Searching for the best pairings for Pinot Noir? We’ve got answers, but first you have to meet the wine.
What is Pinot Noir?
If you want a sexy wine, reach for a Pinot Noir. Translated from French, this varietal’s name means “pine black,” and on the vine clusters of these grapes really do look like dark pine cones. There’s something about those little blue-black orbs that screams “come and get me!” It’s the wine world’s equivalent of Brigitte Bardot bedroom eyes. Sound crazy? Then you’ve probably never had a really great bottle of Pinot.
Speaking of which… what does a great bottle taste like? That definition probably depends on the person giving it. Pinot Noir is grown all over the world, and each region’s unique terroir produces a different variation on the varietal. That said, you can generally expect:
- Fruit Aromas: Raspberry, cherry, and strawberry
- Non-Fruit Aromas: Earth, mushroom, barnyard, salt, smoke, violets, herbs, and roses
- High Acidity
- Medium Alcohol
- Low+ Tannings
Some of that will make sense; other parts might seem silly or just foreign. What’s really important about all that “somm speak” is that it will help you figure out what to eat with your Pinot Noir (and the answer isn’t just “more Pinot Noir!”… well, it is, but let’s try for some solid food today too, shall we?).
Here are the star ingredients in our 5 top Pinot Noir pairings:
Mushrooms are earthy and rich, swirling with that “can’t quite put your finger on it” umami that you may or may not like when you first taste it, but either way you keep coming back for more.
Try This Recipe: Mushroom Risotto
Why filet mignon and not just, say, beef in general? Filet is a very lean and tender cut, and that rich mouthfeel you typically get from, say, a Ribeye is significantly milder in a filet, and there’s a hint of sweetness and delicacy, too. Pair it with mushrooms and flaky pastry, like in a Wellington, and you have an unmitigated hit on your hands.
Try This Recipe: Beef Wellington
Quail is awesome. It’s not that much harder to cook than a chicken or turkey (if you have a butcher, get them to truss the little buggers up for you and you’ll be one step closer to being a master roaster) and the presentation is truly Masterchef worthy. For pairing purposes, quail is gamier and more complex than plain old chicken, but not as unctuous as lamb, which would overpower poor Pinot.
Try This Recipe: Grilled Quail
Fish and red wine?! Call the wine police! We might get sentenced to 10 boxes of Franzia for this crime against vino tradition, but rules are made to be broken, and Pinot is made to be paired with a great piece of Pacific Northwest salmon.
Try This Recipe: Baked Salmon
Figs are dark, sticky, and sweet, but Pinot Noir’s acidity puts that sweetness in check. Add in some goat cheese – bonus points for a crostini, which will coax out the faint smoky undertones present in some Pinots – and you’ll have a serious taste-splosion.
Try This Recipe: Fig and Onion Spread
Best Picks: Pinot Noir From Around the World
- Chile: Veramonte Pinot Noir, 2010 – $11 BUY ME
- New Zealand: Kim Crawford Pinot Noir, 2014 – $18 BUY ME
- California: Etude Lyric Pinot Noir, 2014 – $30 BUY ME
- Oregon: Adelsheim Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir, 2012 – $60 BUY ME
- Burgundy, France: Chateau de Meursault Pommard Clos de Epenots, 2012, $129 BUY ME