Pinot Noir is one of France’s oldest grapes, its history dating back thousands of years.
Cistercian monks first cultivated this black wine grape in Burgundy over a century ago, but its vines are notoriously difficult to grow.
Listen to this post here:
Pinot Noir Wine - Complete Guide
What is Pinot Noir Wine?
Pinot Noir is the name of the grape that grows on Pinot Noir vines and the name of wines produced from the Pinot Noir grape as a single varietal.
In French, Pinot means “Pine”, and Noir means “Black”.
Pinot refers to the pinecone-shaped clusters on the vine, and Noir to the dark colour of the grapes.
For this reason, Pinot Noir wines are amongst the most expensive in the world and highly prized by wine collectors.
What Does Pinot Noir Taste Like?
Pinot Noir wines are typically light to medium-bodied with smooth tannins and bright acidity.
One can only describe its flavour as complex and textured.
Wines produced in cooler climates are generally light-bodied and easy to drink, while those from warmer regions are full-bodied and higher in alcohol.
Expect tasting notes of:
- Red cherry
- followed by woody, earthy flavours such as mushrooms and oak
How to Serve Pinot Noir Wine?
Ask any wine connoisseur, and they’ll tell you that you should enjoy Pinot Noir chilled at 12-18°C.
The lighter the wine, the cooler it should be, so if you prefer a full-bodied Pinot, serve it around the 18°C mark to bring out its complex flavours.
You can keep an open bottle of Pinot Noir in the fridge for up to 3 days, providing you seal it with its original cork.
Recommended Pinot Noir Food Pairings
Pinot Noir wines are light and refreshing, so they complement a variety of dishes.
You can pair pinot noir with:
- Tender meats such as Chicken, Rabbit, and Duck
- Sunday roast favourites like Lamb and Pork
- or even Salmon and Tuna
Pinot Noir is also delicious with vegetarian dishes such as mushroom risotto and asparagus pasta, and it pairs beautifully with cold charcuterie platters and cheese boards.
Try it with goat's cheese, camembert, nutty favourites like Gruyere, hard Parmeggiano Reggiano, and soft blue cheeses like Cambozola.
Pinot Noir Wine Regions Around the World
The origins of the ancient Pinot Noir grape are still unknown, but Burgundy in France is its spiritual home.
Here the vines thrive and produce some of the best Pinot Noir wines in the world.
Due to the success of Pinot Noir in France, winemakers in parts of Europe, South America, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States now grow the grape, and it is widely considered an ‘international’ variety.
But it doesn’t grow well everywhere.
Pinot Noir vines are happiest in cooler climates, where they develop their trademark acidity.
Outside of France, you’ll find the finest Pinot Noir wines in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, the San Antonio Valley of Chile, and the state of California in the US.
Characteristics of French Pinot Noir
Tasting French Pinot Noir is an experience in itself.
In Burgundy, where premium vines grow on east-facing slopes, these red wine grapes exhibit the most unusual earthy, floral flavours.
You’ll notice hibiscus and rose petals on the palate, followed by mushrooms, wet leaves, and potting soil.
In Burgundy, many winemakers ferment entire grape clusters, rather than individual grapes, to increase tannins and create award-winning Pinot Noir wines that will age for 20 years or more.
Winemaking processes may have advanced over the years, but the grapes are still cared for as they were by the Cistercian monks in the Middle Ages, each one respected and revered.
California Pinot Noir
You would be forgiven for thinking that California was too warm for Pinot Noir grapes to thrive, but the cooling Pacific Ocean breeze (and morning fog) keeps them at just the right temperature.
But American Pinot Noir wines are distinctly different to those produced in the Old World.
Buy a Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara, Sonoma or the Napa Valley, and you’ll get a rich, fruity wine with notes of cherry, raspberry, and hints of vanilla.
Undertones include allspice and Darjeeling tea, the intensity of which depends on how long the wine spends in French oak barrels.
The History of Pinot Noir
Research indicates that Pinot Noir stems from the ancient Vitis Sylvestris Vines first documented in the first century, but its origins remain unclear.
Whether the Romans brought it to France or not, we can be in no doubt that the Benedictine monks are to thank for establishing the vines.
In the Middle Ages, they would plant a vineyard next to every monastery, and they continued to do so for hundreds of years.
Cistercian monks were the first to recognise the quality of the Pinot Noir grape.
It became the official wine of the church, where they would use it in the sacrament of communion and other religious ceremonies.
In 1789, during the French Revolution, the vineyards were seized from the monks and handed to local French families, where many remain today.
Over the years, various researchers have studied the grapes to find their true origins, with some suggesting that Pinot Noir was a cross between Traminer and Schwarzriesling varieties, but these claims have since been refuted.
Whatever its origins, Pinot Noir is here to stay, and the wine it produces improves year after year.
Pinot Noir Wine vs Merlot Wine
Pinot Noir and Merlot wines are worlds apart in terms of taste and characteristic profile.
Pinot Noir is an elegant wine with red fruit flavours.
It is light to medium bodied and has a certain finesse and freshness that you rarely find in red wine.
Merlot wines are more robust and full-bodied.
They are darker in colour, richer in taste, and have more tannins and alcohol.
You can find out more about pinot noir vs merlot here.
Are Pinot Noir Wines Dry or Sweet?
Pinot Noir wines are typically dry with red fruit flavours.
During the pressing process, winemakers use yeast to convert the natural sugar into alcohol, with only traces of residual sugar (RS) left behind.
This residual sugar can lend sweetness to the wine (making them an option for people who don't like the taste of wine), but it remains dry on the palate and deliciously crisp when served at the recommended temperature.
Related: Is Pinot Noir Sweet?
Is Pinot Noir Strong?
How Many Calories are in Pinot Noir Wine?
As it’s a dry wine, Pinot Noir is not as calorific as rose and white wines, but it still has around 625 calories per bottle, or 125 calories per glass.
Like all red wines, Pinot Noir does contain a touch of residual sugar and therefore has a small number of carbs, but like all things in life, if enjoyed in moderation, it shouldn’t interfere with your waistband.
Before You Go...
We hope you enjoyed our article on Pinot Noir wine.
Do you need to know about other popular wine types to add something extra to your next dinner party?
Read our next article about popular red wines (and why) here...
If you have any questions, leave them in the comments, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can browse more posts on Wine Types here.
Expert Wine Storage can help you find a luxury wine fridge to store your precious wine collection.