Written by: Tim Edison

Updated: April 22, 2023

Ultimate Pinot Noir Food Guide [20 Delicious Pairings]

Red wine and pasta dish

Pinot Noir is complicated, to say the least. Its delicate red fruit flavor turns to complex earthiness with age, and its bright acidity makes it an easy swap for when you’d otherwise choose a white wine.

Pinot Noir is, in short, versatile, yet there are some steadfast rules if you want a truly perfect pairing. 

This guide covers everything you need to know about making the perfect Pinot Noir food pairing.

With tasting notes, regional differences, pairing tips, and tons of recommendations, we’ve got you covered!

What Does Pinot Noir Taste Like?

Before discussing which foods to pair with Pinot, it’s good to know what we’re dealing with first. 

Pinot Noir is a dry red wine that is light in tannins and typically light in body with moderate to high acidity. It is grown best in cooler climates, where the acidity and bright red fruit flavor is preserved. 

Nearly every example of Pinot Noir will have notes of vibrant red raspberry, red cherry, and strawberry. New World Pinot - from the United States or Argentina - can be expected to have subtle spicy and cherry cola flavor. 

Pinot Noir is typically aged briefly in oak due to its low tannins. The oak flavor is mild, though Pinot that is aged for an extended time in the bottle does develop complex notes of mushroom, earth, and forest floor.

Burgundy Pinot Noir

Burgundy is Pinot Noir’s premiere growing region, accounting for 70% of France’s Pinot production. Known simply as “Burgundy,” the best examples of Pinot from this region offer intense flavors of earth, mushroom, red cherry, and delicate spice.

In addition to Burgundy there is also the Champagne region of France, where Pinot Noir is one of only a few grapes permitted to be used to make high-quality Champagne. These wines exude flavors of bruised apple, brioche, and caramel. 

United States Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir has established a strong reputation in both California and Oregon. In California the most notable regions are Sonoma, Napa, and the Russian River Valley.

Pinot Noir in the more central parts of California have flavors similar to Burgundy, where warmer climate Pinot Noir is bolder, with subtle notes of dark fruit and pepper. 

In Oregon, the Willamette Valley produces high-quality Pinot, accounting for 60% of its total production. Expect flavors of red cherry, strawberry, cherry cola, and licorice. 

German Pinot Noir

Being the world’s third-largest producer of Pinot Noir, Germany has quietly built a reputation for producing excellent Pinot.

Similarly to where you’d expect to find excellent Riesling, Pinot Noir is best grown in cooler regions of Mosel, Rheinhessen, and Baden. 

Expect flavors of cranberry, red cherry, subtle spice, and undertones of earth following bottle aging. 

Argentinian Pinot Noir

An up-and-coming region, Argentina is becoming a well-known producer of excellent Pinot Noir.

With notes of cola, baking spice, licorice, and black currant, this is a bolder version of an otherwise delicate wine.

How to Pair Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is light and bright, with delicate tannins and a punching acidity. Pinot is a highly versatile wine that pairs beautifully with many dishes if you play your cards right. 

Factors to Consider When Pairing Foods With Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir’s high acidity and low tannins make it a good swap for dishes you’d otherwise consider pairing with white wine. 

For example, fish and seafood have a reputation for being a “white wine only” course. Yet, depending on how the fish is prepared, it may be better suited for a pairing with Pinot. Salmon is - in the opinion of many Pinot lovers - it's the perfect pairing. 

Along with seafood, highly flavored dishes such as cassoulet will benefit from Pinot’s bright acidity without the wine being overpowering. 

With that said, you’ll want to avoid hearty red meat dishes such as prime rib or ribeye, as these will crush the Pinot by comparison and cause it to taste tart and flat.

Pinot is also best avoided with spicy dishes such as firecracker chicken, as its dryness and high acid will make the food taste spicier by comparison. 

The Best Food Pairings with Pinot Noir

Now that we’ve learned what not to do with Pinot Noir, it’s time to have some fun and discuss the many dishes that pair perfectly with Pinot!

These are the ultimate dishes, snacks, and cheeses to pair with Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir Meat Dish Pairings

a fillet of salmon ready to eat

A Fillet of Salmon

  • Salmon - The perfect pairing, Pinot Noir is fruity enough to accentuate the dish without overpowering or making the fish taste metallic. Whether pesto-crusted, sesame glazed, or just seasoned with salt and pepper, you can’t go wrong with Burgundy or Oregon Pinot.
  • Venison - A complex, lean, and earthy protein such as venison is perfectly balanced with a high-acid and equally complex Pinot Noir. Opt for an aged Burgundy or a Russian River Pinot. 
  • Duck - While fattier than chicken, duck is still poultry and can be overpowered by big reds, making a jammy Argentinian Pinot Noir a perfect choice. 
  • Seasoned lamb - High-acid Pinot Noir is perfect for an herbaceous, lean, and flavorful protein such as lamb. Opt for either a fruity Argentinian or New Zealand Pinot. 
  • Game hen - Similarly to turkey or chicken, the acidity and bright red fruit flavor from Pinot Noir will pair perfectly without being overpowering. You can’t go wrong with a Burgundy or Pinot from Central California. 

Pinot Noir Vegetarian Dish Pairings

Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom Risotto

  • Mushroom and white bean cassoulet - Savory mushrooms, hearty beans, and tons of butter make a traditional cassoulet the ideal pairing for a bright and juicy California or Oregon Pinot Noir. 
  • Beet and goat cheese salad - Both are richly flavored and earthy, making for a flavorful salad that will pair perfectly with a fruity and bright Pinot Noir from Burgundy or Germany. 
  • Risotto - A creamy, smooth, and ridiculously satisfying dish such as risotto pairs perfectly with an “opposites attract” pairing such as Pinot Noir. If making a mushroom risotto, opt for Burgundy, if making a vegetable-focused risotto, go with Argentina. 
  • Truffle mac ‘n cheese - Truffles have an earthy and umami-like quality about them, and few wines are up for the task of pairing as well as Pinot Noir. A light and bright Burgundy or German Pinot is best. 
  • White pizza - Napa Pinot Noir with tart summertime fruit flavor is perfect for cutting through the richness of a cheesy white pizza. 

Pinot Noir Appetizer Pairings

Bacon-wrapped asparagus

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus

  • Bacon-wrapped asparagus - The combination of savory, crispy bacon and asparagus requires a wine with bright acidity and delicate herb notes. An Argentinian Pinot Noir or a glass of Champagne would pair beautifully. 
  • Hummus and pita - Hummus is nutty and often infused with herb-rich olive oils or garlic. These green flavors make it a well-balanced pairing alongside a Russian River Pinot Noir. 
  • Fruit and cheese display - Crisp and tart fruit pairs well together against savory and nutty cheeses. In this case, opt for an equally tart Napa or South African Pinot Noir.
  • Caramelized onion and pear flatbread - The combination of sweet caramelized onion and tart pear sounds perfect, but when served with a glass of Pinot, it sounds even better. 
  • Lamb lollipops - Not only do they make for a great appearance, but they also pair perfectly with a fruit-forward New Zealand or Chilean Pinot Noir. 

Pinot Noir and Cheese Pairings

Gouda Cheese

Gouda Cheese

  • Gouda - Sweet, mild, and nutty, this cheese pairing is guaranteed to make your Pinot Noir taste sweet and fruity by comparison. Opt for an Oregon Pinot or Burgundy. 
  • Gruyère - Richer in flavor than gouda, gruyère will also make your Pinot Noir taste more fruity, so select a more flavorful example, such as a Pinot from New Zealand or Chile. 
  • Swiss - Nutty and slightly sweet in flavor, a Burgundy or German Pinot Noir would be best suited in this pairing. 
  • Mimolette - This firm French cheese resembles a cantaloupe, yet it tastes incredibly nutty and sweet. Pair this cheese with a tall glass of Burgundy or Champagne. 
  • Muenster -  Creamy, smooth, and slightly buttery, this cheese would make for a fantastic grilled cheese pairing with a tall glass of Oregon or Argentinian Pinot Noir. 

Pinot Noir and Snack Pairings

Turkey Meat Sandwich

Turkey Meat Sandwich

  • Turkey sandwich or turkey club - Pinot Noir is the best Thanksgiving wine pairing, which makes it the perfect wine to serve alongside your post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich or turkey club. 
  • Chocolate-covered strawberries - If you love chocolate and red wine, pairing chocolate and strawberry with a bright and refreshing Pinot Noir is the perfect pairing for you. 
  • Guacamole and tortilla chips - The fattiness from avocado paired with lime juice and refreshing cilantro makes for a well-balanced pairing alongside a tart and fruity Napa Pinot Noir.
  • Onion rings - Another example of fried food that belongs with Champagne, though you could also pair onion rings with a Pinot Noir from the Russian River. 
  • Fried mozzarella sticks - Few foods pair as well with Champagne as fried foods do. Fried cheesy mozzarella sticks with zesty marinara sauce pair heavenly alongside a chilled bottle of Champagne. 

Do you have a treasured Pinot Noir food pairing you want to share? Let the world know down in the comments section!

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About the Author Tim Edison

Tim started Wine Turtle way back in 2015.
These days he contributes to Wine Turtle (and other renowned wine publications) while continuing his wine education.
Tim's wine of the month is the Coates & Seely Reserve Brut NV (from Hampshire, England).

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