Pinot Noir: wine, grape variety, history and characteristics of the great French red wine
Pinot Noir is one of the great French vines, the genetic and spiritual father of many vines such as Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc. All the pinots we know are mutated versions of Pinot Noir that in some cases has merged with other vines along the way.
Do not think that it is an exceptional case, indeed families with such numerous offspring are often very common, just think about the family of Lambrusco, Malvasia or Moscati. There are mutations, crosses, clones, so can safely say that there are no pure vines, apart from some exceptions that have remained isolated and above all have been saved by phylloxera.
On the origins of Pinot Noir, there is no certainty, we do not know exactly where and how it was born, but the undeniable fact is that Burgundy is its elective home, as for its son Chardonnay.
That said, let’s move on to its peculiar characteristics and discover how to recognize Pinot Noir when we find it in the glass.
Organoleptic characteristics of Pinot Noir
The color is ruby when young, but tends to garnet as it ages. it is transparent, not too dense, but above all, it is delicate also as color. Never expect a Montepulciano-style ruby ink: if you find a dark-colored Pinot like Snow White’s hair, most likely it is not a very fine wine or even worse it has been cut with more powerful and overbearing vines.
Pinot Noir bouquet
Pinot Noir is the quintessence of elegance and finesse, it is delicate, fragrant, ethereal, with fruity notes of small berries, hazelnuts, tea, light spices, moss, mushrooms, lacquer, currant, pine, resin, orange peel, and raspberries.
Think about Barolo to give you an idea in broad terms. You will notice many similarities on an aromatic level, however, the body, structure, and tannins of Pinot Noir are more delicate and the acidity is more intense.
Of course, the French will tell you that in the best Pinots there must be perfumes merde de poule, rooster poo, and it’s kinda true. There are scents that we could call “wild”, an animal smell, but they are never too intrusive or omnipresent.
What does Pinot Noir taste like?
On the palata is smooth, sharp and with a balsamic touch. It’s not a muscolar or full bodied wine, but never sloppy. Tannins are decise but not too strong. Acidity and finesse are the keywords when it comes down to Pinot Noir.
With these characteristics of finesse, Pinot Noir is one of the most fascinating and sophisticated wines that you can find. It can age very well, not thanks to tannins, but to his acidity, which over time transforms and leaves room for an incredible series of ethereal sensations, exactly like Nebbiolo.
He loves cold climates with a strong climatic excursion that helps to develop acidity and finesse of aromas and for this reason, he is usually reserved for the tops of the most ventilated and sunny hills. It is not a vine that has problems of maturation, rather it tends not to load too much the grapes of sugar to avoid that alcohol degree and heaviness can ruin its natural elegance.
Production areas of Pinot Noir in the world
Many production areas are worth a visit starting from the whole Côte-d’Or.
In Italy, the Pinot Noir of South Tyrol finds a plateau in Mazzon where it thrives and there is no shortage of good bottles produced by artisanal wineries.
Another production area of interest is New Zealand with Central Otago and Marlborough as main areas.
In the United States, Pinot Noir has found a home in the two most exclusive areas: Napa and Sonoma. If you can find some Pinot from Russian River and Carneros try them: they are delicious and flashy. Maybe not fine and thin like those of Côte-d’Or, but very intense. Don’t miss the Pinot from Oregon, a cold and rainy region, especially the Willamette Valley bottles.
And then there’s Champagne, the king of sparkling wines, an icon that embodies the most subtle and nervous interpretation that Pinot can take. It can be vinified in white, without contact with the skins or in the rosé Champagne version, with the must that remains in contact with the skins for only a few hours to make the base wine. Just the time to dye and add scents then is ready to be produced as white base wine. But we don’t want to go any further, if you are interested in the transformation of Pinot Noir into sparkling wine, here is the Champagne page, where you will find all the information, photos and curiosities about the king of wines.
Pinot Noir food pairings
Just like Barolo, Pinot Noir is perfect for pairings with mushrooms, porcini mushrooms, lamb kebabs, gnocchi with Bolognese, hamburgers, baked lasagna, truffle risotto, pasta Amatriciana. If you want to discover a thousand and more recipes suitable for Pinot Noir, take a look at our guide to pair Pinot Noir with food.