Ultimate Pinot Noir Food Guide [20 Delicious Pairings]
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
Pinot Noir Vegetarian Dish Pairings
Pinot Noir Appetizer Pairings
Pinot Noir and Cheese Pairings
Pinot Noir and Snack Pairings
Do you have a treasured Pinot Noir food pairing you want to share? Let the world know down in the comments section!