Pinot Noir

Pinot noir is a variety of red grape falling under the species Vitis vinifera.  Pinot noir wine is famous for its complex flavor consisting of berries, plums and sometimes can even have a hint of spices such as a mint or cinnamon. Tannins in this wine cause it to have a silky smooth texture while acidity gives it a lovely crispness. Generally historians believe this grape derived its name from “pine cone” as bunches of these grapes are shaped like pine cones and “pinot” “noir” in French literally translates to “cone”  “black”.

Pinot noir varietal wine is often considered to be some of the finest wine in the world, and this has resulted in this grape being cultivated in many different areas of the world ranging from Australia to France. A prime example of pinot noir wine that is famous worldwide is Romanée-Conti produced by the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti vineyard.

Pinot Noir Grapes in the Willamette Valley

Origin of Pinot Noir

Pinot noir is normally thought to originate from the Burgundy region of France. As per historical records it first appeared during the First Century AD in Burgundy, but it could have been brought into the region by ancient Greeks. However, since Pinot noir is an ancient grape it is sometimes believed to be closely related to wild vines. There are several mutants and clones of the Pinot noir such as Pinot Liébault and Pinot Tordu, and some of these produce higher yields. As this grape has been cultivated for a long period of time, a number of mutations and clones have arisen, of which 50 are officially known to exist in France alone. Pinot noir is grown either for still wines or sparkling wines such as champagne.

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Regions Producing Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is grown in many countries and it is used to produce celebrated wines.

  1. France – Pinot noir is immensely popular in the Burgundy region of the France especially in the Côte-d’Or, home to many a famous Pinot noir wine.
  2. Australia – Here the grape is produced in areas such as the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Victoria Hills.
  3. Austria – Sometimes called Blauburgunder or Blue Burgundy, Pinot Noir is grown in lower Austria. Pinot noir wine produced here is generally dry and often similar to that found in the Burgundy region of France.
  4. United States – Large amounts of Pinot Noir grape is grown in the state of California. Oregon ranks second in production while some amount of this grape is also grown in the states of Washington and New York.  Several specific American Viticultural Areas are known to produce high quality grapes of this variety; the most famous among them is the Willamette Valley.
  5. New Zealand – In New Zealand this grape has been grown successfully in the Central Otago wine region. Several wines from this region have won taste challenges as the weather conditions are similar to those of Burgundy.  Many other regions in the New Zealand, such as the Canterbury and Martinborough also grow this grape.
  6. Italy – Here this grape is known as Pinot Nero and has been grown in many regions such as Alto Adige and Oltrepò Pavese.
  7. Germany – Here Pinot noir is called Spätburgunder which in English means “Late Burgundian” and is the most widely cultivated grape. Originally, Pinot noir wine produced in this country was pale in color now wines with a deeper color are being produced in regions such as Baden and Palatinate.

2002 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir

Preparation of Pinot Noir Wine

Pinot noir is notoriously hard to grow and difficulties plague the fermentation process, which is why good Pinot noir wine is highly prized. Usually winemakers employ the “cold soak” method when making this wine. The grapes are de-stemmed, and after crushing placed to ferment in a container. To this container is added potassium metabisulfite to prevent bacterial formation. This container is then chilled to 50° F for three days which results in a wine with a deeper color and better flavor. After three days the container is warmed so that fermentation can begin, and yeast strains such as Wyeast Assmannhausen are added.  Different yeast strains can impart various flavors to the wine, for instance Wyeast Bordeaux produces strong berry flavored wine.

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Food Pairing for Pinot Noir Wine

Pinot noir combines well with a number of foods, in fact this grape is said to produce the best food wine. The best food to combine with pinot noir wine is grilled salmon, roast beef or any dish that features mushrooms in abundance. Roasted or braised pheasant and duck, cream based sauces and spicy food also go well with wine made from Pinot noir.

Shiitake and Basilicum toast / Tostada de shiitake con albahaca

Aging/Serving Pinot Noir Wine

Pinot noir produces wines that age well. Wines from the Burgundy region especially tend to develop a floral flavor as they age and sometimes are best 15-20 years after production. Cheaper varieties of this wine can be consumed within a year of production and some people prefer to do so as Pinot noir wine can often lose its fruity flavor when aged.

Pinot Noir Wine: Trivia

Pinot noir is often considered to be created by the devil as it is a difficult grape to grow but yields great tasting wine.

Image sources:
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