Why is Oregon Pinot Noir compared so often to Burgundy Pinot Noir? The wine achieved its greatest fame growing in the vineyards of Burgundy, France, so it's a compliment when Willamette Valley wines are called Burgundian. How is it that Oregon wines recall their French cousins so vividly?
“New World” Pinot Noirs don't just refer to those grown in the United States. They can also refer to wines grown in New Zealand. Now, many places take an approach to Pinot Noir that pronounces its fruit flavors and lose some of the wine's inherent, patient balance. It's simply a matter of taste, but this can be one way California and New Zealand Pinot Noirs differ.
It's not always intentional, either – at least not at first. Pinot Noir grapes are affected by weather, region, light and cloud cover, soil composition – an incredible range of factors that start before the more specific ones that winemakers control.
Like Oregon, Burgundy sees cool conditions with a good deal of cloud cover. The soil composition in both areas is very unique and uncommon. Both Oregon and Burgundy use some of the same “vine clones” - vines that are propagated from a particular plant. Some producers even produce Pinot Noir in both areas – Oregon and Burgundy.
There's something about Oregon Pinot Noir that maintains the greater complexity and silken texture of those Burgundy wines. It's more elegant, with a taste of fruit that's deep and lingering instead of immediate. For many, that's how you recognize both an Oregon Pinot Noir and a Burgundian one. They're both more subtle. There's a touch more acidity, which develops a better balance. That can pronounce their mouthfeel that much more with ideal pairings.
A comparison comes away showing that Oregon and Burgundy Pinot Noir are remarkably similar and satisfying for many of the same reasons. If anything, the Oregon wines are just a touch earthier, a delicious quality in a Pinot Noir and a very Oregon-centric feature. They mix elegance with minerality that evokes its fruit flavors in incredible ways. You're also more likely to find Oregon Pinot Noir with a bit more range, such as variants with lower alcohol content (better for dieting!) The Burgundy wines are masters of oakiness, and delivering their fruit components in waves.
The main takeaway here is that both Oregon and Burgundy wines leave Californian and New Zealand versions in the dust when it comes to more complex wines. They have deeper, more layered taste, and their better acidity levels make Oregon and Burgundy Pinots more fulfilling when pairing them with snacks or meals.