Pinot Noir is a tricky little grape – and to write about the wine, I’d need to have an entire blog solely devoted to it. Pinot Noir is one of those wines that attracts uneasy wine drinkers and connoiseurs alike. For the former it’s a “lighter” red wine that is infinitely more drinkable than a challenging glass of Cabernet or Syrah and for the latter, a good glass of Pinot can be a revelation. However, this blog is for the former, and after so many glasses of Pinot Noir, enough is enough.
Its true that Pinot falls on the lighter end of the spectrum. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have complexity and character – it wouldn’t be one of the most sought-after wines in the world if it didn’t have both of those qualities. Pinot Noirs come in as many styles as there are places it is grown – from California to South Africa and lots of unexpected places in between. Pinot Noir can be a fruit bomb in a glass – an explosion of ripe red fruit that will knock you off your bar stool. It can be delicately floral or funky with hints of mushrooms and earth on the nose. A bad glass of Pinot is either syrupy sweet or so light it goes down like water with just as much of a finish.
All that having been aired out, if you find yourself confronting the fact that maybe just maybe you don’t actually love Pinot Noir as much as you think you’re supposed to the good news is that you have options. There are plenty of wines out there that are still “lighter wines” and easy to drink without all the politics behind Pinot Noir.
Grown mostly in the northern region of Spain known as “green Spain”, this is a semi-obscure grape that makes a truly delightful little red wine. It’s similar to some Pinot Noir’s in its flavor profile of rich red fruits and nice acidity. These wines, like the best Pinots also have a nice long finish that’s easy-going and smooth.
Try: Benaza Mencia 2009 at $9 a bottle at The Wine Buyer
Plavac is an ancient grape that is grown widely in Croatia and is rumored to be a distant cousin of the Zinfandel grape. Plavac is a grape that can pack some nice spice and tight structure that holds up a bouquet of strawberries and raspberries. It’s got more grip than your average Pinot but its still firmly in the lighter column. Not to mention its from Croatia which gives it a little bit of that Eastern European romance and intrigue…
Try: Dingac Plavac 2007 at $13 a bottle at Plonk
Dolcetto : Italian
Ah, Dolcetto. This was one of the first wines that I ever drank and thought was simply delicious. It’s the table wine of Piedmont, one of Italy’s most revered wine making regions that also produces Barolo and Barbera. Although the name implies sweetness, Dolcetto is a light and spicy little grape with ripe fruit, silky tannins, Moand a juicy quality that makes it especially amenable to accompanying a meal.
Try: Cascina Degli Ulivi Monferrato Dolcetto “Nibio” 2006 at Astor Wines
* Also, see my post on Beaujolais!