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Pinot Noir

Learn about Pinot Noir — taste profile, popular regions and more ...

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What Is Pinot Noir?

Pinot Noir is a black-skinned grape variety used to produce dry red and rosé wine, as well as sparkling wine. One of the most finicky grapes to grow, Pinot Noir demands a lot of attention in both the vineyard and winery. The combination of quality and complexity in Pinot Noir has made it one of the world’s most popular red wines. Pinot Noir is the greatest wine of Burgundy and proves that it is unquestionably worth the effort. In fact, it is the only red variety permitted in Burgundy.

Burgundy, whose cool climate and calcareous soils are perfectly suited for it, retains its status as the pinnacle of quality for Pinot Noir. Other fine French versions include those from Alsace and the Loire Valley. Germany and Italy also produce some Pinot Noir, while outstanding New World examples can be found from Oregon, California, New Zealand and South America.

The grape has gained even more glory as an important component of Champagne. Similarly, it is used in the production of many other sparkling wines from around the world.

Origin

Pinot Noir is believed to be over 2,000 years old, which makes it one of the oldest known wine varieties. Its parents and exact origin remain mysteries, but it is widely thought to have originated in northeast France, with Burgundy being the likely birthplace. From there it gradually spread to other cool climate regions like Champagne, Alsace and Sancerre in France. It traveled to Baden, Rheingau and others in Germany, as well as Alto Adige and Friuli in Italy. It wasn’t until late in the 20th century, though, that Pinot Noir gained a serious foothold in the New World.

Tasting Notes for Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a dry red wine that is relatively pale in color and is characterized by moderate tannins, moderate to moderate-plus alcohol and high acidity. Typical aromas and flavors include red fruit, savory herbs, earthy tones, black tea and violets. With age Pinot Noir wine can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice and dried fruit. Pinot Noir is highly reflective of its terroir and therefore can offer a varied flavor profile, for example:

  • Burgundy: Silky and ethereal, with cherry, cranberry, hibiscus, forest floor, mushroom, leather.
  • Oregon: Complex and supple, with ripe red berries, dusty earth and loam.
  • New Zealand: Concentrated yet balanced, with strawberry, cherry, wild herbs.
  • California’s Russian River Valley: Can be bolder, with black cherry and plum, cola and dark loamy notes.
  • California’s Sta. Rita Hills: Dynamic and vivid, with bright red fruit, oak and spice.

Pinot Noir Food Pairings

Pinot Noir is an incredibly versatile food wine. Its healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of salmon or hearty texture of tuna but its mild-mannered tannins give it enough structure to pair the wine with all sorts of poultry: chicken, quail and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, Pinot Noir has proven it isn’t afraid of beef. California examples work splendidly well with barbecue and Pinot Noir is also vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.

How to Serve Pinot Noir

As with all wines, temperature is crucial. A wine served too warm will seem out of balance, with the alcohol too “hot.” If too cold, the aromas and flavors are muted. Fuller, bolder styles of Pinot Noir are best at 65°F, while lighter styles are ideal from 55-60°F. As for Rosé and sparkling wines made from Pinot, serve at 50°F for the former and 40-45°F for the latter. If you don’t finish the bottle, re-cork it and place it in the refrigerator. It should stay nicely drinkable for 1-3 days. As for glassware, a classic red burgundy glass with a thin rim is perfect. These have a large bowl and taper towards the top.

Pinot Noir Facts

  • Pinot Noir is a considered a “founder variety,” meaning it is a forefather of scores of wine grapes, including Chardonnay, Syrah, Gamay, Garganega and many more.
  • Pinot Noir is genetically unstable and has many clones, including Pinot Meunier and the color mutations Pinot Gris (Grigio) and Pinot Blanc.
  • Its name is believed to come from the resemblance of its grape clusters to pinecones, since the French word pin means pine.

Nutrition

Pinot Noir is typically a dry wine, which means there is little to no residual sugar. Thus, there are minimal carbohydrates, and there is no protein or fat. The caloric content comes from alcohol; a standard 5 ounce pour of Pinot Noir has about 120 calories.

Sommelier Secrets for Pinot Noir

For administrative purposes, the region of Beaujolais is often included in Burgundy. But it is extremely different in terms of topography, soil and climate, and the important red grape here is ultimately Gamay, not Pinot Noir. Truth be told, there is a tiny amount of Gamay sprinkled around the outlying parts of Burgundy (mainly in Maconnais), but it isn’t allowed with any great significance and certainly not in any Village or Cru level wines. So "red Burgundy" still necessarily refers to Pinot noir.

The most renowned Pinot Noirs in the world–Grand Cru Burgundies–can be extremely expensive, with top offerings selling for thousands of dollars per bottle. This is due to their quality, rarity and high demand from collectors. However, you can get tremendous bang for the buck by seeking out quality village-level Burgundies from good vintages. Quality Pinot Noir can age very well, even for decades.

Coming Soon: Regions Map. This is not a final layout.
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        • Rene Engel Clos Vougeot Grand Cru (stained label) 1999  Front Label
          Rene Engel Clos Vougeot Grand Cru (stained label) 1999
          Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France
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        • David Bruce Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot Noir 1999  Front Label
          David Bruce Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot Noir 1999
          Pinot Noir from Santa Cruz Mountains, California
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          • Antonin Rodet Rouge Pinot Noir 1999 Front Label
            Antonin Rodet Rouge Pinot Noir 1999
            Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France
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            • Byron Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 1999 Front Label
              Byron Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 1999
              Pinot Noir from Santa Maria Valley, Central Coast, California
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              • Domaine Carneros Carneros Pinot Noir (1.5 Liter Magnum) 1999
                Pinot Noir from California
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                • Louis Jadot Nuits St. Georges 1999 Front Label
                  Louis Jadot Nuits St. Georges 1999
                  Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France
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                  • Joseph Drouhin Grand Echezeaux 1999
                    Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France
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                    • Domaine Drouhin Oregon Laurene Pinot Noir 1999 Front Label
                      Domaine Drouhin Oregon Laurene Pinot Noir 1999
                      Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon
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                    • Sokol Blosser Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 1999
                      Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon
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                      • Williams Selyem Coastlands Pinot Noir 1999 Front Label
                        Williams Selyem Coastlands Pinot Noir 1999
                        Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County, California
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                      • Gundlach Bundschu Pinot Noir Rhinefarm 1999 Front Label
                        Gundlach Bundschu Pinot Noir Rhinefarm 1999
                        Pinot Noir from Sonoma County, California
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                      • Vincent Girardin Bonnes Mares Grand Cru 1999 Front Label
                        Vincent Girardin Bonnes Mares Grand Cru 1999
                        Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France
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                      • Two Paddocks Pinot Noir 1999
                        Pinot Noir from New Zealand
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                        • Felton Road Pinot Noir 1999 Front Label
                          Felton Road Pinot Noir 1999
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                          • Acacia Pinot Noir Lee (3 Liter) 1999 Front Label
                            Acacia Pinot Noir Lee (3 Liter) 1999
                            Pinot Noir from Carneros, California
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                          • Estancia Pinot Noir 1999
                            Pinot Noir from Central Coast, California
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                            • Trapiche Estate Pinot Noir 1999
                              Pinot Noir from Argentina
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                              • Bridgeview Blue Moon Pinot Noir 1999
                                Pinot Noir from Rogue Valley, Oregon
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                                • La Crema Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 1999 Front Label
                                  La Crema Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 1999
                                  Pinot Noir from Sonoma County, California
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                                  • Hanzell Pinot Noir 1999
                                    Pinot Noir from Sonoma County, California
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                                    • Edmeades Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 1999 Front Label
                                      Edmeades Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 1999
                                      Pinot Noir from North Coast, California
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                                    • Beringer North Coast Pinot Noir 1999
                                      Pinot Noir from California
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                                      • DeLoach Pinot Noir Balletto Ranch 1999 Front Label
                                        DeLoach Pinot Noir Balletto Ranch 1999
                                        Pinot Noir from Sonoma County, California
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                                      • Robert Mondavi Coastal Pinot Noir 1999 Front Label
                                        Robert Mondavi Coastal Pinot Noir 1999
                                        Pinot Noir from North Coast, California
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                                      • Acacia Pinot Noir 1999
                                        Pinot Noir from Carneros, California
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