When you think of quality Old World wine, no doubt you think of the classics: Bordeaux and Burgundy, which are made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir respectively. Pinot Noir wine is considered one of the most popular grapes in the world, thanks to its fruity flavours and smooth tannins.
In this article, we’re exploring the fascinating world of Pinot Noir, including the best wine regions for making Pinot Noir, some of our recommended food pairings, and more. By the time you reach the end of this page, you’ll know everything there is to know about the amazing Pinot Noir grape…
What is Pinot Noir Wine
Pinot Noir may not be the most widely planted grape in the world (that title goes to Cabernet Sauvignon), but you will find that it’s considered one of the most important wines due to its high quality (unfortunately it also means that it can be hard to find low-priced examples). It is one of the hardest grapes to grow, meaning there are fewer bottles of Pinot Noir than many other grapes, but it’s increasing.
Those who want a good Pinot Noir have to spend both time and money on the great bottles. Thus, Pinot Noir is considered a sort of “Holy Grail” of the wine world.
The Pinot Noir grape is thin-skinned, and both the fruit and the plant tend to be susceptible to diseases. For example, the vines are often plagued by powdery mildew, leaf roll, or fan leaf bunch rot. The grape and vine are both sensitive to rain, wind, and frost.
The vine must be cropped in order to produce healthy grapes for making wine, but this must be balanced against reducing the yield.
All of these things make it a very delicate grape, one that is very hard to grow. This is one of the key reasons for the scarcity and high price of Pinot Noir.
Did you know?
In 2004, a movie entitled “Sideways” explored the passion that wine stirs in people, as well as the difficulties in growing certain wines, like Pinot Noir. The wine snob character, played by Paul Giamatti, made such a big deal over Pinot Noir that moviegoers began to take interest in it. Thanks to this movie, the demand for Pinot Noir in the U.S. has grown significantly in the last decade.
For classic Old World Pinot Noir wine, look no further than the Burgundy region of France. The Côte d’Or is home to some of the oldest Pinot Noir-producing vineyards in the world. The best Pinot Noirs tend to be from this region of France, specifically the Côte de Nuits. It is also a key grape in Champagne, and many other sparkling wines. Other European producers include Germany, Austria, and even the UK, which uses it mainly in sparkling wines.
For New World Pinot Noir, both Oregon and California in the United States are famous for producing quality examples. Chile, Argentina, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa are all great producers of Pinot Noir.
The most important Pinot Noir producing regions are:
Particularly Sonoma, which produces quality fruit-forward Pinot Noirs.
Along the Rio Negro River, which is famous for its black cherry and spice-heavy flavours.
Particularly Burgundy, the origin place of Pinot Noir, which have the highest value and are also the hardest to find. Estates such as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti produce tiny quantities and bottles can sell for thousands of pounds.
Specifically Northern Italy, where the wine has an earthy flavour with more ripeness and dark fruits.
Specifically the Ahr and Baden regions, where the Pinot grapes ripen with fruity and plummy flavours. These can be some of the most Burgundy-esque Pinot Noirs outside of France.
- The United States – Oregon
Oregon, where the Pinot Noirs are light and fruity, with tastes of cherries, cranberries, and pomegranates. Like California, prices can be high due to strong and large local demand.
- New Zealand
Specifically Central Otago, where the Pinot Noir first started to make a name for itself in New Zealand. This is a country that is having real success with this fickle grape, and high-quality examples are now made all over the country.
Brief History of Pinot Noir Wine
The history of Pinot Noir wine isn’t fully clear. Like most Old-World wines, the origin is believed to date back to the Roman era, possibly during the 1st Century AD. Grapes similar to Pinot Noir were discovered growing in Burgundy during the 1st Century. Wild vines with Pinot Noir-like grapes have been discovered as far north as Belgium.
Pinot Noir became a highly popular wine in the Middle Ages, as the church and nobility of France grew Pinot grapes in choice plots of land.
The high quality of Pinot wines contrasted with the lower quality of those produced from the hardier grapes (like Merlot or Cabernet) grown by the peasant class.
Pinot Noir Wine Characteristics
If you are looking for a truly elegant wine, Pinot Noir is one of the best wines to try. Thanks to its unique flavours, aromas, and structure, it stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Flavours and Aromas
The flavours of Pinot Noir tend to be mainly red fruits: cherries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, pomegranates, and currants. Some have darker flavours, such as plums, dark cherries, and black stone fruits. You can find earthy flavours of spice, truffle, mushrooms, and even “forest floor” flavours in older bottles, and these can be incredible wines to pair with food.
Although Pinot Noir can have a very fruity nose, the wine itself is dry, as with most reds.
Pinot Noir is a low to medium tannin wine, with a medium to high acidity and a smooth, floral finish. The alcohol content varies, but is usually at the lower end for red wines – between 12 and 14% ABV.
Pinot Noir Fun Facts
Here are some interesting things you might not know about Pinot Noir:
- Pinot Noir is among the most expensive wines in the world. In 2013, six magnum-size bottles of 1995 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti sold at the impressive sum of $27,300 per bottle.
- Pinot Noir should be served at a “cool to the touch” temperature—around 63 F/17 C.
- Pinot Noir is usually aged in French Oak, often older barrels, to enhance the complexity of aromas, rather than give an overt ‘oaky’ flavour.
- A bottle of Pinot Noir can age for anywhere up to 40 years, depending on its style. Champagne made from Pinot Noir can last longer than a Pinot Noir red wine.
- The genetics of the Pinot Noir grape makes it highly susceptible to mutation, and there are now many different ‘clones’ giving slightly different characteristics.
- Less than 300,000 acres of wine-growing country in the world is dedicated to growing Pinot Noir grapes, compared to nearly 700,000 of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Pinot Noir & Food Pairing Recommendations
One of the things that makes Pinot Noir such a popular choice of wine is that it can pair with most foods. It’s one of the most versatile wines, meaning it will pair with a wide range of foods as well as stand on its own. It adds a touch of elegance to any meal, and will make your dining experience much more enjoyable.
Here are our Pinot Noir food pairing recommendations:
- Italian Food – The elegant, light, and highly diverse wine pairs perfectly with the diversity of Italian food flavours. Whether you’re eating food from the north or south of Italy, there are Pinot Noirs out there than can match perfectly.
- Fatty Fish – Salmon, sardines, and other fatty fish are a great combination to serve with light Pinot Noir. The subtle red fruit flavours and acidity will enhance the flavours of the fish. Light, fruity options from Europe are usually the best choice for fish.
- Comte Cheese – Comte is one cheese that pairs well with just about everything, so it’s the perfect cheese to serve with Pinot Noir wine. The cheese is actually produced in Burgundy, just 50 miles north of where Pinot Noir grapes are grown.
- Mushroom Risotto – The earthy flavours of your creamy mushroom risotto is the perfect match for the earthy, forest floor flavours of good quality, aged Pinot Noir. Yet the fruitiness of the wine will also stand out against the rich risotto.
Our Pinot Noir Wine Recommendations
Finding a good Pinot Noir can be an investment of both time and money. There are far fewer high quality Pinot Noir wines available than other more popular wines, so it can be tough to find Pinot Noirs that combine an affordable price tag with the high quality you want. Thankfully, we have a few excellent organic Pinot Noirs we think you’ll love:
Alias Pinot Noir
This Pinot Noir comes from the French Loire Valley, and with no added Sulphur it’s a pure wine you can’t help but love. There’s a slight nuttiness that blends perfectly with the smoky, fruity hints and abundance of red fruits.
Meinklang Pinot Noir
This Austrian Pinot Noir is succulent, complex and has refreshing acidity. You won’t be able to stop at just one glass!
Walnut Block The Collectables Pinot Noir
This Pinot Noir from New Zealand is French oak-aged and is more fruity and full-bodied than Burgundian Pinot Noir. Expect intense cherry flavours with softer herb and earth characters, and smooth tannins.
Domaine Michel Magnien Bourgogne Pinot Noir
This Burgundian Pinot Noir is as classic as it gets. It has a silky, supple palate with red cherry and dusty plum flavours underlain by anise, black cherry, and rhubarb. A very classy wine.
Champagne Fleury Blanc de Noirs
This champagne is made from biodynamic Pinot Noir grape, so it’s the perfect luxury to enjoy on special occasions. The champagne has bold, bready flavours with raspberries and notes of blossom. An outstanding biodynamic Champagne.
Pinot Noir wine is truly one of a kind, and it offers a versatility and elegance you just won’t find with many wines. If you want a wine that offers peerless complexity and luxury, you must try Pinot Noir wine!