If you’re a wine lover, you must know about Pinot Noir. Here are a few facts about it:
- Pinot Noir is probably the world's most romanticised red wine
- The grapes originated in Burgundy, France
- The primary flavors include cherry, raspberry, strawberries, hibiscus, and clove
- Terroir or aging flavours include earth, mushrooms, vanilla, toast, cedar
- Usually light- to medium-bodied with medium high acidity and low to medium-low tannins
- It’s best served at temperatures between 12°C and 15°C
This famous wine elicits so much devotion because the Pinot Noir grape is hard to grow. A bottle of the wine is, therefore, a rare find, and its discovery becomes an obsession.
While the Pinot Noir grapes are grown in several parts of the world, the largest producer is France. The U.S. comes in at the second position (particularly Sonoma, Oregon), followed by Germany (you'll find it in Pfalz, Baden, Nahe). Pinot Noir is also grown in Argentina (along the Rio Negro River), Chile, Austria, United Kingdom, Slovenia, New Zealand, and other countries.
The Pinot Noir wine is referred to by different names depending on the location and language. Some common synonyms include: Blauburgunder, Blauer Arbst, Blauer Spätburgunder, Burgunder, Cortaillod, Morillon, Morillon Noir, Mourillon, Savagnin Noir, or Salvagnin Noir.
Generally speaking, Pinot Noir is a very delicate wine, and to find a good quality Pinot Noir you sometimes might need to wait years and spend a considerable sum of money.
Well guys, that's the overview 🙂 But you must be here because you’re looking for more information about Pinot Noir red wine. So, keep reading to discover a lot more than what you already know about this awesome wine.
What Is Pinot Noir?
Pinot Noir is a red wine made from a common grape variety known as Vitis vinifera (European grape vine). The term "Pinot Noir" also refers to some types of wines made from the Pinot Noir grapes.
The Pinot Noir meaning is derived from the French words that denote ‘pine’ and ‘black’. Pine, in this context, refers to the variety of grapes with cone-shaped pine bunches of fruit that are tightly clustered. These grapes are grown all over the world, but you'll mostly find them in regions with colder climates. Most commonly, you'll find them in the Burgundy region of France.
The Pinot Noir grapes are now grown in different parts of the world to make red, white, and sparkling wines.
A fact fact: many people may not know how to pronounce Pinot Noir. Some common pronunciations include “pee-no-noo-are,” “pee-no-nwahr”, or “pee-not-noh-are,” which are wrong. Regardless of your background, you shouldn’t pronounce the letter t in pinot. This sometimes seems daunting for some people, but shouldn’t be the case.
The correct pronunciation of Pinot Noir is “pee-no nwar”, with a little emphasis on the "ot" in the French accent. Locally, the emphasis on that sound comes across as the long “oo” sound. Globally, “pee-no-nwar” sounds right to most people.
Pinot Noir Terroirs
The quality of the wine depends on the regions where it’s grown and how it’s nurtured. One downside of the Pinot Noir grapes is that they are a difficult variety to cultivate and transform into wine. In fact, it is one of the MOST difficult grapes to grow – so it's not the wine super widely produced (compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, for example), but of course, now it's also increasing due to availability of lots of modern wine-growing techniques.
The development of the fruit in a cluster form makes it susceptible to several hazards. The grapes are also thin-skinned and are prone to all kinds of deseases and rotting. The vines and grapes are both sensitive to rain, wind, and frost, and so Pinot Noir cultivation requires a high level of active canopy management and care. Well, hence the price for a good Pinot Noir 😛
A fun fact: Pinot Noir is among the most expensive wines in the world! An Asian collector set a new record for the highest amount ever paid for a single bottle of Pinot Noir at Sotheby’s aucion in October 2018, paying $558,000 for a bottle of 1945 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 😮
As mentioned before, the skin of the grapes is thin and contains low levels of phenolic compounds. This combination leads to the production of mostly light-colored, low-tannin, and medium-bodied wines. Consequently, the wines undergo uneven and unpredicted phases of aging.
Pinot Noir Aromas & Taste Profile
At the early stage, the wines from Pinot Noir tend to have the aroma of red fruit like raspberries, cherries, and strawberries. In some older wines, you will find other scents of earth, truffles, fallen autumn leaves, fresh mushrooms, and savoury spices. As it continues to age, the wine has the potential to develop more barnyard and vegetal aromas that contribute to the complexity of the product.
Pinot Noir mouth-feel is pleasantry dry and endowed with light and fine tannins that create a tangy sensation on your tongue. It has a mouthwatering acidity which you sense at the joint of your jaw.
The body of Pinot Noir is defined to be fleshy and supple and ranges from light to medium to reasonably rich. In terms of quality, good Pinot Noir wine has complex aromas that linger on for long. The more aged the wine is, the longer the smooth aftertaste stays with you. The alcohol content is usually at the lower end for red wines – between 12 and 14% ABV.
White Pinot Noir taste is richer than most other white wines because of its source. It’s made with red wine grapes and tastes like melon, baked apple and pear. Some zesty notes of orange, ginger, and honey are also evident. You can also find spice and minerality in white Pinot Noir. Depending on the process followed in making it, the color can range from pale gold to a deep yellow. The taste profile also differs from one region to the other.
Also, Pinot Noir loves bubbles! Pinot Noir Rose is yet another typical flavor that winemakers like presenting as a white sparkling wine. The largest growing region in the world is the Champagne region of France.
Is Pinot Noir sweet or dry? In most cases, it’s almost always dry but can be made sweet in a dessert wine style.
All in all, the aromas and the taste profile of Pinot Noir wines depend on the country where the grapes were grown, and the winemaking style and techniques.
Unoaked Pinot Noir
This is a mixed flavor of tart and honey, usually common in Champagne and Alsace. Unoaked white Pinot Noir is brisker and has a lighter feel but with more acidity.
Oaked Pinot Noir
The flavor resembles lemon Brulee, and the style is prevalent in California and Oregon. Oaked Pinot Noir has more of orange Brulee candy and leaves the mouth with a puckering baked apple flavor.
This flavor is also known as Pinot Noir Rose. In California, it’s known as Vin Gris. When the wine comes into contact with grape skin, its pale-pink hue changes into a deep rose color.
Drinking & Handling Pinot Noir
If you want to succeed in drinking Pinot Noir without trying, you need to know how to handle it. First, ensure that you keep and present it at the right temperatures.
Good Pinot Noir wine should be served in slightly chilled conditions of 11-14°C / 55°F. The wine doesn't require decanting so you should serve it straight from the bottle or let it breath just a few minutes.
The best glass for the Pinot Noir is large and bell-shaped. This allows you to enjoy the aroma as it hits your nose. To ensure you’re consuming the wine at its prime, consume it within a day after opening the bottle.
How To Pick A Good Bottle Of Pinot Noir
As previously mentioned, the quality of Pinot Noir depends on where it’s grown. However, as a tip, the best Pinot Noir is aged for no less than eight years.
The wine from California or Australia come with notes of spice and raspberry. The wines from colder regions like Oregon and Europe are earthier and are characterized by notes of cranberry and mushroom.
Remember to keep the price in mind as it’ll be part of the frustration that comes with buying the best wine. When buying Pinot Noir on the higher end of the price scale, it’ll be harder to find it. Sometimes you have to wait for years to have it delivered to you.
Best Food Pairings For Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir is a fantastic choice on every occasion since it's a crowd-pleaser. Why is Pinot Noir the healthiest wine? The reason is that it can be paired with just about any meal. The wine is best paired with earthy flavors like mushrooms, fish, roasted veggies, or potatoes.
Other great food options to pair the wine with include:
- Ham, cold meats, and charcuterie
- Nutty cheese such as brie, gruyere, taleggio, or goat cheese
- Grilled asparagus
- Game meat like venison or lamb
- Spring vegetables like peas
- Roasted meat like goose, ham, or turkey
Whether you’re at a party or just treating yourself to a good meal, the wine is a good companion. Why not feed on some lamb chops and take it down with a glass of sparkling white Pinot Noir?
Pinot Noir: Brief History & Winemaking
Pinot Noir is an ancient grape variety that is only one or two generations from wild, Vitis vines. The origins of the plant are still somehow unclear. Some schools of thought describe it as having originated in Burgundy during the 1st Century C.E.
The most likely source of the Pinot Noir vine is the Pinot Gris mutation. Such mutations are responsible for controlling the color of the berries.
In fact, almost all Pinot vines, regardless of berry color, can occur as a complete mutation of any other Pinot. Pinot Blanc, for example, is believed to be the original form of Pinot Noir that has undergone genetic variability.
The claim that Pinot Noir is a crossbreed between Traminer and Pinot Meunier has been refuted. The later has been found to be a chimerical mutation that makes the leaves and shoot tips hairy white. The vine is also a little smaller and ripens quite early.
With time, the Pinot Noir vines grew wild as far as North Belgium in the period before phylloxera.
Thanks to the long history of mutations, Pinot Noir can vary from one place to another. There are hundreds of clone varieties in different vineyards all over the world. In France, for example, there are over 50 officially recognized varieties compared to 25 in Cabernet Sauvignon.
However, the authorities in charge of winemaking have set up programs to ensure only the best clones are selected for Pinot Noir. Under the plan, astounding levels of success have been reported in increasing the quality of clones available to farmers.
Today, the Pinot Noir vine variety is grown almost all over the world. Here are some of the popular regions.
French Pinot Noir
The wine traces its roots in the Burgundy region of France where it was first produced.
Here, the wine is not referred to as Pinot Noir but is instead called "red Burgundy", named after the area. The product from this area has the flavor of sweet black cherries, ripe red berries, mushrooms, and ‘forest floor’.
"Forest floor" is a phrase used to describe the smell from freshly fallen damp leaves. While the red Burgundies are tasty and unique, they can be quite expensive. Winemakers choose to ferment the grape clusters for increased tannin in their Pinot Noir. This not only makes the wine bitter but also ages it and for this, it doesn't come cheap.
It was because of the high price that producers started growing the grape in other parts of the world.
Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) In Germany
Germany is one of the largest regions that produce Pinot Noir wine. It comes third after France and the U.S. The wine here is known as Spätburgunder. The areas that grow the grapes include Pfalz, Baden, and the Nahe.
Pinot Noir In U.S. & Canada
In the United States, the bulk of the Pinor Noir is grown in California, with Oregon coming in at the second position. Other regions are Washington, New York, and Michigan.
Canada has recorded tremendous success in the production of the best Pinot Noir. The growth was unprecedented, given the first unsuccessful instances of cultivation.
However, today there are two major regions for Pinot Noir in Canada. These are the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario and the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.
The two areas thrive on diverse climates and have a plethora of soils. The long hours of sunshine are what makes Pinot Noir grow so well here. Other regions where it grows well are Quebec, Vancouver Island, Annapolis valley, Naramata bench, and Nova Scotia.
Pinot Noir In Spain & Italy
There are many wine regions from the north to the south in Spain. However, much of Pinot Noir is grown in Catalonia where its use is mostly in still wines and sparkling wine. Generally, there are about 1,063 hectares of land dedicated to Pinot Noir.
In Italy, Pinot Noir is known as Pinot Nero or Blauburgunder. Traditionally, it has been grown in the following regions:
- The Collio Goriziano
- South Tyrol
- Oltrepo Pavese
The first variety to be noted in South Tyrol was Bourgogne Noir. Later, it was called the Blauburgunder just like they call it in Austria.
Pinot Noir In Australia & New Zealand
Australia is another large area of Pinot Noir production. Several areas notably in the Yarra Valley and Southern Highlands in the New Wales have large wineries. Other regions include:
- The Canberra District
- Great Southern Wine Region
- Adelaide Hills in South Australia
- Bellarine Peninsula
- South Gippsland
- Mornington Peninsula in Victoria
- Macedon ranges
These areas have the ideal climate for the wine grapes. The wine is temperamental to a whole range of external factors on the farms and in the wineries.
Pinot Noir In Argentina
The Pinot Noir wine is produced in various wine-growing regions in Argentina. They include the Rio Negro Province, Neuquen Province, and Patagonia. The local name for the wine in the region is Rio Negro.
Austrian Pinot Noir
The Pinot Noir wine is grown in Lower Austria and Burgenland. The wine here is dry red and is similar to the red wines of Burgundy, which is aged in French barriques. The best wine varieties come from Lower Austria (Thermenregion) and Blaufraenkischland (Burgenland). The local name for Pinot Noir in Austria is Blauburgunder.
Chilean Pinot Noir
The areas where wine is produced include the Leyda Valley and Biobio the Southern District. Some names for the wine here include Matetic Corralillo, Aranea, and Villard.
Pinot Noir In The U.K.
The U.K. is increasingly embracing the production of Pinot Noir. It's the second-largest variety, grown on 305 hectares of land, all for its sparkling wine. The name of the wine in the U.K. is Blauburgunder, Pinot Nero, Rulandske Modre, or Spatburgunder depending on location.
Slovenian Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir is produced in the Goriska Brda sub-region in large quantities and in Slovenian Styria in smaller quantities. The local names here are Modri (Blue) Pinot or Modri Burgundec.
Pinot Noir FAQ
Is Pinot Noir A Good Wine?
Pinot Noir is not only a good type of wine, but also one of the safest there is. It undergoes a carefully curated aging process that makes it fine-tasting (usually, older French Oak to enhance the complex aromas). As a hard to grow wine, it elicits great devotion among many wine lovers. That being said, due to Pinot Noir being a very high quality wine, it can be quite hard to find quality low-priced examples of Pinot Noir.
Should Pinot Noir Be Chilled?
Yes. The wine is best served chilled, at temperatures of about 55°F/14-17°C.
Are All Pinot Noir Wines The Same?
The aromas, tasting profile, and quality of Pinot Noir wines differ based on the geography, winemaking techniques, and a variety of other factors. Two bottles of Pinot Noir from different countries are almost guaranteed to taste quite differently.
Is Pinot Noir Dry Or Sweet?
The Pinot Noir wine is available in red and white varieties. Regardless of being white or red, the wine is dry and light- or medium-bodied. The red type is more acidic than many other red wines.
So friends, if you want to talk about Pinot Noir, it’s only prudent that you learn as much as you can about it. In choosing the best bottle of wine, you know what to look for and where to buy from.
Don't worry about the different synonyms. When visiting a new place, stick to the common name, Pinot Noir, but be sure to pronounce it correctly. It also helps to differentiate between the red and white varieties for the best experience. Now that you know all this – go ahead, grab your bottle, and make merry. :)