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Pinot Noir In Glass

Pinot Noir arguably makes some of the world’s greatest wines, typically medium bodied reds with perfumed aromas that can also evolve with age. It often possesses an exotic bouquet along with a velvety, mouth-filling texture. Pinot Noir exhibits flavors of ripe red fruit, cherry, chocolate, toast and spices. It is, however, a fickle grape that demands a cool climate, low yields and great care in the vineyard. Its spiritual home is Burgundy, where it is the only grape permitted in producing the famous red wines of the Cote d’Or, but is also successfully grown in Oregon, California and New Zealand. These New World wines tend to be more reliable than their French counterparts, although they rarely reach the same heights. Pinot Noir is also used in champagne and other sparkling wines.

Pinot Noir is infamous for it’s summer fruit flavors when the wine is young. Oak maturation adds a nice creamy, vanilla dimension. With age, aromas of game and truffles may develop. Of course this all depends on the winery & the terroir it is grown in. It is also considered the most sensual, seductive red wine with its exotic, inviting, perfumed, spicy, earthy and vividly fruity flavors. If Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the structured, conservative buttoned down wines, then Pinot Noir is the lavish, artistic, sensual wine.

Admirers of this impossibly difficult grape love to debate over which California wine region produces the best Pinot Noir. There is no definitive answer, but the main contenders are generally thought to be Sonoma Coast, Carneros and the Russian River Valley. Sonoma Coast is too recently planted for anyone to be certain about it’s potential, but it’s Pinot Noirs can have exquisite perfume and considerable finesse and purity; Carneros, while fresh and fruity, is rarely complex or long-lived; and Russian River Valley delivers more layered wines, with Burgundian nuances and an ability to age for the medium term. There are other areas of note from the Central and Southern regions, but is is the North Coast that has the longest track record. Californian Pinot Noir rarely emulates Burgundy, but the combination of selected sites, good clones and sensitive wine-making is beginning to produce some world-class wines.

Pinot Noir Grapes

The ‘reference point’ for Pinot Noir is in Burgundy’s Cote d’Or, where the grape has been cultivated and recognized for its quality for a thousand years. Wine-makers in California, Oregon and Australia emulate the top domaines in Burgundy and the results, while mixed even 10 years ago, have been dramatic. California’s best success with Pinot Noir has been the cooler climate areas of Carneros and the Russian River Valley. Oregon has prevailed, especially in the Willamette Valley with soils and temperatures most similar to those in Burgundy.

Pinot Noir is experiencing a golden age, but this is a grape variety legendary for it’s difficulty. Think skinned, late ripening, prone to rot and easily damaged by rough handling in the vineyard and winery, Pinot Noir is notoriously tough to make into good wine. The reason winegrowers continue to put up with its fickleness is that then their efforts are successful, the resulting wine can be extraordinary. Great Pinot Noir is a decadent experience, a life long memory.

Frankly, the results used to be bad more often than good. But hard work and cooperation among Pinot Noir producers regardless of nationality have combined to reverse that trend. Pinot Noir is the source of more delicious, memorable wines than ever before.

We’ve created a list of the types of aromas, styles and flavors Pinot Noir is known for, as well as some food pairing tips here.