What is Pinot Noir?
Pinot noir is a red wine grape varietal of the species Vitis vinifera. Pinot Noir is widely expressive, light in body, medium in acidity, and light in colour. Flavours vary depending on seasonal conditions, vintage and growing region.
In this post, we’ll cover some quick facts on the Pinot Noir wine varietal and give you an in-depth analysis of the wine profile to help you understand the Vitis vinifera var Pinot Noir grape variety.
Table of Contents
- Introductory Wine Profile / Quick Facts
- Advanced Wine Profile / Dig Deeper
What does Pinot Noir look like?
This wine variety is one of the more “pale” red wines. In its “young” stage, Pinot Noir has a pale berry tone. This wine tends to be translucent in colour. As the wine begins to age, it becomes more orange-toned or “brick-like”.
Wine Body Type
Pinot Noirs are a light-bodied red wine with medium acidity.
Is Pinot Noir a sweet or dry wine?
Flavours & Aromas:
What should Pinot Noir taste like?
Pinot Noir wines have fruit, spice, floral and earthy notes.
- Fruit: Strawberry, Cherry, Raspberry, Cranberry, Blackberries
- Spice: Allspice, Clove, Nutmeg, Rosemary
- Floral: Violets, Vanilla
- Earth/Other: Earthy/Woodsy, Wet Leaves, Leather, Barnyard/Farmyard, Mushroom, Forest Floor, Potting Soil
What foods pair well with Pinot Noir?
This is a very food-friendly wine style. It pairs well with Asian dishes, curry dishes and mushroom risotto.
Wine & Cheese Pairings for Pinot Noir: Cheddar, Brie and Swiss.
Meat Pairings for Pinot Noir: Turkey, Chicken, Salmon, & Pork
Pinot Noir & Vegetable Pairing: Roasted Vegetables
How to Serve this Wine
Do you chill Pinot Noir?
To get the best flavour out of your wine, you should chill Pinot Noir to 15 – 17°C (59 – 62°F).
What is Pinot Noir similar to?
Top Pinot Noir Producing Countries
Old World Regions
- Burgundy, France
- Germany (called Spätburgunder)
- Italy (called Pinot Nero)
New World Regions
- Canada (BC and Ontario)
- Oregon and California, USA
- New Zealand
Our Favourite Examples of this Wine Varietal
What is the scientific name for Pinot Noir?
The scientific name for Pinot Noir is Vitis vinifera var ‘Pinot Noir’. The name comes from the French origin “pinot” meaning pin, from “pine tree” and “noir” from “noire” for the deep-purple-to-black color of the grape skin; though the true foundation of the name is questioned, it’s believed that the name comes from the pine-cone like appearance of the grape cluster which are tightly packed and small compared to other grapevine variants.
Synonyms of this Wine Varietal
French Regions (Bourgogne, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-St-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, Flagney-Echezeaux, Nuits-St-Georges, Vosne-Romanee, Aloxe-Corton, Côte Challonaise), Pinot Nero / Pignola (Italy), Spätburgunder (Germany), Blauburgunder (Austria), Clevner (Germany/Austria), Nagyburgundi (Hungry), Modri Pinot (Slovenia)
The best wine regions where Pinot Noir Grapes are grown
The region for reliably producing the best Pinot Noirs is Burgundy, France (specifically the Côte-d’Or villages: Chambolle Musigny, Gevrey Chambertin, Morey St-Denis, Nuits St George, and Vosne Romanee).
Other regions well known for producing high-quality Pinot Noir are: Oregon (Willamette Valley) and California (Anderson Valley, Sonoma Coast/Valley, Russian River Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands, and Santa Rita Hills) in the US, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, France, Spain, Germany and Italy.
What are the characteristics of Pinot Noir?
What does Pinot Noir look like?
Lighter in colour than other red wines, Pinot Noirs are translucent and often ruby-red in colour. The grapes are low in anthocyanin, a chemical found in the skin responsible both for the deep colours of other red grapes and also for high tannin levels of the wine; the result is a less saturated red wine in the glass with lower tannins when compared to other red varietals.
Aroma, Flavours & Mouthfeel
What does Pinot Noir taste like?
Typically dry, these wines are higher in alcohol, medium-high in acidity, and have medium-low tannins. Old world (and cooler-grown) Pinot Noirs should have more flavours of earthiness, and be less fruit-forward compared to warmer-grown plants.
In what conditions does Pinot Noir grow? Where does Pinot Noir grow best?
Best grown at mid to high elevations for good presentation of flavours, Pinot Noir needs bright light without high temperatures or excessive water. One of the biggest challenges with growing these grapes is their sensitive, thin skin which makes them susceptible to sunburn, which is why this grape variety usually thrives in cooler climates.
The Soil & Grapevines
The soil must be extremely well-drained and rich with microorganisms (beneficial mycorrhizal fungi, bacteria, and insects) and micronutrients. The grapevine requires enough nutrients to survive, but not so much that it thrives as plants that are adequately stressed are more likely to produce more fruit. Plants grown with too many nutrients and/or water will produce overly-vigorous and excessively-vegetative (really-bushy/leafy) plants with late fruit flushes that have delayed ripening; as well, grapes produced from “extremely-happy plants” can have undesirable flavours and excessive water in the grape which is bad for wine production.
Plants grown with too few nutrients and/or water will produce grapes with too little sugar and low flavour precursors which are vital for the production of a great Pinot Noir wine.
An Overview of the Biology of Pinot Noir
Best able to grow in niche environments, Pinot Noir provides the most challenge and greatest reward to a successful producer. Both difficult and finicky, the grapevine is susceptible to a multitude of viruses, and infections. Their sensitivity to both climate and soil conditions, and difficult nature of growth (including sensitivity to improper pruning practices), lead to an increased cost overall, making this wine varietal more expensive than a comparable-quality wine of another varietal.
Viticulture: About the Grapevine
The leaves of Pinot Noir are smaller and the plant is less vigorous than more robust variants; as such, the vine must be cropped at lower levels to produce the best quality fruit, ensuring that the grapes grown receive adequate nutrients. Sensitive to wind and frost, the Grapevine is also susceptible to the Grapevine Leafroll and Grapevine Fanleaf Viruses which result in slower growth, increased sensitivity to environmental stress, delayed grape maturation (and poorer quality grapes), as well as a reduction of fruit yield by 10-40%; in some situations these viruses can also affect the flavour/aroma of the wine due to the inferior grape quality produced from infected vine stock. Extreme care must be exercised by vineyards to prevent the spread of these viruses, using meticulous methods to sterilize tools and soils.
Viticulture: About the Grape
The dark-coloured grapes are thin-skinned and tightly bunched which also makes the fruit an easy target for fungal and bacterial infections; this is especially the case in less than ideal growing conditions such as a damp and cool fruiting season.
The Lineage of Vitus vinifera var Pinot Noir
All “Pinot” grape varietals are forms of each other; i.e. Pinot Gris (“gris” meaning “grey” in French for the less saturated color of those grapes compared to that of pinot noir grapes) and Pinot Blanc (“blanc” meaning white in French, representative of the grapes which have no red pigment and are fully “white”—though technically, they’re green) are all mutations of the same style of grape, only differing in the color of the grape’s skin; it is unknown which grape varietal of the three was the original or true form, but all Pinot variants are believed to be only slightly removed from the original undomesticated Vitis vinifera species which is good because it means there is greater genetic variability in the plants. Pinot Noir is the parent varietal to Chardonnay as well, meaning at some point down the genetic chain, a Pinot Noir grapevine produced the seed plant which is now used for all Chardonnay.
Discovering Wine for the first time? You may also like…
Red Wine Types – Popular Varietals
White Wines Types – Popular Varietals