Pinot Noir, the only red wine grape of Burgundy is thought to have been born from a seldom seen grape that is grown in only a few select areas of France, Gouais Blanc. Pinot Noir as a plant is quite complicated and seems to have spread its wings and has given birth to several off springs. There are 16 known, unique different types of Pinot noir grapes grown today. Pinot Noir is a popular grape that has become even more wide spread over the past 40 years. In fact, recent studies show that Pinot Noir is the 10th most widely planted grape in the world! Today there are a total of 117,358 hectares and perhaps more under vine of Pinot Noir cultivated all over the world.
Pinot Noir, the red wine grape of Burgundy, takes its name from a combination of the French word for pine, (Pinot), is due to its tight, pine cone shaped, fruit clusters. The word Noir comes from the grapes natural dark color. While Pinot grows in countless other countries, it reaches its highest peaks of expression in the cool climates and stony soils found in the Burgundy region. Pinot noir is also an important grape in Champagne, where it is either used on its own, or as a blending grape with Pinot Meunier and, or, Chardonnay. Like all the noble grape varieties, Pinot Noir also has its own holiday, International Pinot Noir Day is celebrated ever August 18.
PInot Noir wine is produced in a myriad of styles, depending on the terroir the vines are planted in and the desires of the wine maker. In France, the grape has naturally high acidity levels, which can vary, depending on if the grape is whole cluster vinified, meaning the stems are not removed, or not. Also, the degree of ripeness will have a lot to do with the style of the wine. In California, Pinot Noir is often a few degrees higher in alcohol, which producers a fleshier, ripe, darker, more concentrated wine, than you find in its European counterparts.
Pinot Noir has a long history dating back to the first century when the ancient Romans began enjoying it, due to its popularity in the recently conquered Gaul regions, in what later became France. In part, much of the early popularity of Pinot Noir is thanks to its continuing use by the Church and Catholic Monks. It was the wine of choice for sacraments. If it was good enough for the Church, of course the public came to love it as well.
Pinot Noir is a finicky, less hardy grape than Cabernet Sauvignon. It requires low yields and is subject to numerous illness that can be brought on by wind, cold or hot weather, fungus or rot, due to its thin skin and susceptible to disease. The grape does best in cool, dry climates with well drained, stony, or chalk infested soils.
Pinot Noir, due to its more delicate nature and red berry profile is perfect for many wine and food pairings. Pinot Noir matches well with duck, pork, veal, chicken, squab, tuna, salmon and other meaty fishes. Depending on the dish, and its seasoning or dipping sauces, Pinot Noir works well with many sushi or Sashimi dishes. Due to its high level of acidity, Pinot Noir stands up to foods and sauces that are higher in acidity.
Pinot noir produces a heavily perfumed wine with scents of earth, spice, cherries, strawberries and raspberries when ripe. It is a light to medium bodied wine, with high acidity that can age well. Burgundy is an expensive wine region. While great wines are produced in Burgundy, many wine collectors state, finding a good Burgundy is a bit of minefield. While the great wines are amazing, as often as not, the bottles they buy and open do not deliver their desired levels of pleasure. They also add, the hunt and failure is part of the fun.
The most famous and expensive of producer of Burgundy is Domaine Romanee Conti, which makes numerous wines including, Romanee Conti and La Tache. Domaine Romanee Conti takes credit for producing the world’s most expensive wine. A case of the 1978 Romanee Conti sold in 2013 for almost $500,000!
While France is the perfect terroir for Pinot Noir, which is where the grape provides its finest expression, Pinot Noir is planted all over the world. Aside from offering the best expression of Pinot Noir, France has the most planted hectares of the grape with 30,351 hectares planted to vine. The United States has the second largest area 29,542 hectares under vine. This is followed by Moldova, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Chile and Argentina.
The finest producers of Pinot Noir in California are located in Sonoma, especially in the Russian River Valley appellation, the Central Coast regions and Santa Barbara. Some of the better producers of Pinot nNir from Northern California are; Marcassin, Aubert, Peter Michael, Rochioli, Patz and Hall and Kistler. There are now numerous producers of Pinot Noir in the central coast of California that are making very good wines including Brewer Clifton and Ojai. In California, the degree of ripeness and alcohol has become an issue of contention between some growers, producers and wine lovers. Proponents of the riper style of Pinot Noir in California are headed by Loring and Siduri. The success of Pinot Noir in America is not limited to California. The grape has had great success in Oregon and Washington State. Robert Parker, the famous wine critic owns a vineyard, Beaux Freres in the Willamette Valley of Oregon that produces Pinot Noir.