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Wine Basics--Pinot Noir

Updated on July 23, 2009

Pinot noir grapes

Pinot noir is one of the most popular wines in the world, but it is also one of the most difficult to grow. The origins of the grape are unknown, but the varietal is genetically unstable, meaning it tends to mutate rapidly. While this has led to interesting offshoots in their own right (pinot gris and pinot blanc to name a few), it can also be confounding to vintners who struggle to maintain consistency in the wine they produce. Further confounding the search for a great pinot noir is its chameleon quality, enabling it to change significantly once allowed to breathe or over time in the bottle. These difficulties in production combined with the high demand make pinot noir one of the more expensive wines in the cellar. However, when pinot noir is grown and bottled with skill, its silky texture and wonderful fruit notes make it one of the most enjoyable wines available.

Clime and Regions

Pinot noir grapes demand a long, cool growing season, and are extraordinarily finicky—time from ripening to rotting is very short and they plant tends to be ridiculously susceptible to every disease and plague that nature can conceive. Following with the grapes’ sensitivity, the taste of a particular vintage of pinot noir tends to be highly reflective of its terroir (the characteristics bestowed on wine by geographical region; traits that encompass soil, weather, and farming techniques), especially the soil clime in which the vines are grown.

The grape is largely associated with the Burgundy region of France, though it is now grown around the world, with some of the most well received regions being California, Oregon, and New Zealand.

Typical glass for serving pinot noir


Pinot noir tends to be medium bodied and smooth and silky in the mouth, with hints of black cherry and currant—usually the younger the wine, the more fruit forward it is. Sometimes the wine has spice to it, or even a slight vegetative quality. The tendency of pinot noir to have subtle but rich, rewarding flavors makes it an excellent food wine, espeically when paired with chicken, pork, and fish.

The wine should be served in a burgundy/pinot noir glass--a large, bowl-shaped glass; the bowl allows the bouquet to unfold to the fullest while the shape of the rim directs the wine to the areas of the tongue that best taste the fruit without causing the acidity to overwhelm the palate. (I higly recommend Reidel when investing in wine glassware).

French pinots are often more earthy (sometimes called “barnyard”) than new world versions, and can develop well over time, peaking at 15 to 20 years. As they age, they can develop a deep complexity of floral, chocolate, smoke, and violet hints.

New world pinots tend to be bigger and fruitier than their French counterparts. California pinots are often lighter and can be very fruity, with strong hints of berries and ripe grapes. New Zealand pinots also tend to have strong hints of fruit, but tend to be much more acidic than Californian versions. New world pinots tend to not have the longevity of the Burgundian wines and peak at 5 to 8 years after bottling.


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    • howcurecancer profile image

      Elena@LessIsHealthy 6 years ago

      One awesome vote up! I am one of your followers now.

    • eventsyoudesign profile image

      eventsyoudesign 7 years ago from Nashville, Tennessee

      I enjoyed reading this hub. I am an amateur wine enthusiast. I read as much as I can about wine and I work at the Nashville symphony in the banquet department where we have the Arpeggio restaurant. We have a nice wine list. We have been closed since the flood of May 2010, but will reopen on December 31st of this year. I will read more of your hubs. I just posted one about the health benefits of Pinot Noir. I hope you will give me your opinion. Thanks! Teresa

    • Fresh_Flower profile image

      Fresh_Flower 8 years ago from London

      Great! I really enjoy reading about the different types of grapes. I like the Pinot Noir but my favourite is still a good Cabernet Sauvignon. Thanks!

    • OregonWino profile image

      OregonWino 8 years ago

      Great article! You did a great job of explaining all of the little nuances of the grape and the wine!! Well done!!