Italy's Heartbreak Grape

February 1, 2009

Pinot Noir is notorious for being difficult to grow. It has earned the nickname, the heartbreak grape. The wine that it produces has become most famous in the Burgundy region of France. Some Francophiles would insist that the true expression of the grape can only be found along the Cote d’Or.

This hasn’t stopped other parts of the world from trying to grow and vinify these grapes. The grape’s other aliases are Pinot Nero, Spatburgunder, and Blauburgunder depending on where they are grown.

In the United States, we have had success in growing Pinot Noir in California. The best ones I have tasted have been from the Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, Carneros, and the Santa Rita Hills in California. New York has found some success in its Finger Lakes region. There are excellent expressions of this grape also coming from Oregon.

I have also tasted good Pinot from the Okanagan Valley and Niagara Peninsula appellations in Canada.

In general, this grape likes a cooler climate. It is for this reason that you will find the best Pinot Nero in Italy’s regions of Alto Adige, the Veneto, and Trentino.

I recently tasted a 2006 Caldaro Kellerei Kaltern Pinot Nero. If you like cherries, you’ll love this wine. It had a beautiful cherry aroma, a taste full of cherry flavors, and soft elegant tannins. I had Chicken Marsala with this wine. It seems to me that mushrooms often bring out an earthy, forest-like flavor from Pinot Noir. I tend to like those flavors.

The 2005 Blauburgunder Mazzon from Gottardi was a more structured and intense wine. The deep ruby color reminded me of Pinot Noir from the Santa Rita Hills appellation near Santa Barbara in California.

Pinot Noir aficionados tend to describe the wine in poetic ways. We all remember the discussions of Pinot in the movie Sideways. Here is another example from that I have to share with you:

You’re beautiful…a goddess…but so exasperating! Loving you is like worshiping an unfaithful temptress! As often as you’ve disappointed us with your undependable ways, you always seem to draw us back. Your alluring beauty and elegance leave us helpless and forgiving of all your moodiness. So long disdainful of any place outside of your home on the golden slopes of Burgundy, we’ve learned to pacify your temperamental nature with brisk coastal breezes and hillside vistas of the New World. Perhaps now you will grace us with all the charm and beauty that has kept the Burgundians devoted to you for centuries.

Miles and your hearts out!!

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