Pinot Noir

Classic aromas of Pinot Noir are: Raspberry, Strawberry, Red Cherry, Coffee and Vanilla Bean


Pinot Noir is a red grape variety from France. Pinot Noir is one of the few ‘Pinots’ that belong to the grape family of ‘Pinot’ – the oldest, and arguably the most important, grape family of them all. It is assumed to date back 2000 years ago. Over this time ‘Pinot’ has mutated and crossed with numerous grapes to create over 156 grapes that are all highly important in the European winemaking culture (and abroad) – extended further there are links to from the ‘Pinot’ family to Syrah and many Italian native grapes.

Pinot Noir is often seen as the ‘Holy Grail’ of the wine world. Many winemakers have devoted their adult lives to crafting the perfect Pinot Noir – many getting close, some reaching perfection and others just getting frustrated and moving onto specialising in other grapes or regions. Pinot Noir is a fussy little mistress in the vineyard and can be very hard to grow. It has thin skins and large berries – this means it is very susceptible to getting damage from frost, mildew, rot and other virus diseases. In hot climates it ripens too quickly and can get sunburnt, in too colder climate it struggles to ripen at all – so only very few regions around the world can manage to create a truly fantastic Pinot Noir.

The leading regions have been carved out in history as being: Burgundy in France, Baden in Germany, Oregon and Northern California in the USA and Central Otago in New Zealand. Regions such as New York State, Tasmania, Canada and southern Chile are also proving some successes are possible with Pinot Noir.

It is Pinot Noir that makes up some of the most famous bottles of wine in history and has for the last decade been the liquid that fills the most expensive bottles on the marketplace. Pinot Noir from the top sites of Burgundy, the Grand Crus, fetch ridiculous amounts of money per bottle – this is a testament to the difficulty of producing a fantastic bottle and also to the rarity of a perfect Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir is also the main grape of the famous Champagne blend – this is also part of the reason why Pinot Noir is such a highly planted grape around the world.

France has 29,576ha as of 2009 and is the 7th most planted red grape in the country. Almost solely found in Burgundy across the many vineyards dedicated to crafting the best Pinot Noirs of the world. The Loire valley, Champagne and Alsace also have some shares of this (potentially) liquid gold.

Italy has 3,314ha – practically all of which goes into producing sparkling wines but some dry red wines are produced too. Spain has some Pinot Noir plantings, 968ha, which goes in to making rose Cava sparkling.

Germany calls Pinot Noir Spatburgunder. Regions like Baden and Pfalz, in Germany, have been seen as perfect climates for Pinot Noir due to the altitude and cool temperatures. Baden has half of the countries Pinot Noir plantings with 5,855ha of the total 11,800ha.

The USA – predominately California – is home to 19,760ha of Pinot Noir. California has 15,091ha of it and it is mainly spread across the cooler regions of Sonoma, Monterey and Russian River though Santa Barbara County also has some standout examples. Oregon has roughly 90% of its plantings dedicated to Pinot Noir – this is generally speaking made in a more ‘Burgundian’ style compared to California’s more fruit-forward style. New York State is also producing a few good examples.

New Zealand’s leading accomplishment is Pinot Noir, after Sauvignon Blanc. It has 5,000ha which has doubled in the last decade due to popularity. Most of this is centred around Marlborough and Central Otago, though Martinborough is a historic home for it and Waipara is showing great potential for top examples too.

Australia has some great examples of Pinot Noir being produced – though much of it’s Pinot supply goes towards sparkling wine production. Leading regions are the Yarra Valley, Tasmania and Victoria.

In Argentina it is also important with 1,509ha. The region of Rio Negro, in Patagonia, is doing great things with Pinot Noir grown at some of the highest altitudes in the world. Though Chile has a more obvious, and longer history with Pinot Noir, with many plantings in the cooler sea-struck regions of Casablanca.

Pinot Noir is planted the world over in hopes for winemakers to conquer it. Austria, Hungary, Romania, Georgia, South Africa, China, Japan and India – and many more also have some minor plantings.

Pinot Noir produces wines that have a medium-full body with high acidity and soft tannins. Pinot Noir should have a dictionary devoted to its aroma descriptions as it really can take on so many guises. Each sip, each smell can provoke a new flavour. The dominant flavours are red fruit flavours of strawberry, raspberry, red currants, which moves into black cherry, game, leather, mushrooms, vanilla bean, cinnamon and red plums. As it matures it will develop complex aromas of licorice, leather, nutmeg, coffee beans, toasted bread and forest floor.

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