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The Heartbreak Grape: Pinot Noir

Originally posted February 2016

I don’t think one can talk about love without thinking about the heartbreak that inevitably goes along with it.  I am by no means an expert in heartbreak, but I have had the good fortune of feeling a lot of love in my life and I know that with this comes some anxiety and fear that someday those we love may not always be around. When you love someone or something, the thought of that person or that experience changing, leaving, or not living up to your expectations can be really painful and hard to bear. What does all of this have to do with wine? Well, we can look at the cultivation of the Pinot Noir grape, commonly called the “heartbreak grape”, and see similar challenges and rewards playing out in the vineyard.

Pinot Noir is a very challenging grape to grow; it mutates easily, so you don’t always know if what you plant will produce the wine you thought it would.  It’s thin skin makes the grape susceptible to pests, rot and disease.  It is temperamental and extremely sensitive to fluctuations in temperature, soil and site.  Like any relationship worth cultivating and sustaining, it needs constant nurturing otherwise it simply will not flourish.  There is no way to coax a fine wine from a poorly tended vine with underripe or diseased fruit.

The challenges involved in cultivating Pinot Noir continue through harvest and into the winery; the grapes have to be handled ever so delicately so as not to prematurely break the skins and oxidize the juice. Colour extraction is often a problem as well.

What propels a vigneron and winemaker to invest so much time and energy into this grape that can potentially be the root of so much heartbreak and disappointment?  Like in love, the path is never easy and the results are often uncertain; but the promise of obtaining something really delicious and sweet and fulfilling is often enough to keep us working on it.  The unsuccessful versions of Pinot Noir are thin, green, weedy and bitter; which are not only heartbreaking for the producer but also for the consumer. When Pinot Noir is at its best, it is a seductive and silky wine with a gorgeous nose of red berry fruits and often layers of warm earthy and truffle notes reminiscent of a peaceful walk in the woods on an autumn day.  The aromas can be subtle, yet complex and beg for contemplation; it is a wine to be sipped and savoured.

As a consumer, you do have to take a chance each time you try a new wine and this seems to be even more true in regards to Pinot Noir.  Try a few of the wines below OR come into our shop this weekend to ask a trusted wine merchant who will be able to guide you in the right direction when selecting the perfect Pinot Noir for your palate, and hopefully, they may be able to help you avoid at least one kind of heartbreak.

Cheers to a Happy Valentines day!


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