Guide to Pinot Noir

Guide to Pinot Noir Blog Post

It’s the key grape in France’s red Burgundy, produces high-quality, sought-after wines in California and Oregon, and is used in sparkling wine, rosé, and red and white wine production in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. It’s no wonder the versatile Pinot Noir grape is so beloved!

What do you know about the world’s 10th most planted varietal?

Fast Facts about Pinot Noir

  • Pinot Noir is believed to have originated in France, which currently has the highest number of Pinot Noir plantings. It is primarily produced in Burgundy (Bourgogne).
  • The name is derived from the French words for “pine” and “black.” The name “pine” describes the tightly packed grapes within a cluster, which resembles a pine cone.
  • Pinot Noir enjoys a moderate climate with cool temperatures.
  • Pinot’s tightly clustered grapes make it susceptible to rot. This (plus its affinity for cool climates) makes it notoriously difficult to grow.
  • The U.S. is the second-highest Pinot producer. Some of its well-known Pinot-producing regions are the Willamette Valley in Oregon and California’s Carneros, Central Coast, Sonoma Coast, and Russian River AVAs.
  • The third and fourth highest Pinot-producing countries are Germany and Moldova.
  • The Pinot Noir grape mutates easily. These mutations have given us Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.
  • Pinot Noir is not only made into a red table wine but is also used for sparkling wine (it is one of only three grapes allowed in Champagne). It can also be pressed and fermented without skin contact to create a white Pinot Noir.
  • New Zealand is quickly gaining a reputation for producing high-quality Pinot Noir.

Old World vs. New World Pinot Noir

Because it is grown in so many locations and produced under varying styles, it can be difficult to describe Pinot Noir’s flavor profile. In general, it is easiest to think of Pinot Noir as having a lighter body, higher acidity (making it incredibly food-friendly), and being lower in tannins. Its fruits are brighter as opposed to the deep, mature, and ripe fruits of other varietals.

Old World Pinot Noir

Old World (namely, French) Pinot Noir is typically more earthy. Alongside cherry and floral notes, it exudes aromas of mushroom and even potting soil. It can also have spice notes, such as cloves. Winemakers often allow more contact with the skins, which makes the wines more tannic: this allows for even longer aging potential.

This gem is produced by winemaker Christian Belleville (and his children, Jean Michel and Amelie) using traditional Burgundian winemaking techniques, such as sustainable agricultural practices, that allow a true expression of terroir in this single-vineyard, 100% Pinot Noir. Respect for the land and tradition allows for a full expression of Domaine de Chauchoux’s rich clay soil with notes of tart cherry, mineral, and wildflowers.

New World Pinot Noir

New World (namely, California and Oregon) Pinot Noir tends to have more spice aromas, such as vanilla, allspice, and clove. It tends to be more rich and lush on the palate.

We Recommend

Only 74 cases were produced of this beautiful, rich 100% Pinot Noir from Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley. The wine’s savory umami notes lead to hints of spice, red cherry, dried flowers, and mushroom followed by a bright, palate-cleansing acidity.

Only hand-selected grapes were used in this 100% Pinot Noir, which is truly the expression of classic California Pinot Noir. It exudes the traditional cooler climate aromas of fresh red berries and bright cherries followed by tea leaves, red plums, and wild strawberry. Its rich texture ends on notes of cocoa and spice with silky tannins.

Pinot Noir Rosé

Pinot Noir’s strawberry and bright cherry notes make it a perfect candidate for rosé. To achieve the perfect color and flavor, winemakers carefully monitor the juice, which is left in contact with the skins for just a few hours to absorb their color and flavors. The result is a wine with just the right amount of body and pink hue.

Bladen’s rosé is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes from a single vineyard planted in 1989. After being hand-harvested and gently pressed, the grapes undergo less than three hours of contact with the skin to reach the desired color and flavor. The result is a beautiful, pale pink wine with notes of tart strawberry, minerals, and peaches followed by a crisp, dry finish.

Pinot Noir Food and Wine Pairing

Red Pinot Noir pairs beautifully with duck breast with orange or cherry glazes, grilled salmon, molasses and apple-cider braised pork shoulder, porchetta, grilled or sauteed mushrooms, mushroom risotto, thyme, and truffle oil. It also pairs well with soft, mild cheeses (see our Pairing Wines with Cheese article for more tips).

Pinot Noir rosé pairs well with smoked salmon, light salads, cold seafood starters (such as shrimp cocktail), and nigiri sushi.

Further Reading