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Wine Grape Varietals 101

Pinot Noir

What is Pinot Noir

Pronunciation: Pee-noh Nwahr

Pinot Noir is a red-wine grape variety identified most closely with the Burgundy region of France, where its history runs deep. Pinot Noir wines are typically medium-bodied, not overly tannic in texture and known for their flavor complexity. The grapes are used for still red wines, rosés and many sparkling wines both white and rosé in color.

Pinot Noir grapes on the vine are a deep blue-black color, usually set in small to medium-sized clusters that are tightly packed. Pinot Noir vines are one of the earliest types to begin spring growth and among the earliest to be harvested.

Pinot Noir is particular about the climate in which it grows and the soil in which it is rooted. Moderate to cool regions allow slow ripening and low-fertility soils keep the crop yields low, which generally promotes higher-quality wine. As a thin-skinned variety, Pinot Noir is susceptible to mildew and mold and needs extra attention from vineyard managers.

Pinot Noir Synonyms

In France; Auvernat, Auvernaut Noir, Franc Pineau, Franc Noirien, Pineau de Bourgoyne, Salvagnin, Morillon, Plant Doré and Vert Doré. In Germany; Spatburgunder, Burgunder Blauer, Clavner, Schwarzer Riesling, Schwarzer Burgunder. In Italy; Pinot Nero. In Austria; Blauer Nurnberger. In Hungary; Nagyburgundi.

Pinot Noir Regions

Pinot Noir grapes are densely planted in the French regions of Burgundy and Champagne, the former using them for still red wines and the latter for sparkling wines. Other regions with significant plantings of Pinot Noir include California, Oregon, Italy, New Zealand and Chile.

Virtually all red wines made in Burgundy use Pinot Noir grapes, from the basic Bourgogne Rouge to the rare and expensive bottlings from the districts of Chambertin, Volnay and Vosne-Romanée. High-quality versions are also produced in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, the Russian River Valley of California and the Marlborough area of New Zealand.

In Champagne and in sparkling wines from many other regions, Pinot Noir base wines are commonly blended with Chardonnay and/or Pinot Meunier base wines before they undergo a secondary fermentation that creates their bubbles.

Pinot Noir Tasting Notes

Wines made from Pinot Noir can be medium-to-light in color and are typically quite aromatic. They show fruity characteristics ranging from strawberries and raspberries, to red and black cherries along with possible mint, pine, tea and forest floor nuances.

Pinot Noir is considered a medium-weight wine because its tannins and alcohol tend to be lower than other popular varietal wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Pinot Noir is versatile in food pairing and is a classic match for seafood dishes such as salmon or fresh tuna.

Structural Characteristics

Low Medium High
Alcohol levels
Low Medium High
Low Medium High
Tannin Structure
Low Medium High

Examples of Pinot Noir to Try

Handling Tips

55-69°F / 13-16°C
5-15 years

Fun Facts

  • Pinot Noir is highly sensitive to temperature variations. While it thrives in cooler climates where it can develop soft berry, rose and savory notes, it can also produce bold Cherry-Cola-like notes in hotter regions.
  • Because of its adaptability to various different climates, there are around 1,000 different clones in the world.
  • Did you know that Pinot Noir is one of the three main grape varietals in Champagne, alongside Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier? This grape brings body, structure and anywhere from red berry and savory notes, adding plenty of depth to the wine.