About Pinot Noir
Known as the most temperamental of all grape varieties, Pinot Noir belongs very much in its birthplace of Burgundy, producing some of the finest red wines throughout its long history. However its reputation as fickle, tricky and difficult has not prevented growers from all over the wine world to try and emulate the success achieved in this classic French wine region
Pinot Noir is responsible for some of the greatest French red wines ever created, Le Chambertin, Gevery Chambertin, Volnay, Nuit St Georges, Vougeot, Vosne Romanée and Chambolle Musigny to name some of the most famous. Not to forget also that Pinot Noir is one of the 3 grape varieties that go to create Champagne.
These wine ‘appellations’ lie in the true heartland of Pinot Noir country, the Cote de Nuits, which begins its journey just south of Dijon and represents the northern half of the Côte-d'Or [The golden hill sides] All red wines of note in Burgundy are made from only Pinot Noir and apart from its extremely important contribution to Champagne, this is its true independent claim to fame.
In a much lesser role Pinot Noir is also used to make rosé and light red wines in the Loire region of France, some of the red wines of Alsace and of course originally and still today in Germany.]
So with this reputation it was hardly surprising that Pinot Noir was a favoured grape variety for many producers all over the wine world to try and re-create the style of the top wines of Burgundy, but this is where so much disappointment began.
Pinot Noir does not favour hot climates and relies very much upon limestone soils, so when experimenting in many different locations world-wide, there we many extremely poor results. Wines were muddy, bitter and high in acid content, all in all complete disasters were experienced everywhere.
Also being a thin-skinned grape, Pinot Noir is more prone to vine diseases than grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.
Did you know... "The name Pinot Noir is derived from the French words for ‘Pine Cone’ and ‘Black’. They form in bunches similar to a Pine Cone shape!"
However with perseverance and more understanding of this ‘Prima Donna’ of grape varieties, success began to slowly appear, especially in California and the Pacific Southwest. Here there is a debate regarding which style of Pinot Noir is best, as there are two:
Deeply coloured scented full-bodied red wines or lighter, earthier wines. Both styles are possible and acceptable as they are in Burgundy. This is not a competition between New World and Old World, just a matter of the grower’s choice and where their individual wines will position themselves in the world wine market place.
Other countries now producing Pinot Noir wines are New Zealand, Australia and a little in South Africa.
The Style Of Pinot Noir
On the Eye: Light plum red to a deeper crimson with a brown tinge for older wines, especially the wines of Burgundy.
On the Nose: Light aromas of red fruits such as strawberries, red currants, raspberries and cherries and sometimes a ‘wet forest’ fragrance is present. The wines of California and Australia may have overtones of Coffee beans.
On the Palate: Good balance of red fruits, low tannin and acidity. There should be a silky texture with a long finish with ‘wild game’ undertones.
Pronunciation: Pee-no nw-ar.
Matching Pinot Noir with Food
Red meat is the perfect partner, grilled steaks, succulent roast beef, most game and of course stews like the famous Burgundy Casserole - Boeuf Bourguignon. Also cheeses will complement Pinot Noir wines, especially semi-hard to medium soft ones such as Epiosses and Chaource – 2 great cheeses from Burgundy and available from specialist cheese shops in most areas!
Did you know... "When Pinot Noir is used independently in the making of Champagne, the style is known as Blanc de Noirs"
Alan Hunter AIWS,