Pinot Noir: all the (delicious) facts!
Ah, how we love a great glass of Pinot Noir. A luscious red. Light, flavorful, and easy to drink: a good Pinot Noir truly encompasses everything we like about wine.
As the 10th ‘most planted’ grape variety on the planet, Pinot Noir is definitely a wine enthusiasts’ favorite. But why is Pinot Noir so popular?
We’ve listed everything you need to know on Pinot Noir. Interesting facts, a bit of history, and great food pairings: it’s all here.
Learn more about the magical world of Pinot Noir via these interesting snippets of useful wine knowledge!
The correct way to pronounce Pinot Noir
Let’s start with the very basics: the correct way to pronounce Pinot Noir. According to experts, the correct way to pronounce is “Pee-no N’war”. Put an equal emphasis on both short syllables in the “Pee-no” part.
Then, for the “N’war”, you can add a bit of more your own flair, drawing the second syllable for a longer, lingering impression. But you know: there are no strict rules on the correct way to pronounce Pinot Noir. Just say it in a way that feels comfortable (or fun) to you.
One tip though: don’t fake the French accent too much. “Zeee Peeeee-no N’waaar Pleaze,” will only get you weird looks in your local liquor store or restaurant.
The flavors of Pinot Noir
The Pinot Noir grape is an indulgent, sweet red variety. Often characterized by red berry qualities, closely related to raspberry and strawberry. ‘Young’ grapes tend to be a bit minty, matured grapes have more fruit-forward flavors. When overripe, the thin-skinned Pinot Noir grapes tend to get quite jammy.
A Pinot Noir’s silky textures come out when it’s maturing in a bottle. The grape’s other delicious undertones, including truffles and leather, emerge further during the maturing process.
The result, when cultivated in optimum conditions, is an effortless, enticing wine that charms, surprises and indulges your taste buds.
Pinot Noir is over 2000 years old
Did you know that Pinot Noir is one of the oldest wine grape varieties in the world? It has been around since Roman times. How do we know that? Well, Columella, a prominent writer on agriculture in Roman culture, already described a grape variety in Burgundy, France, very similar to Pinot Noir in his work De Re Rustica. This written account dates back to the 1st century CE. Making this type of grape variety over 2000 years old!
And if the Pinot Noir grape variety was good enough for the Romans, lounging on their chaise lounge, being fed grapes by handsome servants: it’s certainly good enough for us!
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are cousins
Okay, maybe not cousins in the same way as humans are related, but Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are part of the same grape family. When Pinot Noir was already around for a 1000 years, winemakers in the Middle Ages decided to cross it with the Gouais Blanc grape. A few medieval wine experiments later, Chardonnay was born.
Because they are closely related by origin, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are often found in the same wine regions. For example, Burgundy, France, where Pinot Noir was first cultivated, is also home to some of the best Chardonnay vineyards in the world.
The same goes for Chile. There, in the Casablanca Valley, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grow side-by-side, enjoying the cooling influence from their close proximity to the Pacific Ocean. As a general rule of thumb: where you find Pinot Noir, you’ll find Chardonnay and vice versa. Some winemakers even make a White Pinot Noir, which is has similarities to Chardonnay.
France, the United States, and Germany are the top Pinot Noir producers
With Pinot Noir originating from Burgundy, it’s no surprise that France is the number one producer of Pinot Noir. However, you might be surprised to learn that ranked number 2 and 3 on the world leaderboard are the United States and Germany respectively.
American Pinot Noir
In America, most Pinot Noir is grown in sunny California – the biggest wine-producing State in the country. Again, no surprises there. We were more amazed to learn that Oregon is actually second in Pinot Noir production. Not just that, but Oregon winemaker David Lett even placed second with his Pinot Noir at the 1980’s ‘Wine Olympics’, held in Paris…
This feat established Oregon as one of the world-class Pinot Noir regions. The secret to Oregon’s success with Pinot Noir is partly contributed to its geographic location.
The Willamette Valley, Oregon, home of various award-winning Pinot Noir wines, lies at the same latitude as Burgundy, France. It also boasts a very similar climate to its French competitor: cool and moderate, enabling the grapes to thrive in abundance.
German Pinot Noir (also known as Spätburgunder)
Germany ranks 3rd as the largest producer of Pinot Noir in the world. The wine, commonly known as Spätburgunder in Germany, comes mainly from its Pfalz, Nahe, Rheinhessen, and Baden regions.
The name Spätburgunder means ‘Late Burgundian’, a nod to its French heritage. Germany produces many Pinot Noir wines for export, though the very best labels are often more hard to come by…
These ‘rare’ darker, richer wines have been barrel-aged for years. Expensive and elusive, they are rarely exported and only available in limited editions.
The quality reputation of the German Pinot Noir’s isn’t a recent thing: William Shakespeare already spoke fondly of German Pinot Noir in various of his 16th-century plays. If you’re on the hunt for the best bottle of Pinot Noir, Germany can definitely offer you some great ‘Spätburgunder’ candidates!
How to choose a great Pinot Noir
Our ilovewine.com writer Kristen created a fantastic blog on ‘How to choose a great Pinot Noir’. Her top tip: do your research!
Pinot Noir can be quite a fickle grape to cultivate, meaning crops can go bad, and yields can be low. Pinot Noir is, therefore, a relatively expensive wine compared to other varieties.
A good bottle can easily set you back between 35 and 50 dollars, with some renowned labels even selling for up to 10.000. That’s the bad news.
The good news? You don’t have to blow your budget to score a good Pinot Noir. With the wine cultivated in both California and Oregon, there are some fantastic domestic options with a budget-friendly price-tag.
You might not be able to afford the super rare German Pinot Noir that Shakespeare wrote about, but you can get a perfectly pleasing bottle at your local wine store…
Kirsten concluded that: ‘The important thing is to do your research and talk to wine specialists for recommendations. Do not just pick a wine bottle because it looks cute.’ She included some useful tips on recommended domestic Pinot Noir producers.
Look for Domaine Drouhin, Chehalem, and Ken Wright in Oregon. Or Littorai, Gary Farrell, and Dehlinger in California. All will secure you of an effortless, light and easy-drinking Pinot Noir, grown and cultivated on home soil.
Pinot noir is one of the most versatile wines to match with food
As Pinot Noir is such as light, effortless wine, it pairs beautifully with a whole range of foods. As one of the most versatile red wines to match with food, the possibilities are endless.
This makes Pinot Noir one of the best wines for any dinner party. From seared salmon, roasted chicken and lamb to cinnamon sugar donuts: Pinot Noir has your wine pairings covered.
We found this fantastic guide on the Best Food Pairings for Pinot Noir: perfect for getting inspiration for your next dinner party. It details how different types of Pinot fit different style dishes, giving you a delicious overview of which combo’s work best.
The best Pinot Noir wine glass
Pinot Noir is best enjoying from a larger, rounder, bell-shaped glass. This type of glass allows the delicious aromas of the wine to come into full effect. Swirl it sophistically, sip it delicately. The perfect glass can instantly elevate your Pinot Noir experience to a whole nother dimension.
Need help picking out a glass? Then check out our Best Red Wine Glasses guide for more inspiration. You’re welcome!