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Grape Varietals

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PINOT NOIR

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For decades, Pinot Noir enjoyed a quiet, if passionate, following among wine cognoscenti, but recently the grape has gone mainstream. Timing couldn't have been better, as this notoriously challenging grape is taking off in quality and availability.

Flavors and aromas: While Pinot Noirs from France (a.k.a. red Burgundies) tend to show an earthy edge, New World Pinots have all the makings for broad appeal: medium body, silky texture, juicy fruit, and bright acidity.

 Color: Ranges from a shimmering ruby to rich violet.

Prominent plantings: The acknowledged epicenter of great Pinot Noir is the Burgundy region of France, where examples are rarely labeled "Bourgogne" or after the individual villages where they are made. What with myriad tiny producers of varying quality in dozens of strange-sounding villages, Burgundian Pinot Noir remains for most Americans an expensive roll of the dice. Top California regions include Carneros, Russian River Valley, and Santa Barbara. Oregon's Willamette Valley is the hot new star, yielding Pinots with admirable depth and balance of fruit and earthiness. New Zealand is coming on strong as well.

Pairing with food: Rarely blended, Pinot Noir shines at the table, where it's versatile enough to complement fish (especially salmon), meat, poultry, and anything with mushrooms. Heftier than white wines, more delicate than most reds, Pinot strikes a happy medium.

Insider tip: Next time you're trying to decide which bottle to buy, consider a Pinot. Its flexibility makes it an ideal choice for a variety of dishes. Also remember Pinot for that most multifarious of meals—Thanksgiving. 

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