Pinot Noir | Champion of Burgundy

Pinot Noir | Champion of Burgundy

Fast Facts

  • Sixth most planted grape varietal
  • Regions outside of France: West Germany, Northern Italy, Australia, New Zealand, USA
  • Generally aromas of cherry, raspberry, and violets


The history of the name ‘Pinot’ has often been up for debate, some believing it came from the French term pinot meaning pinecone as the small bunches of red grapes are formed in a similar shape to a pinecone. Others suggest it originated from French villages such as Pinos or Pignols, where the grape is said to have been cultivated since the Middle Ages.

First considered to be a part of the “Pinot Family”; with Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Meunier. It wasn’t until acute DNA profiling was completed that it was deemed they weren’t simply family but mutations or clones from the single common varietal. This diversity of Pinot Noir’s cloning abilities is due to it being in existence for over 2000 years, and an ancestor of so many current varieties including Gamay, Aligote, and Chardonnay.

The origins of its first growth is also considered to be one of two locations, either Northeast France or Southwest Germany, both of which have wild vines of the historic grape varietal.

Growing the Grape

With the home of Pinot Noir is Burgundy, a highly terroir driven region, the grape varietal is heavily influenced by its climate and soils on which it grows. Yet, before reaching the growth stage, many vineyard owners must first decide upon planting the vines. This brings with it contention about the use of clones and the balance of bringing complexity with clones or retaining old vines only, all which impact the resulting wine that is cellared. 

As Pinot Noir is blessed with the ability to grow upon a vast range of soils, its versatility has drawn in winemakers around the world. The soils it prefers the most though, is that of marl soils which are more porous and have elements of limestone aiding in drainage. It is also slightly more fussy with its climate, preferring a much cooler climate to encourage the acidity and delicate flavours to truly shine, too hot and the thick skins will not respond well and overfill with sugars when ripened too quickly.

It’s versatile nature allows the winemaker to choose whether they create a light and sophisticated wine or something more powerful and full-bodied. The choice of terroir and actions within the vatting rooms has a heavy impact upon the result. There is no one way of vinifying the Pinot Noir grape, as the winemakers have so much choice now to alter at different stages of production. The full Vinification Process is able to be applied to the grape.

Three bottles of pinot noir

Drinking Pinot Noir

Still Red Wines

A lighter red wine compared to most is produced from a Pinot Noir grape, with its softer tannins and moderately-high acidity. The thick skin of this red wine grape brings with it these characteristics that tend to be favourable as a crowd pleaser, with its versatile nature and able to adapt to lighter or deeper shades as relevant to the winemaker's aim.

Almost every Pinot Noir you taste will send aromas of cherry and raspberries over you, with leather and mossy notes more relevant to the type of climate the grape was grown in.

Sparkling Wines

Found in the region of Champagne, Pinot Noir is a popular grape alongside Chardonnay to be used as a single varietal or blend for sparkling wine, with around 38% of all Champagne vineyards planted Pinot Noir. Any label stating Blanc-de-Noirs is a single varietal wine and slightly richer and bolder than other Champagnes.

Rosé Wines

Often found outside of France, in the California, Marlborough, and Yarra Valley regions of America, New Zealand and Australia respectively. Lessening the contact of the skins during the production allows the structure and colour to deepen while still remaining a nice dry wine.

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