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Grape Varieties: Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir Grape Variety

Pinot Noir 

Pinot Noir has long been treasured in the famous French region of Burgundy, where it makes beautiful, complex, and sometimes extremely expensive wines. But it wasn’t until 2004 with the release of the movie, Sideways, that Pinot Noir began gaining mainstream popularity in the United States. In the film, the main character has a love affair with Pinot Noir and extols its virtues constantly.

After the release of Sideways, Americans began their own obsession with the grape. Since the movies release Pinot Noir plantings have increased over 170% in California. Today, there is a Pinot Noir section every half-way decent supermarket, and Pinot Noir is now listed along Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc as a grape varietal that even causal wine drinkers recognize.

But what is it about this grape that makes it so special?

Pinot Noir Taste Profile:

One of the most unique aspects of Pinot Noir is how versatile it is. Depending on the region, country, and winery it can be made into a red, a rosé, or even a sparkling wine. As a red wine, it produces a dry wine with a light to medium body, medium to high acidity, and a light amount of tannins.

It often has notes of red fruits like strawberry, cherry, and raspberry with earthy notes like mushroom, forest floor and wet leaves; although the ratio of fruity to earthy notes varies depending on where the grape is grown.

This balance of fruit and earth notes is part of what makes Pinot Noir so special. This balance is part of what makes Pinot Noir wines so complex. And this complexity is another reason why Pinot Noir is so beloved by wine drinkers throughout the world.

cluster of dark purple grapes

Where is Pinot Noir Produced?

As Pinot Noir has become more popular with wine drinkers, more and more wineries have started planting and producing more Pinot Noir. Through the past couple decades Pinot Noir has spread to almost every wine-producing country in the world with the top three producers of Pinot Noir being France, the United States, and Germany.

French Pinot Noir

Flavors: Cherry, hibiscus, rose petal, mushroom, potting soil

The most famous Pinot Noir region is the French region of Burgundy. Here, Pinot Noir is turned into some of the most expensive wine in the world. Burgundian Pinot Noir is famous for its complex and earthy aromas and flavors. It ages beautifully and is often aged at least a few years before being drunk.

Did you know? The three main grape varieties in Champagne are Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay.

Another French region famous for its Pinot Noir is one that is often forgotten about; Champagne. Pinot Noir is one of three grapes grown and used to make the world’s most famous sparkling wine. The majority of Champagne is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier. But it is common for Champagne houses to produce a ‘Blanc de Noirs’ Champagne, meaning the wine was only made with Pinot Noir and sometimes a bit of Pinot Meunier.

The Burgundy Wine Region

Burgundy, France – The home of Pinot Noir

American Pinot Noir

Flavors: Cherry, Raspberry, Allspice, Darjeeling Tea, Vanilla

American Pinot Noir production is mostly centered in Oregon and California. In California, Pinot Noir tends to get riper in the California heat creating a richer, fruitier wine. While colder Oregon produces Pinot Noir that is closer in style to Burgundy, with a lighter body, higher acidity, and more earthy aromas.

In Oregon, Willamette Valley is the most famous Pinot Noir region. In California, Pinot Noir production is concentrated in the northern half of the state, with both Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley as two of the best known Pinot Noir regions.

Willamette Valley, Oregon

German Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is actually called Spätburgunder in Germany and makes up the majority of red wine produced in the country. German Pinot Noir is light in body and alcohol with higher levels of acidity. Because German Pinot Noir is not as nearly as famous as French or American Pinot Noir, it’s not uncommon to find good quality examples at a great price point. Two regions worth searching out are Ahr and Baden.

Other Significant Pinot Noir Regions

Pinot Noir is also produced in significant quantities in Australia, New Zealand, and Italy. In New Zealand, Central Otago, Martinborough, and Marlborough are the best known Pinot Noir regions. While in Australia, Yarra Valley, Tasmania, and the Adelaide Hills are the most famous.

In Italy, Pinot Noir is often called Pinot Nero, and grows best in the cooler northern part of the country.


55 to 60°F / 12 to 15°C

Type of glass:
Aroma collector, Pinot Noir red wine glass.

10+ years

Pinot Food Pairings:

Another reason Pinot Noir is so popular is because it is a great food wine. Its lighter body and high acidity makes it pair with a wide range of dishes. Chicken, duck, pork, mushrooms, pasta, and even heavier fish dishes are great pairing options. Because it goes with so many foods, Pinot Noir is a great bottle to order at a restaurant when each diner is ordering a different dish.

6 Fun facts about Pinot Noir:

  1. Pinot Noir probably originated in Burgundy, France.
  2. Mark your calendar! August 18th is Pinot Noir Day.
  3. Pinot Noir enjoys the same climate as Chardonnay. You will often find these two grapes planted nearby.
  4. Pinot Noir is one of the more difficult grape varieties to grow.
  5. Pinot Noir is one of the few red grapes to be commonly processed into red, rosé, and sparkling wine!
  6. DNA analysis revealed that Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc are merely mutations of the same grape!


Hartke, Kristen. 2017. “‘The Sideways Effect’: How a Wine-Obsessed Film Reshaped the Industry.” NPR, July 5, 2017, sec. The Salt.

“Pinor Noir Wine 101: Tasting Notes, Styles & More.” 2018. Wine Folly. September 12, 2018.


Want to read more about Pinot Noir? Try out these books!

Passion for Pinot Noir BookBook on Pinot Noir


Book Now



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