Pinot Noir wine is the most highly prized wine in the world. But why? It’s not as rich or big as its noble cousins, in fact it’s quite the opposite.
Pinot Noir wines are pale in color, translucent and their flavors are very subtle. The grape itself is weak, suffering from a variety of diseases and its genetics make it highly susceptible to mutation.
Despite the difficulty in growing the grape, prices for a bottle of Pinot Noir are generally more than a similar quality red wine. Find out the basics to Pinot Noir wine as well as some interesting facts that make it so unique.
Pinot Noir grape clusters are usually small and difficult to ripen evenly.
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Pinot Noir Wine Profile
FRUIT: Cranberry, Cherry, Raspberry
OTHER: vanilla, clove, licorice, mushroom, wet leaves, tobacco, cola, caramel
OAK: Yes. French Oak Barrels.
TANNIN: Medium Low
ACIDITY: Medium High
AGEABILITY: Yes. 2-18 years depending on the style.
SERVING TEMP: Cool to touch (63 °F | 17 °C)
COMMON SYNONYMS & REGIONAL NAMES:
Savagnin Noir (FR SZ), Bourguignon (FR), Pinot Nero (IT), Pignola (IT), Spätburgunder (GR), Blauburgunder (GR), Klevner (AS), Nagyburgundi (HG), Modri Pinot (SV), Bourgogne, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-St-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, Flagney-Echezeaux, Nuits-St-Georges, Vosne-Romanee, Aloxe-Corton, Côte Challonaise
Pinot Noir Wine Regions
~290,000 acres worldwide (117,000 hectares)
- France (75,760 acres) Nuits-St-Georges, Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-St-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, Flagney-Echezeaux, Vosne-Romanee, Aloxe-Corton
- United States (73,600 acres) Sonoma, Sta Rita Hills, Santa Lucia Highlands, Willamette Valley
- Germany (29,049 acres) Baden, Pfalz, Rheinhessen, Württemberg
- New Zealand (10,648 acres) Martinborough, Marlborough, Central Otago
- Italy (10,082 acres) Veneto, Alto Adige, Fruili
- Australia (8,693 acres) Victoria
- Chile (7,127 acres) Central Valley, Limari Valley, Maipu Valley, Casablanca Valley
- Argentina (4,450 acres) Rio Negro
- South Africa (2,520 acres) Western Cape, Stellenbosch, Walker Bay
Pinot Noir Food Pairing
I like to think of Pinot Noir as a catch-all food pairing wine. Pinot Noir is light enough for salmon but complex enough to hold up to some richer meat including duck. In a pinch, when everyone orders a vastly different entree at a restaurant, you can usually win by picking Pinot Noir; it will make everyone happy.
Perfect Wine and Cheese Pairing: Comté
It’s only fitting that the wine that goes with everything matches perfectly with the cheese that goes with everything. Comté (also called Gruyère de Comté) is made just 50 miles east of the most prestigous Pinot Noir vineyards in Burgundy.
7 Classic Recommended Pinot Noir Food Pairings
- Spiced Duck with Confit Ragù
- Duck is a classic dish to pair with Pinot Noir. The acidity in Pinot will cut through the fat and gamey flavors of duck. If you spice the duck, it will bring out all the nuanced flavors in Pinot Noir.
- Mushroom Risotto
- Any time you can have an earthy-fatty dish using mushrooms it will always highlight the fruitiness of Pinot Noir. This dish is especially good with Old World style Pinot Noir.
- Chicken w/ Beurre Rouge
- Chicken usually loves a rich white wine such as Chardonnay, however, a Beurre rouge sauce (you can make it with Pinot Noir!) will match it fantastically!
- Grilled Trout with Bacon, Green Beans and Farro
- Fish and red wine is tricky because the aftertaste of sea and the aftertaste of tannin in red wine is atrocious. However, if you use a very fresh river fish such as trout or salmon served in a hearty style, you can get away with a little red wine.
- White Pizza
- High acidity and aromatic red wines go very well with cheese and bread. For those of you who eat pizza at least 2 times a week try adding fresh herbs to accentuate the floral notes in the Pinot Noir
- Lobster Pea Ravioli w/ Cream
- A rich fish like lobster can pair with Pinot Noir as long as it’s a component within the dish.
- Wild mushrooms and Polenta with Goat cheese and Herbs
- Vegetarians will love Pinot Noir because it goes with most roasted vegetable dishes, herbs and of course… mushroom!
Rising Prices for French Pinot Noir!
The most famous region for Pinot Noir is around Dijon, France. Cistercian Monks cultivated the grape in Burgundy since antiquity and many of the oldest monasteries still stand. Today, demand for Pinot Noir from this region has grown more than in any other.
In particular, the Chinese have become obsessed with the wine. A Chinese gambling tycoon manage to snag a Gevrey-Chambertin Chateau and prices at auction for older bottles of top Grand Crus go for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Pinot Noir Taste by Region
Pinot Noir is very fickle and can have quite a range of flavors depending on the vintage and where it’s grown. So instead of generalizing, here are some tips for the differences between the major Pinot Noir production areas below.
French Pinot Noir
In Burgundy, Pinot Noir is usually very herbaceous and light (except for pristine vintages). Earthy aromas dominate including smells similar to a brown paper bag full of mushrooms or wet leaves. Along with the earth are faint floral smells of roses, violet and a smell of fruit that leans towards raw, freshly picked cherries.
German Pinot Noir
Germany produces Pinot Noir right next to the border of France in a wine region called Ahr. These wines tend to offer more raspberry and sweet cherry aromas along with a healthy portion of earthiness.
Italian Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir grows best across northern Italy where the climate is much cooler. The fruit flavors of Italian Pinot Noir are similar to that of France, but the earthy flavors lean toward smoke, tobacco, white pepper and clove. Pinot Nero, as the Italians call it, tend to have more color extraction and higher alcohol.
California Pinot Noir
A giant leap in flavor and intensity from the Pinot Noir in France and Germany, California Pinot Noirs are bigger, lush and more fruit-forward. Look for flavors ranging from sweet black cherry to black raspberry and secondary aromas of vanilla, clove, coca-cola, and caramel.
Oregon Pinot Noir
Oregon Pinot Noir is usually a few steps lighter in color and texture than California Pinot Noir; and it’s usually more tart. Expect cranberry, bing cherry fruit flavors with secondary aromas of truffle mushrooms and sometimes even a green dandelion stem flavor.
New Zealand Pinot Noir
On the southern island in New Zealand there is a plateau called Central Otago that gets enough sunshine throughout the season to produce rich Pinot Noir in a style similar to California. What makes New Zealand Pinot Noir unique from California Pinot is stronger spice and gamey-meaty aromas along with loads of fruit.
Australian Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir doesn’t grow very well in Australia except for some locations in Western Australia and around Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. Expect sweeter fruit notes leaning towards blueberry and even blackberry but in a spicy-gamey tinge similar to New Zealand in the aroma.