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Guide to Pinot Noir Grapes and Wine

A grape like Pinot Noir [Pee-no-nwarh] doesn’t need much of an introduction.  If you love wine, chances are you love Pinot Noir.  But don’t worry, you’re not alone.  Some of the world’s most celebrated wines are produced from this grape, especially in its Burgundian form in the Côte d’Or.  The very best of which are amongst the priciest wines on the market – for example: a bottle of 2012 Romanée-Conti is currently priced at $12,500

But that’s not to say that you can’t find some absolutely fantastic examples of Pinot Noir in other regions like the Sonoma Coast, Willamette Valley, New Zealand, Germany and even Northern Italy.  It also one of the key grape varietals used in the base wines for Champagne.  In other words, this is one important grape that’s worth getting to know.

Jancis Robinson once declared, “Pinot Noir grape is capable of producing divinely scented, gorgeously fruity expressions. The flavours found in young red burgundies include raspberries, strawberries, cherries and violets; with time these evolve into a bouquet often reminiscent of game, licorice, and autumnal undergrowth.”

Pinot Noir is most famously cultivated in Burgundy for the past 2,000 years, and is likely originated in north-east France where upon invading Gaul the Romans quickly fell under the spell of this extraordinary wine.  This red varietal is known to present a highly eclectic range of styles from fruity with light tannins all of the way to firm tannins with powerful earthiness.

Grown in over a dozen different countries, Pinot Noir definitely tends to prefer living in cooler climates with relatively quick drying soil types.  It especially thrives in the well-draining calcareous limestone type soils found in Burgundy.

That being said, in the vineyard this highly beloved varietal is nothing short of a ‘diva’ by comparison to other grapes.  This is hands down one of the most finicky and unreliable grapes that can be grown. Between the climate, the soil, the row orientation, and even down to the surrounding wildlife, everything needs to be just about perfect for Pinot Noir to grow well.

But like a true diva, when all the stars align Pinot Noir can present some of the most profound and stunning expressions of any wine in the world.  So go ahead, fall in love.

Pinot Noir Wine Profile

  • FRUIT – Black Cherry, Raspberry, Cranberry, Cherry, Plum
  • AROMAS – Vanilla, Clove, Licorice, Mushroom, Tobacco, Cola, Caramel
  • OAK – American Oak, French Oak Barrels.
  • TANNIN – Medium to Medium Low
  • ACIDITY – Medium to Medium High
  • AGEABILITY –  2-16 years depending on the style and aging format
  • SERVING TEMP –Cool to touch (60-64 °F | 17 °C)
    Bourguignon (FR), Pinot Nero (IT), Pignola (IT), Spätburgunder (GR), Klevner (AS), Nagyburgundi (HG), Modri Pinot (SV),Bourgogne, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-St-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, Flagney-Echezeaux, Nuits-St-Georges, Vosne-Romanee, Aloxe-Corton, Côte Challonaise

Different Pinot Noir expressions From Different Wine Regions:

  • Burgundy –  bright red fruit, dried herbs, mushroom, earthy and flinty minerality
  • Sonoma Coast – berry fruit, violet, fresh earth, smoky minerals and black pepper
  • New Zealand – bright red fruit, zesty acidity, volcanic minerality and toasted sugar
  • Oregon – muscular structure, firm tannins, kirsch, loam minerality, meaty and black pepper
  • Champagne – red fruit and adds herbal complexity

Looking at volume by itself, most Pinot noir in America is grown in California, with Oregon coming in second. Other regions are the states of Washington, Michigan, and New York.

Oregon wine regions known for producing Pinot noir:

  • Willamette Valley AVA
  • Dundee Hills AVA
  • Eola-Amity Hills AVA
  • Yamhill-Carlton District AVA
  • McMinnville AVA
  • Chehalem Mountains AVA
  • Ribbon Ridge AVA

California wine regions known for producing Pinot Noir are:

  • Sonoma Coast AVA
  • Russian River Valley AVA
  • Central Coast AVA
  • Sta. Rita Hills
  • Monterey County / Santa Lucia Highlands
  • Santa Cruz Mountains AVA
  • Carneros District of Napa and Sonoma
  • Anderson Valley
  • Livermore Valley
  • San Luis Obispo County / Arroyo Grande Valley, Edna Valley


Top 10 California Counties for Pinot Noir Acreage, 2013

County 2013 Total Acres
Sonoma 12,062
Monterey 8,764
Santa Barbara 4,499
Napa 2,979
Mendocino 2,672
San Luis Obispo 1,722
San Joaquin 1,664
Sacramento 1,427
Yolo 799
San Benito 581
Other 2,441



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