15 Pinot Noir Dictums

Many readers probably know that I like wine, but I love pinot noir. I have written about it for 12 years in my online newsletter, The PinotFile, at princeofpinot.com. My wife claims that it consumes my every waking moment. True, but I also dream about it.

After more than 40 years of pinot noir bliss, I have some dictums you can hang your hat on when it comes to this wine.

  • Decant just-released wines.
  • Let your pinot noir breathe—it needs time in the glass.
  • Drink it with food—pinot noir is a good food groupie.
  • Most North American pinot noir is drinkable upon release, but is better one to three years after release. Some premium wines will age 10 to 15 years.
  • Don’t overpay for prestige labels.
  • Find a great producer and stick with them.
  • Look at scores, and retailer’s ravings, but trust your own palate. Wine critics can enhance your wine experience, but they are not your wine experience.
  • Support small, family owned, boutique producers.
  • Buy it in threes—one to drink now, one to drink in a year, and one to drink in three to five years.
  • Pay attention to alcohol levels. Rarely have I had a pinot noir I considered extraordinary or even exceptional that contained more than 14.6 percent alcohol. The sweet spot seems to be somewhere around 13.8 to 14.2 percent.
  • Ignore vintage hype or downgrading.
  • Don’t equate quality with price: the only caveat with pinot noir is that you usually get what you pay for. Good, cheap pinot noir is an oxymoron. Of all the many grape varieties, it’s the most temperamental, a fickle prodigy and one that performs brilliantly only through meticulous parenting in the vineyard and in the winery. Farming expenses are high and yields are low, and winemaking is labor intensive, requiring producers to personally nurse the frivolous grape every step of the way.
  • Never be intimidated by winemakers. They actually welcome your opinion.
  • Visit at least one major pinot noir producing region and attend at least one pinot noir festival each year.
  • Buy some really fine Burgundy, France’s pinot noir, to see what the pinot noir fuss is really about.