Bright and bold. Light and elegant. Fragrant and fruity.
Pinot Noir is a grape of many faces. It’s often known as one of the most temperamental varietals in the wide world of red wine, with a wide range of quality found between each glass.
Many enthusiasts swear by Pinot’s juicy flavors of red and black fruit, delicate texture, and silky tannins, making it one of the most versatile red wines for pairing with a wide array of delicious dishes.
With the vast differences from Pinot to Pinot, the trick to finding the perfect food pairing comes in knowing the glass in front of you, inside and out.
Let’s dive into a detailed pairing menu for this mercurial grape and how you can find its perfect partner no matter the qualities of your favorite glass of Pinot.
Easy Pinot Noir Pairing
No two Pinots are the same.
In general, Pinot Noir is known to occupy the lighter, fruitier side of the red spectrum, but some glasses can prove just as bitter and complex as a robust Cabernet Sauvignon.
Instead of making easy generalizations, it’s best to put your individual Pinot into one of three camps to make your pairing even more accurate and delicious.
Let’s dive into the three main types of Pinot you’ll find and which dishes you should seek out for each glass.
If your Pinot is on the lighter side with an effervescent texture and smooth finish, you probably have a light-bodied Pinot. This specific type of Pinot works best with light meat dishes like crab cakes, shrimp, flaky salmon, or even a duck paté.
A light Pinot also tastes divine with a milder cheese like creamy feta or crumbly goat cheese, as well as a crisp vegetable side dish such as roasted asparagus, Brussel sprouts, or crunchy butternut squash.
These Pinots typically have a higher alcohol content of around 13.5% and have much more bitterness and structure along with chewy tannins. Like other full-bodied red wines, you’ll do best by pairing with richer, meaty dishes like grilled lamb chops, beef tenderloin, or a juicy pork steak.
If you’re sticking to a vegetarian diet for the night, you should still aim for fatty dishes to bring out the wine’s earthy flavors. Look towards milky types of cheese like brie or camembert or even a scrumptious mushroom risotto.
These varietals are some of the more fragrant within the world of Pinot. If you find yourself with a truly delightful fruity glass, your best bet for food pairing will be with poultry or seafood like Peking duck or a flaky, seared tuna.
If it’s dessert time, the aromas of a fruit-forward Pinot can strike an unexpected compliment to cocoa-based desserts like chocolate-covered strawberries or even a slice of fluffy chocolate cake.
Pair Your Pinot With A Delicious Dish
While it’s incredibly important to develop a deep understanding of the particularities of your unique Pinot, it’s also helpful to have a few stress-free pairs that are guaranteed to taste great no matter the qualities of your Pinot.
Here are four ever-delicious dishes that will work with whatever glass of Pinot Noir you have in front of you.
Do you still break out the cranberry sauce every Thanksgiving? Those bright berry flavors are very similar to those that exude from a prime Pinot Noir.
The fruity notes within each sip of wine strike a natural contrast to the lighter, protein structures of white-meat turkey breast as well as the creamy, fatty flavors found within darker-meat turkey legs.
Pinot Noir is practically tailor-made for light mushroom dishes like mushroom risotto.
The bright fragrance characteristic of Pinot Noir accentuates the natural earth flavors locked within the risotto. A well-aged glass is infused with subtle notes of fungi, striking a natural complement to this lighter umami dish.
While bolder red wines can taste flabby when paired with the meatier flavors of a well-roasted salmon, the bright, fruity flavors of Pinot Noir make a natural pair to this staple fish.
Serve a flaky, grilled salmon alongside an extra bright and effervescent Pinot, and save your more bitter, earthy Pinots for a more mellow-tasting smoked salmon.
While white wines and sparkling wines are often thought to be the go-to pairs for any type of cheese, Pinot Noir’s light-bodied nature makes it a fantastic pair for many of our favorite types of cheese.
A delicate Pinot cuts through the fat of baked brie or camembert, while a more robust, bolder Pinot complements a funkier cheese like goat gouda or a crumbly blue from the Pacific Northwest.
If you’d like to offset the fatty, bitter cheese flavors with a bit of sweetness, add some dried strawberries or dates to your cheese board for a truly well-rounded snacking session.
Serve the Perfect Pinot With the Wine Connoisseur
While we can all use a few guidelines when starting our wine food pairing journeys, the true joy of wine pairing lies in freeform experimentation.
If you have a vintage that you love, don’t be afraid to pair it with all of your favorite foods, even those you might guess would make an unnatural duo. With any luck, you might discover a brand new Pinot pairing to share with the world.
This expert sommelier takes all the work out of wine night by calibrating your favorite varietals to their perfect temperature and aeration levels.
Take our DeLoach Pinot Noir, for example. With the Wine Connoisseur, you can rest assured that each glass will burst with the fruity, earthy notes characteristic of Pinot Noir, making pairing food with great wine an effortless joy.