National Pinot Noir Day

Pinot Noir is French for pine and black. Pine because the clusters of grapes resemble pine cones. Black due to the dark colored grapes which tend to produce a lighter colored, medium bodied wine.

If you are looking to lower your tannin intake when enjoying your wine, Pinot Noir is a good option. The grapes, Vitis Vinafera, contain lower phenolic compounds.

Pinot Noir originates, but is not limited to, the Burgundy region of France, namely in Cote-d’Or. It grows very successfully all over the world and does well in cooler climates.

Funky Purple Closson Chase

Even in Canada. Locally, visit Prince Edward County and you will most likely find a Pinot Noir grown and bottled right there.

Closson Chase headquarters is an interesting purple barn with a neat backyard area, right beside their vines. Grab a patio table and linger over your selected wine samples.

Huff Estates, which is also a hotel, did not offer something quite so comfortable for tastings. It was extremely busy, being a Saturday, so the servers were very rushed and could not afford too much time for explanations. Nor do they offer organic wines.

They do offer live music on the patio every Sunday afternoon from May to September.

View of vines from our table in the backyard of Closson Chase

The rustic style of The Grange proved to be very inviting. The taste of their wines, a riesling, a rose and a gamay pinot, were surprisingly excellent.

I tend to shy away from Ontario wines at my local shop. Perhaps, they deserve a little more attention because these Pinot’s caught my attention.

At Naggiar Vineyards, the grapes are hand-picked at night because the bugs and the heat make it very uncomfortable. Since their humble beginnings in Grass Valley, CA in 1998, they now produce 5600 cases of wine annually.

The list could go on forever with so much Pinot Noir made all over the world. The organic section of wine stores is growing quite rapidly, too.

Organic is a vague term and used in many different ways with regards to wine-making.

If a vineyard’s grapes go through 3 consecutive years of growing without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, it can be labelled as organic.

Parts Per Million Debate

A wine can be labelled organic even if it is 90% organically grown as long as the sulphite levels are low enough. It might be a good  thing a little sulphite is present for its antioxidant properties. Without it, the wine will spoil sooner than later.

Spanish Tempranillo is a low acid wine

Organically-grown grapes aren’t necessarily labelled as organic if the sulphite level exceeds 200 PPM. Sulphites are naturally present in fruit, especially grape skins, but could also be added during wine processing.

Every country is different. Some do not require labels and others do. The United States requires companies to add sulphites to their labels if the its level is higher than 10 PPM. This regulation came into being since sulphur has become a great health concern.

Generally, a wine without added sulphites, au naturel, will range from 10 – 40 PPM. If they are added during processing, the level can reach as high as 350 PPM. Sorry but you can’t avoid them completely, all wines have some degree of it.

Wine is not the only drink where you will find sulphites. The same amount, approximately 300 PPM, is in soda, and fruit juice contains more than either of these.

If you know you are sensitive to sulphites, and really can’t stand the idea of not having a glass with dinner, consider eliminating processed foods instead. French fries contain almost 2,000 PPM and dried fruit tops the chart with a whopping 3,500 PPM.

That glass of dry red with 50 PPM doesn’t seem so threatening, now, does it?

Are Sulphites Necessary?

To prevent spoiling, then yes. Low acidity wines require more sulphur than wines with higher acidity. Oddly, white wines contain more sulphur than reds.

Wines with higher sugar content, which tend to be whites, have more sulfur to prevent secondary fermentation of the remaining sugar.

Examples of low acid wines:

Gewurztraminer

Chardonnay

Viognier

Cabernet Sauvignon

Merlot

Dolcetto

Grenache

10 mg of sugar

Wines with higher acid levels:

Riesling

Chenin Blanc

Pinot Noir

Zinfandel

Cabernet Franc

Tempranillo

Barbera

Nebbiolo

Sangiovese

Is Organic a Stigma?

Some vineyard owners believe it is. They believe people may see it as poorer quality so they will opt to leave that information out of their label.

For example, according to Good Housekeeping Magazine, Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir is organic but the label lacks this information.

Chilean Cono Sur‘s organic Pinot Noir promises low tannins without sparing rich texture. Located at the foot of the Andes Mountains in Chile, Cono Sur uses stainless steel tanks to hold their wine before transferring to oak barrels. They built an additional cellar to house the 530,000 litres of top pinot noir.

In the 1950’s, French enologist Emile Peynaud suggested using stainless steel barrels when he learned dairy farms avoided transferring bacteria in their stainless tanks. He thought, why not with wine. Wood holds onto bacteria, possibly infecting new batches, and resists any attempts at sterilization. Stainless is easy to clean and sterilize.

However, just because wine is aging in stainless, does not mean it is without oak. Some wineries might use oak chips of planks suspended inside the barrels.

Domaine Jean Bousquet, an Argentinian vineyard, makes a delicious organic wine. As far as organic versions, they make a white blend with lemon and apple, a Malbec and a Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve bought these reds numerous times and can rely on their smooth, flavourful taste.

On The Wine Trail in Prince Edward County, Ontario

If your local wine shop does not have a separate section for organic beverages, ask for help.

Or throw caution to the wind and choose any wine you desire.

But do find a way to enjoy your glass of Pinot Noir today. Cheers!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on April 18, 2017.