The world of Red Burgundy can be complex for most consumers. Pinot Noir often delivers a high acidity, light tannins and light colour, leaving much of its charm to its perfume and unique flavour profile. And that when service temperature and pairing become key to avoid red Burgundy’s attributes being completely missed. Burgundy lovers might know what to expect, but those used to drinking bolder wines could be confused about the nuances of Pinot Noir. Here’s a quick guide to levelling your expectations when buying Burgundy and a few suggestions to enjoy it to its fullest.
What should red Burgundy taste like?
When tasting French Pinot Noir, you may note its delicate earthy and floral profile compared to its New World counterparts, which tend to be bolder, riper and fruitier. Still, within Burgundy, factors like climate, soil, yields and winemaking, among others, would impact the wine character leaving us with a fantastic array of styles and qualities.
Young, simple Burgundy
Modest Bourgogne Rouge often are a light-coloured dry red wine with red cherry aromatics, bright acidity and soft tannins. It is usually made with relatively high yieldings (which in Pinot terms is about 50-60Hl/ha), delivering a moderate concentration and relatively simple complexity.
Serve best slightly chilled at 14-16ºC, and paired with grilled meat and mature cheeses.
Pinot Noir is also quite sensitive to climatic conditions, and in regions like Burgundy, vintage variation is relatively standard. It often delivers a crunchier and fresher red fruit profile (red cherries, raspberries) and even minty/herbal character in colder vintages. When exposed to more sun and heat, the skins of the grapes thickens, turning into a more concentrated flavour profile with ripe blackberries notes.
Top premiers crus and grand crus (often with yields of 35-40 hl/ha) lead to more complex and multi-layered wines. Although concentration might be increased, it might not be the real deal. Very often, producers focus all their efforts on achieving elegant and intense aromatics, a seducingly textured palate, and a graceful balance.
Tertiary development often adds extra layers of complexity to the already beautifully perfumed Pinots. The French term “sous Bois” describes the earthy character of aged Burgundies. You can expect to find notes of dried leaves, mushrooms, undergrowth and truffle after a couple of years. When reaching its maturity peak, an animal character can be achieved as well.
The nuances of terroir
Burgundy is all about terroir, and every piece of land tends to deliver unique characteristics based on their soils, slope, and exposure. While the wines from the cooler climate of the Côte de Nuits are usually lighter and brighter, those from the slightly sunnier Cote de Beaune are softer and rounder.
In the cote the Nuits, wines are often more textured and showcase refined tannins. Areas like Gevray Chambertin and Nuits-st-Georges could deliver a more structured palate and chalkier tannins over the more velvety Vosne-Romanée or the beautifully perfumed and floral Chambolle-Musigny.
In the Cote de Beaune, Pommards’ clay soil is responsible for a more generously fruited profile with a firmer tannic structure, benefiting from bottle age.
Here are some extra tips from our team for 4 of the top communes:
Given its perfumed aromatics, serving temperature is key for such a subtle product.
Mainly, it’s key to remember that heat is a wine’s worst enemy. A serving temperature above 18°C will accentuate the alcohol warmth and quickly evaporate its perfume. Temperatures below will make it austere and lacking aromatics, risking it enhancing its high acidity above all. Temperatures between 15-and 18C are optimum for Pinot Noir.
Gevrey ar structured pinots with full-body and firm, velvety tannins, ging brilliantly with meat, particularly game. If feeling adventurous, pike or tuna in a red wine sauce could also work beautifully with cheese like Epoisse or Ami du Chambertin.
Chambolle Musigny are aromatic and refined, with expressive notes of violets and red berries (often developing many layers of mushrooms, spices and earthy notes when mature). Altogether with its smooth tannins and bright acidity, it pairs beautifully with feathered game, in a sauce, poultry from Bresse or roast lamb. For cheeses, try smooth Brillat-Savarin, Reblochon or a Brie.
Nuits Saint Georges
In its youth, the aromas tend to be crunchy fruit such as cherry, strawberry and blackcurrant. When older, it evokes leather, truffles, fur, and game. Finally, macerated fruits such as prunes complete the bouquet. Robust, balanced and full-bodied, Nuits Saint Georges often deliver a very long finisgh with many layers of strawberry, cherries, truffle, game and dried fruits. Pair it with juicy, strong, fibrous meats such as steak, lamb, and duck. When young, it also goes great with a dark chocolate desert.
Its generous mouth-filling texture and expressive fruitiness (blackberry, bilberry, or gooseberry, cherry pit and ripe plum) would benefit from some time to open up. Its chewy tannins and delicate structure make it an excellent pairing for a furred or feathered game, braised or roasted. Its firm-textured tannins and concentrated aromas would only benefit from Thick cut beefsteak, lamb, or stewed poultry.
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