Pinot Noir, goes with food

Why do food and wine taste so good together? To address this question that’s so fundamental to our love of wine, let’s go back to the basics.

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Consider, if you will, a piece of bread. Think of a flatbread, round and warm. It’s good, right? Now lay down a ladle of spicy tomato sauce, drop on a few dabs of delicious cheese, and pop it in a fiery oven until the toppings are bubbly and the crust developing delicious sweet char. Now you’ve got a pizza, and that’s even better than the simple piece of bread you started with.

Stick with me here: Now let’s open a bottle of wine to go with the pizza. A Chianti will be just right. Now we’re talking!

Mmm, pizza.

See what’s going on here? There was nothing wrong with that initial piece of bread. Good quality bread can be thoroughly enjoyable on its own, bringing subtle wheat and developed yeast flavors to the table along with the caramelized effects of brown crust. Add butter and it’s even better. But when we put on the other good things that turn plain bread into a pizza, we’ve taken something good to a new level. Add wine and a salad and you’ve got a memorable meal.

The point of this exercise is simple, now that we’ve focused on it: Subtlety and complexity – the happy dance of disparate but complementary flavors – makes food more interesting. And the addition of wine, a beverage with compatible flavor interest in its own right, can turn a simple meal into a banquet.

Which brings us to pairing food and wine. Choosing a wine that will sing in harmony with your dinner may seem like a mystery, a decision that one must summon a trained sommelier to figure out. But it’s really not much more difficult than deciding which toppings you want on your pizza: It’s about 50 percent personal taste and 50 percent common sense. Mushrooms and onions go together. Pepperoni and pickles may be a more debatable choice. Some love anchovies; many despise the salty little fish. We won’t even talk about pineapple on pizza right now.

The point is that you choose what you like to put on your pizza, but there’s a general consensus about what goes well and what does not. Now get ready for it: Wine is very much like that, too. Red wine with beef, pork, and cheese; white wine matches chicken, fish, and hey, white goes with cheese too. That’s just for starters, and of course there are plenty of exceptions. But essentially, with food and with wine, intuition and common sense will work most of the time.

Want to make your choice even easier? Pick a wine made from a grape variety or blend that’s known for its versatility at the table. Among white wines, Riesling is hard to beat in this regard. Among the reds, Pinot Noir reigns supreme as the food-matching champion.

A good quality Pinot Noir has that rare combination of balance that’s needed to serve well with beef, lamb, pork, roast chicken, duck, or goose, not to mention charcuterie, bean dishes, tomato-based Italian fare, even salmon and other oily fish. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another wine that makes such an easy match with so many dishes. Cabernet Sauvignon? Merlot? You guys can go sit down now.

My featured wine in the previous issue, King Estate “Inscription” Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, offered a good example of this capability for an affordable price. Today I offer perhaps an even more versatile Pinot Noir in an entry-level yet surprisingly good generic Burgundy, Nicolas Potel Bourgogne Pinot Noir.

We found it a delicious match with locally produced, grass-fed beef and lamb and bucatini alla boscaiola, a pasta dish with mushrooms and tomatoes; the importer suggests pairing it with the Burgundian egg dish oeufs meurette, cured meats, salmon, ratatouille and creamy cheeses like Camembert. Now, that’s versatile, and the wine is a real value in the $15-$20 range. You’ll find my tasting notes below.

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Today’s Tasting Report

Nicolas Potel 2018 Bourgogne Pinot Noir ($16.99)

Nicolas Potel Bourgogne Pinot Noir

This fresh, young Bourgogne Pinot Noir from Nicolas Potel shows a dark reddish-purple color in the glass, shading to a clear garnet edge. Fresh, appetizing fruit aromas mix black plum and red berries, with a subtle smoky note. Black and red fruit carry over to the palate as a dry flavor firmly framed with bright, palate-cleansing acidity. Soft tannins appear in mid-palate and carry into a long, clean finish with 13% alcohol in balance. U.S. importer: WinesU, Eddystone, Pa. (March 18, 2021)

FOOD MATCH: Typical of Pinot Noir’s diversity at the table, it was wonderful with a pasta dish of wild mushrooms in a light, garlicky tomato sauce. It also paired delightfully with leftover locally farmed lamb and beef from a favorite restaurant. The winery also suggests Oeufs Meurette, a classic Burgundian dish of poached eggs in a rich red-wine sauce.

WHEN TO DRINK: It’s delicious now, and with its good balance of fruit, acid, and tannins and a sturdy metal screw cap, it should remain enjoyable for several years.

It’s a fine value at’s $19 average U.S. retail; better still at my $17 local price. If you can find it in the $20 range or below, buy up.

Here’s a detailed fact sheet from importer WinesU.

Check prices and find vendors for Nicolas Potel Bourgogne Pinot Noir on

This Wine-searcher link provides more information about the Burgundy negociant Nicolas Potel and offers links to vendors and prices for Potel’s wines.

Follow this Wine-Searcher link to find Bourgogne Rouge listings across a broad price range on

Join this month’s Wine Focus conversation, WINE 103: The Wines of Pinot Noir, in our WineLovers Discussion Group.


More affordable wines

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10 or less that I’ve told you about during the past year or two. Please tell us about your favorites!

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