Pinot Noir is certainly one of the most famous red grape varieties in the world, giving birth to many of the world’s most expensive wines.
Its versatility in the vineyard and ability to adapt to various terroirs allows winemakers around the globe to produce quality still red wines as well as sparkling wines of many different origins and styles..
We provide you here with simple and practical information about the grape:
- A summary of its origin and history
- Information about the Top Pinot Noir producing countries and regions
- Infographic and aroma wheel to guide you through the wine’s flavor profile while tasting
- Wine & Food Matching suggestions
- TOP 10 Pinot Noir wines
You’re looking at grape profiles other than Pinot Noir? Find more Top Grapes Infographics & Information, or keep reading.
Social Vignerons would like to warmly thank the Team at Cellier Domesticus for designing the aroma infographics on this page based on an SV original concept. Learn more this mobile app and sensor that allows to precisely monitor your wine cellar storage conditions in real-time at Cellier Domesticus presentation page.
Origin and history in brief:
Pinot Noir originates from the Burgundy wine region of France.
Pinot Noir’s exact origin remains relatively unknown, the creation and selection of the grape being much too ancient to have been recorded precisely.
What’s know however, is that Pinot Noir is part of a wider family of Pinots: Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Meunier. It is also closely related to other grapes such as Chardonnay, Gamay, or Melon de Bourgogne. The Pinot family of grapes is famous to be prone to natural mutations which explains the many variants of color, but also flavor profiles.
Pinot Noir also has a tendency to easily and naturally mute which has given birth to a large number of different clones, each with its own unique characteristics that clearly impact on the final wines’ profile. PN’s various clones are typical numbered and see their origins in Burgundy e.g. Dijon or Pommard. Famous clones numbers include Clone 115, 667, or 777.
Another famous characteristic of Pinot Noir is its ability to ‘reveal’ the terroir it grows onto. Depending where it is planted, the climate, soil, exposure, etc. the quality of the final Pinot Noir wines vary greatly, more than other grapes. This is responsible for the obsessive passion that many wine lovers have for the grape and the infinite variability of vineyard expressions.
Burgundy has been the home of Pinot Noir for centuries since monks installed and maintained vineyards, and vignerons there were by some distance the first Pinot fanatics. For many generations they have delimited their vineyards all along the Côte d’Or and have become experts at revealing the subtle variants out of the grapes and into the wines. They have named many of the vineyards in each village (e.g. Pommard, Nuits-Saint-Georges, or Vosne-Romanee) and classified them according to their quality creating the famous Grand Cru and Premier Cru classifications.
Pinot Noir has also proven versatile enough to be planted all around the world. The success of the 2004 Sideways movie finished showing the world how much passion could generate the grape. Plantings have since intensified further around the globe as the figures below highlight.
Top Producing Countries and Regions: Where is Pinot Noir Grown?
As the chart below reveals, France remains the largest producer of Pinot Noir by some distance with over 29,700 ha planted.
In France, Pinot Noir is primarily grown in its region of origin: Burgundy.
This includes the heart of the famous Bourgogne wine region that is the Côte d’Or (Côte de Beaune + Côte de Nuits) and all world-famous villages (or communes) such as Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-Saint-Denis, Vougeot, Vosne-Romanée, Pommard, or Aloxe-Corton.
But Pinot Noir is also extensively grown in the Côte Chalonnaise and Côte Maconnaise sub-regions of Burgundy where it produces simpler and more affordable expressions of French Pinot.
In addition, the Pinot Noir grape is with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier a main component of the Champagne blend in sparkling wines.
Less extensively, Pinot Noir is also planted in Alsace, and Languedoc-Roussillon.
The United States and California in particular have become a second home for the Pinot Noir grape.
The most expressive and refined examples come from the cooler coastal areas receiving cooling influence from the Pacific ocean. These include the Carneros sub-region of Napa Valley, the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast of the Sonoma County, or the Santa Maria Valley and Sta. Rita hills AVAs North of Santa Barbara.
There is also growing interest and quality found in Washington and Oregon Pinot Noirs.
With the growing appetite of Germans for red wines, plantings of Spätburgunder – as Pinot Noir is locally called – have increased importantly of the past two decades or so.
If Germany’s finest white wines are made from Riesling; the best reds or most highly regarded are Spätburgunders.
The majority of plantings are in Baden and the Pfalz regions.
- Other Countries and regions
As the chart above highlights, Moldova is surprisingly the fourth biggest producer of Pinot Noir, while Italy is a historically-important producer of Pinot Nero. Switzerland has also for long been growing significant amounts of the grape.
Pinot Noir has also become popular all round the ‘New World’ where cool-enough sites have been found to be favorable, such as the cool climates of New Zealand, Yarra Valley of Australia, Chile, or Argentina.
Winemaking, Flavor and Aroma Profile
Pinot Noir wines have a very characteristic and relatively easy to indentify aroma profile due to the intensity of its primary flavors coming from the grape. But being generally subtly-scented wines, they also develop plenty of complexity and bouquet through winemaking as well ageing in the bottle: the secondary and tertiary type of flavors.
To guide you through what the different Pinot Noir wines taste like, with our friends at Cellier Domesticus, we have assembled a simple yet complete Infographic that contains all the main aromas and flavors you will be able to commonly find in ‘Pinots’.
1- Primary Aromas is the term to describe the smells and flavors that come from the fruit itself, from the grapes (as opposed to the winemaking). Depending on the climate and the soil, whether it’s a cool climate or a warmer one, the primary aroma profile can vary greatly.
In a cool climate like in Burgundy where the grapes do not reach a very high level of maturation, wines can show typical herbaceous or herbal notes (ruharb, rosemary, beetroot, or green tea) together with subtle spices such as juniper, white pepper, or peppermint.
These delicate and light notes come with floral and fruity expressions so typical of Pinot Noir:
- Floral aromas of violet, rose petal, or geranium
- Acidic red fruit and berries aromas of sour cherry (often referred to as griotte), red cherry, strawbery, and fresh fig.
In warmer climates (like certain parts of California, Australia, or Chile for example), grape berries and their flavors will reach a higher level of ripeness revealing notes of darker fruits or jam like blackberry, black cherry, or plum/prune.
Most Pinot Noir wines combine several of the above flavor families. The best examples gather the whole spectrum in an elegant complexity.
2- Secondary aromas describe the smells acquired by the wine thanks to the winemaking process. The natural flavors present in the grapes (primary aromas) combine and interact with the yeasts and bacteria that run the fermentation to create further aromatic complexity.
Pinot Noir wines are not usually put in contact with a lot of new oak.
The traditionnal Bugundian style keeps the proportion of new oak barrels to a minimum to preserve the natural expression of the fruit and the primary aromas.
More modern styles looking for fuller textures and richer expressions use more new oak imparting stronger flavors.
Because the primary aromas of Pinot Noir give subtle flavors, light toasts of French oak are most commonly used. This gives wines notes of cedar, smoke, or vanilla.
3- Tertiary aromas are developed in the bottle with age, as the wine’s molecules interact with each other and with oxygen, changing their aromatic profile. Typically, Pinot Noirs develop notes of forrest floor, truffle, leather, roasted meats, and spices (e.g. clove or nutmeg).
If these flavors are too pronounced and get quite dominant, they can become negative. With time and bottle ageing, tertiary aromas become more and more intense, while fruity primary flavors slowly fade away until they disappear.
Most wine drinkers like when primary, secondary, and tertiary aromas are all equally present and combine to provide the maximum level of complexity. In the lifetime of a wine in bottle, there is a period of a few years where this wine aromas are perfectly balanced and provide the best experience and enjoyment: the ideal “drinking window”.
Pinot Noir wines generally age relatively well:
- the affordable ones can endure 3 to 5 years’ ageing
- the best examples in the world like in Burgundy or California can age and improve for decades.
To help you identify these various types of aromas at your next tasting, we’ve put together the following aroma wheel. Print it out and go through the different aroma sections while smelling the wine. If any smell rings the bell and seems to be present in the wine, you are not imagining. It is probably there and you hopefully know why now.
Being quite subtle, Pinot Noir wines pair best with delicate foods, although you’ll find them traditionally also paired with rich stews (e.g. the famous Boeuf Bourguigon, or Burgundian Beef). As a few tested combinations, we recommend you try the ones suggested in our world famous Infographics:
Top 10 Most Expensive Pinot Noir Wines in the World:
The most expensive Pinot Noir wines all come from Bugundy, France because they are scarce, famous, and fine. In fact they are all Grand Crus from the Côte de Nuits part of the Côte d’Or.
We’ve listed below 10 of the very finest examples as calculated by Wine-Searcher (links below will take you to producer websites or wiki pages):
- Henri Jayer Richebourg
- Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanee-Conti
- Domaine Georges & Christophe Roumier Musigny
- Domaine Leroy Musigny
- Henri Jayer Echezeaux
- Domaine Leroy Chambertin
- Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair La Romanee
- Domaine de la Romanee-Conti La Tache Grand Cru Monopole
- Domaine Leroy Richebourg
- Domaine Faiveley Musigny
Top 3 Most Expensive Pinot Noir Sparkling Wines, Blanc de Noirs Champagne:
Pinot Noir is sometimes (not that often) bottled by itself in Champagne sparkling wines, therefore not blended, in which case it is called a Blanc de Noirs.
The 3 most expensive ones are:
- Krug Clos d’Ambonnay
- Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Francaises Blanc de Noirs
- Billecart-Salmon ‘Le Clos Saint Hilaire’ Blanc de Noirs Brut
Some Top Pinot Noir Wines from around the World:
To try top examples of Pinot Noir wines in other countries, and generally more affordable ones than the above ones (it’s not hard is it!!), we’ve also selected a few from various regions, in California and around the globe:
- Meiomi Pinot Noir, California
- Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Sonoma County
- Kistler Vineyards ‘Kistler Vineyard’ Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, California
- Ata Rangi Pinot Noir, Martinborough, New Zealand (see also our Ata Rangi wine review on Social Vignerons)
- Erath Pinot Noir, Oregon
- Bollinger Coteaux Champenois La Cote Aux Enfants, Champagne, France
- Veramonte Ritual Pinot Noir, Casablanca Valley, Chile
- Weingut Daniel & Marta Gantenbein Pinot Noir, Graubunden, Switzerland
- Yabby Lake Vineyard Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula, Australia
- Bodega Chacra ‘Barda’ Pinot Noir, Rio Negro, Argentina
- Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand
You’ve liked this Pinot Noir profile and want to learn about other grape varieties?
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Find further useful information about Pinot Noir grape’s history and countries of production on Wikipedia.
Jancis Robinson also publishes a very comprehensive article about the grape.
Check out all of Social Vignerons’ Pinot-Noir-related reviews and articles.
Again Social Vignerons would like to warmly thank the Team at Cellier Domesticus for supporting the production of this page and designing the aroma infographics on this page based on an SV original concept.
Learn more this mobile app and sensor that allows to precisely monitor your wine cellar storage conditions in real-time at Cellier Domesticus presentation page or click on the images below: