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Pinot noir – the sexy wine

From life’s experience, we gain wisdom. With such wisdom we learn to fine-tune our values for living.

Before you read on and before your blood starts boiling in intimate thoughts, understand that pinot noir is the envy of cabernet sauvignon and its supporters, and is considered among wine lovers as the “king of wines.”

It’s called king because of pinot envy started by a hopeless infatuation of more and more wine drinkers of both sexes who are hopelessly attracted, as are winemakers of the world, both male and female. And like an old burgundy winemaker said to me years ago, “Pinot noir is like sex,” he mused, “It’s good even when it’s bad.”



Not everyone would go quite so far. Still, when challenged with the what-one-wine-would-you-take-to-the-desert-island question, many, if not most, knowledgeable “wine lovers” would shriek, “pinot noir!”

Just why a measly grape should stimulate so much passion is not easily explained. One thing is certain, however. Chardonnay might have its devotees, cabernet its collectors, zinfandel its fans. But when it comes to inciting cult worship, no grape does it like pinot noir.




Until recently, adoring pinot meant loving French burgundy. It is, in fact, a testament to the compelling deliciousness of red burgundies that wine lovers continue to buy them, despite suck-in-your-breath price tags.

In the 1980s, American pinot noir – principally from the Carnerous region that straddles southern Napa and Sonoma – eased on the scene. The flavors could be described in car dealer lingo: “fully loaded.” Here at last was pinot noir with accessibility, intrigue and consistency at an affordable price. Wine lovers of the varietal went mad.

“People are looking for more heightened pleasure,” said Dr. John Bauers of Dundee, Ore., by way of explanation. “No wine gives it to you more than pinot noir. This intrigue of so many different complex and elegant flavors in pinot noir is wonderful,” the good doctor said.

His comments bring up a revealing quirk. For more than any other variety, pinot is described in sensual and often feminine terms. Words like “lush,” “silky,” “lusty,” “fleshy,” “supple,” “generous,” “graceful,” “velvety” and my own favorite “bosomy,” roll off the tongue of pinot noir lovers as languorously as the wine rolls over their palates.

This connection with sensuality started early on. Casanova, the 18th century Venetian whose sexual appetite landed him a place in history, was a pinot noir lover. When Casanova poured the crimson wine into his lover’s glass, could he have known that one day scientists would suggest that pinot noir has aromatic compounds similar to phenomenons which stimulate sexual urges? The records of his conquests suggest he did!

When asked to account for the sensual appeal of pinot noir, even the best of winemakers are at a loss for specifics. Many say that like sensuality, pinot noir has something addictively attractive, which makes you want to keep going back to it, again and again.

Compared to the tannic wallop of young cabernet, merlot or zinfandel, the tannin in youthful pinots can seem evanescent as a lace curtain.

If you are the modern-day Casanova, you adore a sauce of red wine, mushrooms, onions and bacon (think boeuf bourguignon or coq au vin) with your sweetheart, pinot noir.

Norman E. Gates can be reached at


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