of the Lazy Literatus

Putting the “Noir” in Black

Pinot Noir – meaning “pine black” in French – is a type of grape closely associated with the Burgundy region of France. It also has the claim to fame of being a very ancient grape, only a couple of strains removed from Vitis sylvestris. (I.e. Pinot is to it what dogs are to wolves.) As everyone knows, it is typically used in the production of a very burly red wine. It’s tough to grow but great to drink.

I, personally, don’t care for the stuff, opting instead for its equally burly (but less tannic) Italian cousin, Sangiovese. However, there is one thing that grabs my attention, and it’s anything that has been flavored with Pinot. I have no clue why this is, it just grabs my fancy. Case in point: I once tried a stout ale that’d been aged in a Pinot Noir barrel. The drink took on all the characteristics one loved in red wine…without any of the negatives. That and there was the flavor of the main ingredient.

So, you can imagine my glee when I found out – from the owner, no less – that Smith Teamaker was playing around with a Pinot Noir barrel-aged black tea. The kind folks at Adalsheim Vineyard in Oregon’s Pinot-rich Dundee/Newberg area gifted my favorite tea op with a just-used barrel for just such an experiment. To date, I had tried three of Smith’s alcohol-scented tea experiments. All were one shade of wonderful or another – my fave being their whiskey Ceylon – and I hoped this one was worthy of the pantheon.

Aside from the touted wine barrel, the leaves used were from the Dimbulla and Uva regions of Sri Lanka (Ceylon). Some Nuwara Eliya was also sprinkled in for good measure, but their presence was minor. I’m guessing Smith was aiming for a darker black tea with a floral character that could go toe-to-toe with the winy residuals.

The leaves were long-cut, twisty, dirt-brown to soot-black with an occasional golden piece that made its way into the fray. The aroma was all grape. I can’t think off the top of my head what Pinot Noir smells like – other than berry-flavored battery acid – but the batch certainly had the grape thing down pat.

There were no set brewing instructions for this, given that it was an experimental batch at best, but I figured a typical black tea approach was in order. I used 1 tsp of leaves in 8oz. of boiled water, steeped for four minutes. Usually, I would only go three, but I wanted to get all the bang out of the barreled beauty.

The liquor brewed gold-ringed amber with a nose that betrayed no subtlety. It was a bold, somewhat sour, very grapy wine front with an after-whiff of flowers. That same impression showed through in the taste with a front that was dominated with winy notes – like a tongue touched by crimson – and was immediately followed up by the mid-malt and floral impression of the Ceylon base. As far as delivery mechanisms went, the use of a Ceylon as opposed to an Assam or a Keemun might’ve been the right one. No kidding aside, this was a wine fancier’s “hair of the dog” without any of the headache or inebriation.

Without exaggeration, this was their best alcohol-scented “teaxperiment” to date. While I enjoyed the whiskey and gin tryouts that preceded it, this was the one with the strongest liquor impression. This is the perfect morning cup for a Pinot-drenched palate. Now, maybe if I beg enough, I could get them to do a Sangiovese barrel-aged Keemun Hao Ya. Guan Yin willing…it’ll happen.


Pwned by Purple Pu-Erh


Very Well, Give Him Tea Cake


  1. Margo

    A tea lover being turned into a wino?

  2. It would be interesting to do the wine-barrel aging with a few different black tea varieties and compare results to see which leaf handles it best. The Keemun/Pinot combo speaks to me, but maybe there’s a reason the Ceylon was the final choice. I would think it would need to be the opposite – that the tea would have to be more forceful than the wine to avoid having the wine take over when it eventually seeps in.

    (Not sure if it’s an oversight, but the Smith Teamaker link in the paragraph doesn’t work.) I had to click and see what else they’re cooking up. Looks like some great stuff! http://www.smithtea.com

    • Thanks for reading. I’m guessing it’s because Keemuns tend to be a sweeter black than Ceylon. (low-altitude or high), hence the reason I thought those would work better for a sweeter, bustier Italian red. Given that the process they used was more of a “scenting” (in the traditional jasmine-like sense), the winy notes are lighter – thus the natural flavor of the black tea can still shine through.

      The Pinot black they put out wouldn’t be on their site. it’s a one-shot deal only available in the shop. Not sure when it’s going to be released exactly.

      And the link error has been corrected. 🙂

  3. I love tea and wine (especially red wines) to combine these loves makes for some super excitement and approval from me 🙂

    • This would be the first red wine/tea combo I’ve tried. And so far, I’m loving the possibilities. You should try an icewine-scented white tea when you get the chance. Life. Changing.

    • I have yet to try any other red wine/tea combos…but if this is any indication, there should be more.

      You should try icewine-scented teas when you get the chance. Ambrosia.

  4. I don’t drink anything alcoholic that is much stronger than cider, as a rule, but I am REALLY I intrigued by the idea of a whiskey Ceylon, for some reason…

  5. Tea mixed with alcohol? This is not something for me but the idea sounds interesting enough.

  6. shaiha

    Any recommendations for a good icewine/white combos?

  7. An Ontario teahouse puts out an icewine white I like. Check a few entries back for that review.

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