What is Pinot Noir? 

Pinot Noir is a red grape variety from Burgundy, France. It is grown across the world and makes some of the most spellbinding and complex red wines. It is the grape variety that gave Burgundy its cult status which is emulated across the globe. Pinot Noir is also an important component of sparkling wine, notably in Champagne.

What does Pinot Noir taste like?  

Pinot Noir has immense, red-fruited charm: cooler regions and vintages bring forth notions of tart berries like redcurrant and cranberry, sometimes even raspberry. Warmer climates and vintages can express red and even black cherry. The best wines have savoury and sometimes floral overtones. With age, Pinot Noir develops haunting expressions of forest floor, undergrowth and earthiness. Thin grape skins mean that Pinot Noir’s tannin structure is elegant, the finest examples have the texture of silk. When used as a base wine for sparkling wines, Pinot Noir provides texture, body, fruit and structure. 

Where is Pinot Noir from?  

As an ancient variety, the origins of Pinot Noir are lost in the mists of time. Its home is in Burgundy, France, where it has been recognised as a quality variety for centuries. It is Burgundy’s monastic history of vine cultivation that set the blueprint for site-specific, single-varietal viticulture as we know it today. 

Where does Pinot Noir grow? 

Pinot’s largest plantings are in France, in Burgundy and Champagne, and the grape is gaining importance in Alsace. Neighbouring Germany, where the variety is known as Spätburgunder, has the world’s third-largest plantings of Pinot Noir, spread across all its 13 growing regions with a special focus in Ahr, Baden, Rheingau and Franken. There are plantings in Switzerland and in Austria, where the variety is often labelled Blauburgunder. Pinot Noir crops up somewhere in almost all European wine growing countries. The US have the second-largest plantings of this variety: in California it thrives on the Central and Sonoma coasts, cooled by the Pacific Ocean and in Oregon it has become the signature red variety. Likewise, in Chile Pinot Noir thrives in coastal vineyards, in Argentina it is only Patagonia that is suitable. The coastal regions of South Africa are also Pinot Noir hotspots, as are the Australian regions of Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Adelaide Hills and Tasmania. New Zealand’s climate is also eminently suited to Pinot Noir and the regions of Wairarapa, Nelson, Marlborough, Canterbury and Central Otago are famed for their Pinot Noirs. There also are plantings in Canada, Japan, China, Uruguay and Brazil. Pinot Noir thus is a truly global variety that surprises time and again with subtle, local colour in its unmistakeable varietal character. 

Famous Pinot Noir regions:  

  • Burgundy, France 
  • Ahr, Germany 
  • Baden, Germany 
  • Franken, Germany 
  • Sonoma, California, USA 
  • Oregon, USA 
  • Wairarapa, Marlborough, Nelson, Canterbury and Central Otago in New Zealand 
  • Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Adelaide Hills in Australia 
  • Walker Bay, South Africa 

Anything else?  

An early-ripening mutation of Pinot Noir is known as Pinot Noir Précoce, or Frühburgunder. Its chief plantings are in the Ahr, Rheinhessen and Franken regions of Germany. It also seems to have found a new home in England. 

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