Americans love Pinot Noir. We love it from Burgundy, we love it from Sonoma's Russian River Valley, we love it from tiny producers in the mountains of Valle d'Aosta, Italy. But Pinot mania has gotten a little out of hand. Even sommeliers (many of whom are the world's biggest Burgundy fanatics) seem to be losing patience with the unending obsession.
"People are crazy about Pinot Noir to the point of exasperation," says David Lynch, wine director at San Francisco's Quince and Cotogna restaurants. "I think it has to do with aromatics. Taste is driven so much by smell, and a grape with the kind of beguiling aromatics that Pinot Noir has"which range from a deep earthiness to the scent of fresh berries"is hard to pass up."
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But thanks to an increasingly accomplished set of importers, Americans now have easy access to a plethora of red wines that aren't Pinot Noir but offer so many of the things Pinot Noir does: fantastic acidity, balance, fruit-forwardness, moderate tannins and compatibility with food. And the prices for these wines generally don't come near what you'd have to pay for a good Pinot Noir.