Young, Cool-Climate Pinot Noir with Turkey Burgers
You may be thinking, “Why ‘young’ Pinot? Why are you talking to me about climate? Can’t I just get any Pinot Noir?” Sure, but it’ll make a difference. Let’s break it down.
The way wine tastes is not only determined by the grape variety. It’s a result of the interplay between three main factors: grape variety, climate/geography, and winemaking choices. And after it’s bottled, the wine continues to change, so age matters, too.
The Pinot Noir grape has its own set of flavors, but different ones come out depending on where the grape is grown and what the winemaker does with the grapes once they’re picked.
Pinot Noir is known as a grape that is particularly sensitive to terroir — that is, the flavors it expresses are very dependent on the conditions in which it’s grown. (That’s in contrast to grapes like Chardonnay, which tend to have a more consistent set of flavors no matter where they come from.) Taste a Pinot from hot Napa Valley next to one from cool Burgundy, France and you’d be hard-pressed to identify them as the same grape.
When Pinot Noir is grown in cool climates, the grape ripens less. That means it retains more acidity and the fruit flavors will be bright and tart, as opposed to rich and ripe. Nothing wrong with rich and ripe flavors — if this were a beef burger, I’d tell you to look for them. But a lighter dish plays better with a lighter wine.
Because Pinot Noir express that fresh and tart fruit in cool climates, winemakers tend to want to let those shine rather than try to obscure them with interventions. So these wines tend to be made with minimal or no oak, which tends to impart deep, earthy flavors to wine. An oaked Pinot would be a better match with deep, earthy foods like beef and mushrooms.
As wines age, the tart and bright fruit flavors mellow and riper, earthier flavors start to develop (if you’re lucky — some wines will just lose the fruit and go dead. That’s why you want to be careful about which wines you age and which ones you drink young. Contrary to what you might have heard, most wines do not benefit from sitting around on a shelf for more than a year or two!)
Look for bottles from New Zealand and Oregon because both have cool climates and many winemakers are choosing to make wines in the fresh, fruity style we’re recommending. Have some fun exploring these regions — they’re making some of the most glorious Pinot Noir out there. If you’re interested in Oregon, you can’t go wrong with a bottle from Eyrie, Hazelfern, Cristom, Drouhin, or Grochau.