Pinot Noir is amongst the noblest red wine grapes on earth. It has fans worldwide, and it’s easy to see why; the grape produces luscious wines, a silken palate, and the loveliest aromatics.
With around 285,000 acres (115,000 hectares), Pinot Noir is the ninth most planted grape in the world, and it would be much more cultivated if the grape weren’t that picky. Pinot Noir only thrives where the soil and the weather are just right; there are only a few corners of the earth where it reaches its fullest potential.
If you haven’t experienced the wine already, you’re in for a treat! There are few grapes with such a noteworthy character, and today you’re learning all about it. Knowledge makes every glass of wine more enjoyable, so let’s get started!
A Monastic History
Pinot Noir is one of the oldest grapes; it’s an ancestral variety enjoyed even by the Romans in the first century. The grape’s name comes from the similitude of the grape bunches with pine cones. Noir means black.
The red grape gained its fame during the Middle Ages in its ancestral home, Burgundy, in France. At that time, it was monks who tended the Burgundian vines, and it is believed they saw in Pinot Noir virtues well worthy of making it their main crop.
The Benedictines founded the Abbey of Cluny in 910, and they dressed the Burgundian slopes along the Cote d’Or with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Although the monk’s wine gained popularity, they could have never imagined that bottles of wine from their very own vineyards would one day fetch extraordinary prices — a bottle of Romanée Conti 1945 was sold recently for $123,900.
Red Burgundy wines are synonymous with Pinot Noir, but the grapes have found new homes around the earth. Now the grapes are grown in North and South America, in Italy, in South Africa, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and more. Pinot Noir might be an old grape, but it’s always fashionable — with its story being far from over.
Pinot Noir Around The World
The most prized of its kind comes from France, where it plays a significant role in Champagne and its bubbly wines. Of course, Pinot Noir is featured in the Burgundian slopes, where it was born.
Gracing the cooler vineyards in Italy, many of them growing under the Alps’ shadows. The famous Italian Franciacorta, a sparkling wine, is made with Pinot Noir, amongst other grapes. And the valleys going deep into the Alps in the Alto Adige region are home to fantastic Pinot as well.
It is the most planted red grape in Germany, where the temperature nice and cold, just like the grape likes it. With global temperature changes, Pinot has even migrated to the UK with notable success.
In the New World, Pinot Noir has found suitable weather in California’s coastal areas, and it’s the flagship grape in Oregon — a land reminiscent of Burgundy. Argentina’s altitude vineyards and Chile’s coasts are adequate for growing the Burgundian grape. And South Africa, Australia, and especially New Zealand have adopted Pinot Noir as one of their most prized crops.
For a quality glass, today, there are plenty of options. Great Pinot, on the other hand, is always a bit harder to find. The soil and the climate are one thing, but it takes lots of patience and arduous work to make the most out of this moody alcoholic beverage.
How Does It Taste Like?
For an experienced wine taster, Pinot Noir is instantly recognizable from sight alone. The grape yields translucent wines tainted with ruby hues. The nose is reminiscent of cherries, undergrowth, and oak spices. On top of that, it is dry and pure silk, smooth and never astringent, long and charming, livened by a refreshing acidity on the palate.
Pinot Noir doesn’t show noticeable tannins, the gritty textural particles that dry your mouth, abundant in other grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon. We can classify Pinot as a light-bodied wine but don’t think for a second it’s not complex and engaging. What Pinot lacks in strength, it has in finesse and aromatic virtues.
In warmer regions like California, Pinot is riper and juicier, while others from cold climates such as Burgundy are delightfully tart.
Food Pairing Options
Pinot Noir is quite versatile at the table, yet it shines best when paired with the right food.
The grape lacks the tannins to take on a fatty steak, but its lightness plays in its favor when paired with oily fish like salmon and tuna. Pinot Noir is also a good pairing for mushroom-based dishes and Asian stir-fries. Roast poultry benefits from a glass of Pinot as well, and no one can deny the wine is terrific when paired with Burgundian dishes like Boeuf Bourguignon and escargots.
The Burgundian wine is one of the few reds that pair nicely with fish, making it unique in the realm of vines and grapes.
Pinot Noir is widely available. You won’t find it hard to find a proper bottle, but if you want a similar alternative, you must look for other light-bodied red wines.
- Beaujolais, Pinot’s stablemate in Burgundy, is somewhat similar but fruitier.
- Saint Laurent is an autochthonous grape from Austria and shares traits with Pinot in texture and aroma.
- Grenache, found in Spain and Southern France, is spicier but has a similar mouthfeel.
- Mercia, A Spanish grape grown in the verdant Galicia region, is light-bodied and perfumed Pinot Noir-style.
Give Some Love to Pinot!
Pinot Noir is not only one of the oldest and most pleasing red grapes on the planet; it’s immensely popular. Full-bodied red wines might dominate the market, but there’s always a place for Pinot Noir on the table.
From collectible bottles to wine from everyday enjoyment, Pinot Noir is noble and refined, and it lends itself to every occasion.
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