Like the temperamental diva with the voice of an angel, Pinot Noir is always in demand, because a good vintage is so heavenly: velvety and soft, balanced and complex: subtle, brilliant, and yet not demanding. With less of the big tannic backbone of other reds and a more diplomatic approach to the palate, Pinot Noir pairs well with almost any food, from rich red meats and cheeses to duck, salmon, and even ribs. So it's a perfect bottle to share when everyone's having something different.
Interestingly, Pinot Noir is also vital ingredient in sparkling white wines, notably Champagne, where it's pressed and quickly separated from the skins to maintain it's pale color. Pinot and Chardonnay together form the basis of many of the most successful sparkling wines around the world.
Yet the grape itself is finicky and delicate, Pinot Noir grapes demand perfect location and climate, require infinite care and attention, and produce far less fruit per acre than other varieties. Which is why it is often a bit pricier than similar bottles from more robust grapes.
Pinot Noir ("black pinecone" for the color and tightly-packed shape) is the grape that made the Burgundy region's reputation, though good Pinot Noir wines are now made around the world. Wines from the original French and European regions tend to be lighter in color and flavor, with bright, red fruit notes of strawberry and fresh cherry over undertones of earthy, floral notes. Pinot Noirs from California, Oregon and South America more often concentrate on the big, dark fruit flavors of blackberry, black cherry and plum accompanied by sweeter notes of vanilla, clove and caramel.
Why not have a tasting party and compare 3 or 4 bottles from different regions? Your friends will enjoy it every bit as much as you will!