making some delightfully fruity yet crisp Pinot Noirs, especially from the cooler region of Central Otago on the South Island.

Some honourable mentions for those looking for a more fruity Pinot Noir, you’ll also want to check out wines from Chile or Australia. If the lighter and more refined styles are more your thing, then look for German Pinot, known as Spätburgunder, or Northern Italian Pinot Nero!

4. Pinot Noir is the perfect summer food pairing

Pinot Noir is an excellent wine for summertime. As a sparkling or rosé wine, it is the perfect refresher on a hot day, and even as a red wine it is light and crisp enough to enjoy in the sunshine.

Couple drinking pinot noir wine while enjoying the outdoors

Most Pinot Noirs, particularly from cooler regions like BC or France, take quite well to a slight chill. Nothing beats the heat like a cool, juicy glass of Pinot. Pinot Noir is a versatile food pairing wine and is an excellent match for tons of summertime foods.

The lighter tannins and higher acidity are a great complement for dishes like BBQ chicken, smoked salmon, and grilled vegetables. Pinot also loves to pair with picnic food like salads, charcuterie, and all your favourite salty snacks.

So, make Pinot Noir your best friend this summer and beyond, and try out some of our favourites!

 

haywire pinot noir wine

Haywire Pinot Noir

Haywire's hallmark Okanagan pinot noir. Bright, juicy, fruit-forward flavours.

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WillaKenzie Rose wine at Cascadia Liquor

WillaKenzie Rose

This wine exhibits notes of passion fruit, citrus blossom, guava and watermelon rind. Those flavours carry through to a palate that is energetic, lively and well balanced.

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Maison Noir O.P.P. Pinot Noir

Maison Noir O.P.P. Pinot Noir

Other People’s Pinot is classic Oregon Pinot—earmark Willamette Valley. It is accessible, a great value, and stays true to the character of the vineyards from which it was born. Earthy, spicy, floral, herb-framed flavours of cherry with gingery wood spice tones.

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Classic Sancerre-style pinot noir wine

Chateau de Sancerre, Sancerre Rouge

Classic Sancerre-style pinot, light in colour with spicy, floral, cherry, liquorice aromas. The attack is dry and savoury with sour cherry, smoky, peppery, celery salt. Euro-style in that dry and elegant food-friendly way.

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Averill Creek Pinot Noir

Averill Creek Pinot Noir

Floral, savoury and spiced aromatics precede a complex fruit profile. Precise, textured acidity aligns with fine tannins and an essential freshness typical of Vancouver Island.

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