“Only somebody who really takes the time to understand pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh, its flavors. They’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and … ancient on the planet.”
That’s how the character Miles Raymond describes his favorite wine—pinot noir—in the Oscar-winning 2004 movie Sideways.
Pinot noir grapes are widely considered to produce some of the finest wines in the world, but it is a difficult variety to cultivate and transform into wine. The grape’s tendency to produce tightly packed clusters makes it susceptible to several viticultural hazards involving rot that require diligent canopy management. The thin-skins and low levels of phenolic compounds lends Pinot to producing mostly lightly colored, medium bodied low tannin wines that can often go through dumb phases with uneven and unpredictable aging. When young, wines made from Pinot noir tend to have red fruit aromas of cherries, raspberries and strawberries. As the wines age, Pinots have the potential to develop vegetal and “barnyard” aromas that can contribute to the complexity of the wine.
While the origins of this ancient grape are not entirely known, Burgundy, France, has long been the spiritual home of Pinot Noir, where it produces some of the best single-varietal wines in the world. As the wines of Burgundy rose in fame and price, winemakers around the world sought to emulate the region’s success. This led to plantings of Pinot Noir throughout other parts of Europe and the New World.
However, Pinot Noir does better in cooler climates, as its trademark acidity, delicacy and finesse disappear in warmer climates and hot weather. Today, the countries that produce the finest Pinot Noir are France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, New Zealand, Australia, the United States (California, Oregon and New York) and Chile. Because of its widespread popularity, Pinot Noir is considered an “international” variety.