• The World’s Love Affair with Pinot Noir: Everything You Should Know.

    All the world loves Pinot Noir. This wine, produced from the supremely delicate grape of the same name, is some of the world’s most expensive wine. With summer upon us, wines made from the pinot noir grape are well-matched for summer foods and lifestyles. 

    Let’s look at why wine drinkers love this grape, some of its characteristics, and the different styles around the world. 

    Why Pinot Noir is So Attractive to Wine Lovers

    A few reasons for Pinot Noir love:

    • Versatility: The grape makes still red, white, and rosé wines, as well as sparkling wine.
    • Expression of place: No other grape comes as close to expressing the place where it is grown, its terroir. Each location where pinot noir thrives reveals its unique characteristics in the wine.
    • Style variety: Because of this ability to express terroir, pinot noir offers winemakers a wide range of style possibilities. Growers and vintners love the challenge of this grape and are enamored of finding its singular expression in their location.
    • History: Pinot noir has been around for centuries, from Roman times through the ages of the Burgundian monks and on into today’s global passion.
    • Qualities: Pinot noir perhaps yields the most profound complex expression of wine of any grape. With its beautiful color, fresh acidity, compelling body, and complexity of aromas and flavors, wine aficionados never get tired of exploring it.
    • Food: Pinot Noir may be the most perfect red wine for pairing with almost any meal.
    • Availability: Produced in nearly every wine-growing country, everyone can enjoy it.

    Pinot Noir

    What is Pinot Noir?

    Pinot noir means “black pinecone” because the grape bunch of the vine resembles the shape of a pinecone (“pinot”) and the berries are very dark in color (“noir.”)

    Attributes:

    1. delicate and thin-skinned
    2. ripens early
    3. susceptible to disease
    4. sensitive to wind, humidity, hail, frost
    5. doesn’t thrive in extreme conditions
    6. predisposed to mutation so clonal selection matters

    Conditions to thrive:

    1. cooler, more temperate climate
    2. long growing season with enough heat and sunlight to ripen
    3. low humidity to avoid or reduce the risk of disease
    4. protection from extremes (sunburn, frost, wind)
    5. nutrient-poor, well-draining soils, such as limestone, chalk, marl
    6. low yields to concentrate the wine
    7. gentle slopes

    Wine expression:

    1. aromatic
    2. complex
    3. good length
    4. high acidity
    5. transparent pale red color (deeper in warmer climates)
    6. lower tannin but enough for structure and oak aging
    7. lower alcohol (higher in warmer climates)
    8. light to full body and texture

    Pinot noir is grown in more fertile areas, such as mass-produced wines, have a less optimal style: fruitier, fuller in body, higher alcohol, lower acidity, and less complexity.

    Pinot Noir Map

    Pinot Noir Regions Around the World

    The French Connection 

    While Vitis vinifera, the genus of grapevines from which fine wine comes, originated in Europe, these vines did not exist in the Americas. The Spanish brought the Mission grape to Mexico and Chile.

    The majority of Vitis vines arrived with immigrants who carried cuttings from France, Germany, Spain, and Italy to the US, Canada, Chile, and Argentina.

    However, France remains the gold standard.

    With the ideal climate and terroir for pinot noir, more plantings exist in France than anywhere in the world. The most famous and desired Pinot Noir in the world comes from Burgundy. While the vine flourishes in other countries, no more perfect home for this grape exists.

    With limited production, Burgundy’s high-demand Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines command extraordinarily high prices, making it almost impossible for the average wine drinker to afford.

    The climate here is one with a long and cool growing season. Vines grow on tiny plots on east-facing slopes with vine density ranging from 4,000 to 10,000 vines per hectare.

    Burgundy’s famed Cote d’Or sits on a limestone escarpment. Soils, though quite varied depending on each plot, consist of limestone, marls, gravel, clay, and sand.

    General characteristics of the style of wine from Burgundy:

    • high levels of acidity
    • silky texture
    • an elegant balance
    • restrained yet complex flavors of:
      • cranberries, red or black cherries
      • earth, forest, mushrooms, herbs
      • floral notes, rose, violet, hibiscus
    • oaked Pinots show fuller body, rounder tannins, and vanilla notes
    • unoaked wines have bright-red cherry flavors

    Wines of the Cote d’Or show darker fruit in the northern regions, yielding to red fruit and floral wines in the middle, and more earthy and tannic wines in the south. South of the Cote-d’Or, wines are lighter and easier drinking.

    Oregon Pinot Noir

    Why Oregon Works for Pinot Noir

    Compared with France, Oregon is a baby in creating wine from pinot noir. Only recently has the industry begun to explore the concept of terroir in depth. As this knowledge expands, more nuanced wines will come to market.

    Though still very young as a wine region, Oregon has become the standard-bearer of Pinot Noir after Burgundy.

    Similarities between Oregon and Burgundy

    Burgundy Willamette Valley
    Latitude: 47 degrees (Beaune) 45 degrees (Dundee)
    Climate: Continental Continental w/Maritime influence
    Ocean Distance: 350 miles 60 miles
    Rainfall: consistent through the year drier summers, wet winters
    Risk of hail: strong low
    Winter Temps: 30-40 degrees 35-55 degrees
    Summer Temps: 60-75 degrees 45-85 degrees
    Longest Daylight: 16 hours 15.4 hours

    Differences between Oregon and Burgundy

    Geography

    Differences include geography. While Burgundy lies on eastern facing slopes, the well-known Willamette Valley in Oregon sits in an undulating valley lying between two mountain ranges. These ranges protect vineyards from rain.

    Vineyards generally lie on south or southeast facing slopes with vine density of 2,500 to 4,000 vines per hectare.

    Soil

    Unlike Burgundy, volcanic red Jory and basalt Nekia soils underlie the Valley. Other soil types include marine sediment sandstone and loess. All these soils allow for good drainage, the key to growing quality pinot noir grapes.

    pinot_noir_in_glass

    Characteristics of the Oregon Pinot Noir style, particularly in the Willamette Valley

    • lively acidity
    • weightier, satin-like texture
    • darker in color
    • balanced with fuller body
    • robust fruit flavors of:
      • bright red fruits like cranberries, pomegranate, red cherries
      • cherry-cola
      • mushrooms, some green notes
    • oaked Pinots are richer, with spicy vanilla notes
    • unoaked wines show tart red cherry flavors

    Some winemakers showcase fruity characteristics, while others prefer a more restrained style. The use of natural winemaking techniques has become increasingly popular.

    Think of Oregon Pinot Noir as a cross between Burgundy and California, unique unto itself.

    The wines have become increasingly more expensive, though you can find quality Oregon Pinot at lower prices.

    Oregon Pinot Noir has become so popular in the US that the in-demand Pinot Camp Event held annually in the Willamette Valley has a sister event in Birmingham, Alabama.

     

    California Dreaming 

    Californians who were searching for cooler climates in which to plant pinot noir started the Oregon wine industry.

    In California, a hot climate, locations closer to the ocean work best for pinot noir, allowing grapes to reach optimal ripeness over a long growing season. Soils vary throughout the state, and there is less focus on terroir.

    California

    Characteristics of Pinot Noir from California:

    • medium acidity
    • higher alcohol
    • more concentration
    • a richer, velvety texture
    • darker, riper, fuller than Oregon and Burgundy
    • fruit-forward with intense flavors of:
      • black cherry, black raspberry, candied fruit
      • cola, caramel, tea
    • oaked Pinots offer vanilla and sweet spice notes
    • unoaked show brighter but still dark berry flavors

    California has a wide variety of styles and quality levels. Some winemakers pick later in the harvest and use extended macerations to ensure deep dark colors and flavors. Others harvest earlier with shorter macerations to create higher-acid and lighter versions. Large producers plant in hotter areas yielding less complex, more fruity, and less acidic wines.

    With so much Pinot coming from California, aficionados can find a style to suit their palate. Warmer regions, such as the Russian River Valley, produce bolder wines, while cooler areas, like Carneros, produce more subtle, relatively lighter wines.

    Other quality areas include the Sonoma Coast, the Central Coast, including Santa Barbara County, and the Santa Lucia Highlands.

    Pinot noir world

    Surprising Germany

    To many, the fact that Germany produces red wine is a surprise, even though it has more pinot noir vineyards planted than any other country except France and the US. The country’s most important red grape, Spätburgunder (pinot noir) has grown here for centuries.

    Most of Germany’s wine regions produce Pinot Noir, and styles vary less than in other countries. A white version is produced here. Knowing the producer matters in finding quality Pinot.

    Because Germany enjoys a relatively cooler climate, the wines are lighter in color with high acidity and a more restrained style.

    Favorable climates and terroirs include Ahr in the north and Baden in the south. Both allow pinot noir to ripen well. German Pinot Noir shows an earthy quality. Pinot from Ahr brings out rich red berry flavors, while those from Baden tend toward rich dark fruit flavors.

    new zeland pinot noir

    Little New Zealand Makes a Big Impression

    Cool climate New Zealand, with small production, is a haven for Pinot lovers.

    Pinot producing areas include Central Otago and Marlborough on the South Island and Martinborough on the North Island. Each produces a different style.

    Central Otago:

    • Surprisingly. this southernmost, highest altitude and coolest region ripens pinot noir almost as well as California.
    • Wines have high acidity and alcohol, with medium to full body, rich fruit flavors, and a noticeable sweet-spicy finish.

    Marlborough takes the middle road of the three, producing high acid wines of medium body and more subtle red fruit flavors.

    Martinborough: The warmest region produces a dark wine with higher tannins and earthier flavors.

     

    Italy Under the Radar

    Maybe less known, pinot nero (pinot noir) grows well in Northern Italy, the coolest climate wine region in the country. Both sparkling and still wines are produced here.

    Still wines show similar characteristics to those from Burgundy, though more concentrated, with higher alcohol. Instead of mushroom and forest flavors, earthiness shows up as smoke or tobacco. Spice notes can be clove or pepper. Pinot noir from Alto Adige produces an aromatic, elegant wine with floral notes, and clove and deep red berry fruit flavors.

     

    Chile on the Move

    Pinot noir has been grown in Chile for some time though much of the quality is low. As winegrowers moved towards the coast and further south, the potential for high-quality Pinot became apparent.

    Coastal granite soils yield wines similar in style to Oregon, complex and elegant with bright acidity and floral aromas. Further south, winemakers experiment with different soils and locations. More to come from Chile.

     

    The Rest of the World

    The following countries plant and create wine from pinot noir: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Moldova, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK. Pinot noir grown in the UK makes lovely sparkling wines, like those of Champagne.

    Having only touched the surface of the vast variety and complexity of the world of Pinot Noir, you’ll understand why this grape and its wine are so beloved.

     

    A Note on Champagne

    Pinot noir is the most planted grape in Champagne, especially in Montagne de Reims and the Aube, even with the marginal climate. The high acidity of pinot noir makes for perfect Champagne. Limestone and chalk soils resemble those of Burgundy.

    champagne

     

    CASE BY CASE

    The wine professionals of Case by Case travel the world sourcing unusually good wine from famous and emerging regions. Dealing only in fine wine, they winnow out most of the 5,000 wines they taste every year. By knowing the winemakers and the wine growers, they have the connections to find the few wines that meet their high standards.

    With an easy online experience, wine lovers choose:

    • the type of wine
    • the case quantity (6 or 12 bottles)
    • the delivery term (monthly, every other month, every three months)

    Those wanting premium quality wine can upgrade. Case by Case Wines does everything else. Buyers pay as they go with no time or minimum case commitments.

     

     

     

     

     

    ABOUT Case by Case Wine

    Launched in 2020, Case by Case Wine committed to sourcing wines of exceptional quality and value from around the world at the lowest price point.

    Their direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales model uses technology to integrate and improve the wine distribution channel, resulting in the market’s most competitive pricing.

     

  • Fortified Wines For Winter

    Fortified Wine: A Short Explanation

    If you love cocktails and think you don’t like wine, you will love fortified wines. But fortified wines are not distilled like liquor.
    During the process of fermenting a still wine, the winemaker adds neutral grape spirits, such as brandy or an eau de vie (a clear fruit brandy,) to stop fermentation and raise the alcohol level. This process also adds complexity to the flavor of the base wine.
    Do not drink these wines quickly, but savor them over dessert, after-dinner conversation, or a fireside chat. You can serve some fortified wines as aperitifs as well.
    Before the advent of refrigeration, people added alcohol to wine to prevent rapid oxidation and the risk of their wine turning to vinegar. This technique was successful in the days before the discovery of glass wine bottles and modern transportation methods.
    Today these wines are in a class of their own, with a wide variety of styles and flavors to suit anyone.

    Fortified wine

    Fortified Wine: The Process

    Most fortified wines are blended with different grapes and vintages, though you can find single vintage and single grape styles.
    The process starts with fermenting grapes as with a still wine. Then the winemaker adds alcohol to create the style and sweetness desired for the final product.
    When adding alcohol early during fermentation, the wine will be sweeter. When adding alcohol later during fermentation, the wine will be drier.
    When adding spirits to fermenting wine, the wine’s alcohol rises above 15%. This kills the yeast, leaving residual sugar.
    Most fortified wines are aged in oak or other wooden barrels, especially more expensive wines.
    Except in the case of vermouth, winemakers do not add flavorings to impact the taste. Vermouth includes botanical elements to give it a characteristic herbal flavor.

    Fortified wine Glasses

    Fortified Wine: A Bountiful Variety to Choose From

    With many options available, you can find wines for every occasion, each unique in flavor and style. While classic regions, such as Port and Jerez, produce such wines, you can find local versions in many countries.
    Styles of fortified wines:

    Commandaria
    From the island of Cyprus comes Commandaria. This wine hails from the north of the country near Limassol. Made from high-altitude vines and grapes dried in the sun, it undergoes oak barrel aging. Look for true fortified versions since some new styles lack the additional alcohol.

    Madeira
    From the remote Portuguese islands of Madeira comes a fortified wine nick-named “Vampire Wine.” The wine is deliberately heated with barrels aging in the sun, oxidizing and preserving it. You can’t kill this wine!
    Using only white grapes, the winemaker controls the sweetness by the timing of the added alcohol. The different classifications based on grape variety include:
    • Sercial: a dry style wine served as an aperitif with nuts and olives
    • Verdelho: a semi-dry style served with earthy dishes such as mushrooms
    • Bual: a semi-sweet wine served with desserts
    • Malmsey: a rich sweet wine also served with desserts
    As with Sherry, use cheaper versions for cooking, not for drinking.

    Marsala
    Marsala, created as a cheaper version of Port or Sherry, comes from the island of Sicily, near the town of Marsala. Producers add alcohol at the end of fermentation, resulting in a dry wine. Again, use sweeter styles for cooking.
    Aged for about four months, Fine Marsala has a minimum alcohol level of 17% ABV. With minimum alcohol of 18%, Superiore is aged for at least two years. You can also find unfortified Marsala.

    Mistelle
    Mistelle is a lightly fortified wine drunk as an aperitif in France. Some winemakers use it as an ingredient in other fortified wines such as Marsala or vermouth. The production follows the same pattern of adding spirits to fermenting wine, but it is not fermented dry.

    Moscatel de Setúbal
    Another fortified wine from Portugal, Moscatel de Setúbal comes from the Península de Setúbal, south of Lisbon. The founder of the famous J.M. Fonseca company created this wine. Made from the Muscat of Alexandria grape, it can be vintage or nonvintage. This elegant, layered wine has a rich, viscous quality.

    Port
    Port, along with Sherry, is the most famous of the fortified wines. A red and sweet wine, Port originates in the Douro Valley of Portugal. Winemakers add brandy about halfway through fermentation. You can find dry Port and white Port.
    Port styles include:
    • Ruby – the youngest, freshest and least-expensive style, not generally aged
    • Tawny – aged in wood barrels with some oxidation, can be sweet or medium-dry
    • Vintage – made from grapes of one harvest, aged in barrel or stainless steel for a couple of years, then in bottle for up to 40 years
    • Late Bottled Vintage – a vintage port left to age longer in barrel
    While port-style wines are made around the world, EU law protects the Port or Porto designation.

    Sherry
    Sherry (Jerez in Spanish) is the famous fortified wine made from native white grapes grown in a triangular area in southern Spain. EU law protects the three designations: Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María.
    Winemakers use the complex solera system for aging, blending many vintages. Added brandy after fermentation results in a dry wine. Sweeter styles have added sweeteners.
    Styles include:
    • Fino: dry, very pale, aged under a cap of yeast called ‘flor’ to prevent oxidation
    • Manzanilla: a Fino from the town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda
    • Amontillado: dry, darker in color, aged under flor, but then oxidized
    • Oloroso: dry and oxidized longer than Amontillado
    • Palo Cortado: dry and aged like Amontillado but later fortified
    • Cream Sherry: sweet, a blend of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez
    • Pedro Ximenez: sweetest of all sherries

    Vermouth
    Vermouth’s distinctiveness comes from the addition of herbal ingredients such as wormwood and spices. This type of wine is called an ‘aromatized’ wine. Created as a medicinal tonic, dry vermouth has a white wine base. There are some sweet red versions, with simple syrup added before fortification.
    Famous as an ingredient in martinis, vermouth is a favorite of bartenders around the world. You can also enjoy it as an aperitif. Not a protected designation, many countries make vermouth, including France, Italy, and the U.S.

    Vins doux Naturels
    Common in the south of France, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, ‘vins doux naturels’ are fruitier and lighter, becoming more profound with age.
    Grape spirits are added during fermentation. Only the red vins doux naturels have oxidized and unoxidized styles. Using mainly the white grape, Muscat, and the red grape, Grenache, styles include:
    • Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise – white, most well-known
    • Muscat de Rivesaltes – white
    • Muscat de Frontignan – white
    • Banyuls – red
    • Maury – red, can age up to 20 years
    Rivesaults (reeve-salt) is typically served chilled and drunk as an aperitif or with food. They range in color from pale yellow-gold to deep amber.
    Made like port, with alcohol added during fermentation to maintain sweetness, winemakers age these wines in large glass containers called demi-johns. These are then left outside for about a year. After, the wines are aged in wood barrels for up to 50 years. Long-aged versions of these wines are richly layered and textured.
    There are many other styles of fortified wines made around the world, including other aromatized wines like Dubonnet and Lillet.

    Wine Barrels

    Fortified Wines: Other Considerations

    • Store fortified wines in a cool, dark place.
    • Serve cold in small glasses due to the higher alcohol content (15.5% – 22% ABV.)
    • Drink lighter wines, such as fino sherries, sooner because they will not hold long.
    • Drink darker, sweeter styles at room temperatures. These will hold for several months.
    • When serving fortified wines that have extended oak aging, decant and aerate them.
    • With heavier wines, serve with duck, foie gras, truffles with blue cheese, and fruit desserts.
    • Use older or leftover wines for cooking.
    Fortified wines are a fabulous way to start any occasion or end any meal. An after-dinner plate of strong cheeses and nuts is perfect with most of these wines. Most sweet desserts and chocolates also pair well. Or enjoy a sip of a delicious fortified wine on a cold winter’s eve.

     

     

    ABOUT Case by Case Wine

    Launched in 2020, Case by Case Wine committed to sourcing wines of exceptional quality and value from around the world at the lowest price point.

    Their direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales model uses technology to integrate and improve the wine distribution channel, resulting in the market’s most competitive pricing.