PINOT NOIR

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Having started with Riesling it would seem to be logical to stick to the whites but, I am of a different logic and have decided to look at Pinot Noir.

The Pinot Noir grape is a red one, is used in burgundy wines, but can be used to make a white wine, in this case Champagne. So it is like Riesling a grape for cooler climates and that is my excuse why it is next.

Pinot Noir forms the basis of Burgundy wines, which can be amongst the most expensive in the World, although another grape, the Gamay, can also be used in a blend. The bottle labels do not say the grape or even that is a blend.

Burgundy is a general geographical area and relates to an ancient region of  France. Within it there are many differently named wines which trade off a name other than Burgundy. This is similar to Bordeaux wines which are better known by the sub divisions of the Bordeaux region, like St Emillion, Graves etc or by individual vineyard name like Mouton Rothschild.


The region stretches from Dijon in the North to Lyons in the South.

Beaujolais is a Burgundy wine but is not made from Pinot Noir as it is 100% Gamay.

So if you are drinking one of the following, Cote de Beaune, Cote de Nuits, Cote Challonaise you will be drinking Pinot Noir or predominantly Pinot Noir with Gamay.

If you are drinking a Macon or a Beaujolais, it will be 100% Gamay.

Like Bordeaux, the wines are ranked by quality and this can also include the village as well as the vineyard. It is extremely confusing, perhaps deliberately so.

Beyond that, the labeling of these wines is extremely confusing and often the vineyard’s name takes predominance. Read well and good luck.

The main things to know about the Pinot Noir grape is that it is very difficult to grow, has a tendency to mutate (Pinot Gris is one such natural mutant), can be  produced in many different styles depending on the soil and prefers a cooler climate even a micro one.

Outside France, things are generally a lot easier.

As the Pinot Noir grape does not grow well in warmer climates yon have to go cooler wine regions like New Zealand, USA and the two Andean areas of Chile and Argentina.

Pinot does not fare well in California except where the vineyard is close to the ocean, and can be at its best in Oregon although Washington State, further north does not produce Pinot Noir well but can produce Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The answer to that conundrum is that Oregon’s wine regions are influenced by cooling sea breezes whilst the Washington regions are further inland and protected by mountains.

If you see an Australian Pinot Noir, try to make sure it comes from Tasmania rather than from the Adelaide area.  If New Zealand, North and South Island wines can be excellent, lighter in the South than the North.

In Eastern Europe, South Africa and mainland Australia the wine is fuller.

The wines can be oak matured or not depending on how light it is. Despite having a low tannin content, in comparison to Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, the top quality French Burgundies can last up to thirty years. New World wines are nearly all made to be drunk relatively young.

Pinot also turns up in Germany, as Spaetburgunder, and in the Loire ( Reuilly, Sancerre and Menetou-Salon, regions) These are all relatively light reds.

I mentioned at the beginning that Pinot Noir is used to make Champagne; a red grape making a white wine. Just next door to Champagne some vineyards make a red Pinot.  To me it seems like a fuller Rosé rather than a red but I must admit to drinking it in Summer as a chilled rosé type wine, and very refreshing it is too. Better that most Rosés.