Pinot Noir. It's not just a grape anymore. It's a brand.
Ever since the 2004 buddy film Sideways, grape variety-obsessed American wine consumers have found comfort in ordering their "Pinot" by grape name.
And when they say "Pinot," they don't mean Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, or Pinot Grigio (which is often and sadly abbreviated as "PG"). No, they mean "Pinot Noir," black Pinot ("black," for the record, is the original "red").
But as any self-respecting wine lover quickly learns, Pinot Noir varies in substance and style depending on where it is grown and vinified and who does the growing and the winemaking.
In Burgundy -- Pinot Noir's original gangster -- it's used to make some of the most expensive wines in the world today. And whether it's produced in an "old" or "new world" style, it nearly always manages to express a "sense of place," as they say in the wine trade.
In Champagne, it's used mostly to make a sparkling wine. Yes, that's right: The number-one grape in Champagne, where most of the wine is white, is actually red.
In California, some would say that the folks out there "like it hot." Many growers there are now shifting toward a leaner and more acidity-driven style. But the powers-that-be still like their Pinot Noir in a big, lush, and often alcohol-charged expression.
Head up to the cooler climate of Oregon and you'll find Pinot Noir growers who align themselves with their counterparts in Europe.
The variations in the tide of Pinot Noir grown and vinified in the world today are myriad. Even the professionals have trouble keeping up with it all.
Then, in walks David Keck, owner of Houston's popular wine bar Camerata and one of the city's most beloved sommeliers.
He's launching his monthly wine education series this week on Saturday at the bar with "Around the World in Pinot Noir."
"Taste some spectacular Pinot Noirs," writes David in a preview, "learn about their regions, flavor profile and backstory behind the family that nurtures the vines. Camerata will be closed to the public during this class to designate their full attention to wine education."
The class takes place this Saturday, March 21, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. and costs $60.
For more info, contact Camerata.