Red Wine 101 - Pinot Noir

Red Wine 101

Paul Giamotti’s character in the movie Sideways described Pinot Noir beautifully. So beautifully, in fact, that we have included his eloquent speech. When asked why he is so into Pinot, he responds:

“…I don't know, I don't know. Um, it's a hard grape to grow, as you know. Right? It's thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It's, you know, it's not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it's neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And in fact it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot's potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they're just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and... ancient on the planet.”

Pinot Noir can be one of the most complex wines in the world. Pinot Noir can be found in France, Oregon, New Zealand, Germany, Italy and California, but it thrives in cooler climates. Unlike most red wines, Pinot Noir is very rarely blended. The main flavor profile attributed to Pinot Noir is one of cherry, raspberry, plum and smoke.

Pinot Noir is chiefly associated with the Burgundy region of France, most famously from the villages of Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. When these Pinots are aged slightly, some of the fruitiness of the grape can give way to a richer, gamier flavor (such as wild game, tobacco, and truffle) that is not often found in new world Pinot Noirs.

California and New Zealand’s interpretations of Pinot Noir are often a bit jammier, with more fruit prevalent on the tongue than the gamey notes found in Burgundy. The prevalent regions for Pinot Noir in California are Russian River Valley, Carneros, and Santa Barbara.

Pinot Noir is what put Oregon on the map in the wine world and is the most planted varietal in the state. Most Oregon Pinot Noirs are closer to the style typified in Burgundy rather than their neighbor to the south.

In Germany, Pinot Noir is known as Spätburgunder.  Spätburgunder is lighter in color and body than Pinot Noirs from other areas. The same can be said of Pinot Noirs from Italy, which are know as Pinot Nero.