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The Pinot Noir
Wine Grape:
The Great Red of Burgundy

Pinot Noir Wine Grape

AndrĂ© Tschelitscheff, considered America's most influential post-prohibition winemaker, was famously quoted as saying "God made Cabernet Sauvignon whereas the devil made Pinot Noir." This grape is frustratingly difficult to grow and make, but the quality of the wines can be so superb that winemakers around the world dedicate themselves to this fickle grape.

The History of Pinot Noir

The history of Pinot Noir isn't completely clear, although descriptions matching Pinot date back as far as the 1st century AD. It is very closely related to other "Pinot" grapes, such as the humble Pinot Meunier of Champagne, and the Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris white grapes of Burgundy. However, studies have been inconclusive or contradictory in some cases about the exact nature of these relationships, adding to the difficulty in tracing this grape's lineage. 

Qualities of the Pinot Noir Grape

Pinot Noir does not easily reward the wine grower. The vines are highly susceptible to a variety of ailments, and the grape's thin skin make it prone to rot and other problems in the vineyard and also cause it to bruise easily. It must be harvested extremely carefully and the grapes must be crushed as quickly as possible post-picking. While Cabernet Sauvignon's thick skins make it heartier and produce heartier, more tannic wines, the near-fragility of the Pinot Grape yields a wine with delicacy and soul.

Pinot Noir Wine Characteristics

Body: light
Tannins: light to medium
Acidity: medium
Flavors: red fruit, especially cherry and strawberry, as well as complex notes of earth and mushrooms

Regions Where Pinot Noir is Grown

- France's Burgundy region, for still reds
- France's Champagne region, for blanc de noirs sparkling wines
- Cooler wine climates of the U.S., such as Oregon's Willamette Valley and California's Russian River Valley (north) and Santa Rita Hills / Santa Lucia Highlands regions (south)
- New Zealand's Marlborough region
- Chile's Casablanca Valley

Pinot Noir Fast Facts

- Bottled by varietal name in Burgundy
- Also bottled by regional name for Champagne - if used predominantly, wines will be denoted 'blanc de noirs', but can also be used with Chardonnay in standard Champagne blends
- Bottled by varietal name outside of France
- Villages of Burgundy:
- Famous Producers:
- Some vintages can be drunk young, but wines can also have excellent aging potential: 10 - 30 years

Pinot Noir Wine & Food Pairing

- Delicious paired with a wide variety of foods, including richer fish, such as tuna or salmon, as well as chicken, game birds and pork
- Easy Food and Wine pairings with Pinot Noir:
     Honey-Mustard Pork Tenderloin with Collard Greens
     Turkey Meatloaf with Chunky Vegetables & Spicy Glaze
       Turkey Empanadas with Cranberry-Pineapple Salsa

Here are some of our favorites:

2008 Mirassou Pinot Noir, California
An elegant style with bright red fruit flavors and nice acidity. Excellent value from this larger-scale producer.  ($9)

2008 Mark West Pinot Noir, California
This winery specializes in delicious, affordable 'Pinot for the People'. Viva la Revolucion! ($10)

2007 Cloudline Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
A bit austere at first, this Pinot becomes much more expansive and full when paired with food. ($20)

2006 Domaine Jean-Marc Pillot, Les Grandes Terpes
Light in body and tannin with spicy, gamy notes. Complex and intriguing - classic red Burgundy.  ($30)


Next Variety:
  Syrah Wine Grape

 



 

 


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