Here’s the basics you ought to know about pinot

pinot-noir-heroA pinot noir vineyard in Central Otago during winter
As the weather has turned cooler, choosing to drink red wine becomes that much easier. Pinot noir, however, is one red wine that can happily be drunk year-round, given that it is lighter in tannin and body than other, bigger red wines. That being said, the combination of earthy, mushroom-like characters and rich red fruits in pinots with a greater concentration in flavour make it a great wine with which to see out autumn and welcome in winter.

What is pinot noir?
Pinot noir is a grape that makes red wine — and some of the finest wines in the world. Its spiritual home is in Burgundy, in France, and it likes moderate (like Burgundy) and cool climates. It’s also known as the fickle mistress, because all though it can make great wines, it’s often difficult to grow well and yields are smaller compared to other grapes. It is an early-ripening grape with small, thin-skinned berries in tight bunches and as a result, is prone to rotting.

Where it’s grown
As we noted Burgundy is the home of pinot noir, and the classic style of wine shows flavours of red fruit, and with age, more vegetal, savoury characters. The wines with the world’s greatest reputations (and, of course, most expensive prices) come from an area in Burgundy called Vosne-Romanée. Here, wines like Romanée-Conti and La Tâche are made in very small quantities are and attract extravagantly large prices.

Pinot noir is also at home on the Victorian Mornington Peninsula, in Geelong, and from the Yarra Valley, as well as in Tasmania, where the climate is cool. From New Zealand, Central Otago has recently made quite a name for its pinot noirs — which accounts for more than 80 per cent of plantings there, and typically makes a big, plush style of pinot noir (though this varies from producer to producer). Martinborough and Marlborough, also in New Zealand, make some very good pinot noir.

In fact a lot of what is often thought to be regional variation in the style of pinot noir may sometimes be explained by the different clones of the pinot noir grape. Pinot noir, as an old grape variety, can mutate quite easily and as such, there are a number of different clones of the grape in vineyards not just around the world, but even in regions like its home in Burgundy.


As a generality pinot noir from cooler climates will have better acidity and structure than those from warmer climates, which will more generous in fruit and a fuller body.

Styles of pinot noir
The pinot noir grape offers up a wide variety of styles.It’s also a key component in champagne, and when used with its partner black-skinned grape, pinot meunier, goes into the blanc de noirs style of champagne: a white champagne made from the juice of black-skinned grapes.

When employed in champagne production, pinot noir lends structure, body and length to the wine, as well as contributing red fruit characters.

When pinot noir is young, it shows off perfumed fruity characters of red berries, of red cherries and raspberries. As it ages, it can develop aromas of forest floor, mushroom, and meaty characters. In Burgundy, the top wines are aged in oak barrels (a proportion of which will be new oak) for around 16 to 19 months, before being bottled.

It’s hard to make sweeping statements about the ability of pinot noir to age — wines with good acid structure and concentration of flavour can develop in the bottle for many years, but because the grape is thick-skinned and as such lower in tannins than other wines, not all pinot noir can be expected to age in bottle for a long a time.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.