Pinot Noir Description:
The History, Flavor, and Definition of Pinot Noir
What is the best, most accurate Pinot Noir description? A very good --and sometimes very complicated!-- question.
In French, the grape "Pinot Noir" translates as black pine, named for the color of the dark purple fruit. It's is a wine that's been produced with a huge variety of complex notes and aromas in different regions around the world. Which makes it difficult to come up with a "pat" definition on which everyone agrees.
In simplest form, however, for wine be given the definition of Pinot Noir, it must be made with Pinot Noir grapes. Pretty simple, right? But whether you're planning a nice dinner or throwing a wine tasting party, there's a lot more to this incredible wine than the name!
A Basic Pinot Noir Description:
There's a whole lot going on with this wine, and its flavor will be influenced by a ton of different factors, which you can read about below. But in general, this is a light to medium bodied dry red wine
with dark fruit (black cherry, raspberry) notes. The grape is also used in sparkling wines, like champagne.
When you've learned all you want about Pinot, learn more about the definitions of other wine types right here!
What Makes Pinot Noir Wine Great
In just about any Pinot Noir description, you'll find that these grapes are famous for being difficult to cultivate. This is because this particular variety of grape is only two generations apart from a wild grape. It's very sensitive to growing and fermenting conditions. Which means that making a good Pinot Noir is a delicate and difficult process-- and, when it goes well, makes the resulting Pinot Noir wine very special.
Pinot Noir vs. Cabernet. If you compare the Cabernet grapes to the Pinot Noir description, you will find that the leaves on Pinot Noir vines are smaller, and the grapes bear a slightly cone-like curve. Pinot grapes are also, by comparison, delicate and vulnerable to disease. Growers of this grape know it's picky about light, heat, and even the type of yeast used to turn it into wine.
In turn, this makes Pinot Noir, by description, more expensive to grow and produce compared to some other --easier-- wine varieties. And makes it rich and complex when made properly. Despite --or perhaps because of-- its difficulty, this wine has gathered staggering popularity among wine lovers. The intensity of the aroma, the slightly sweet fruit notes, and the color seems to inspire Pinot fans to wax poetic.
Where Pinot Noir Wine is Made
By definition, Pinot Noir grapes grow best in cooler climes such as Burgundy France and Sonoma, California. It's also grown and made into wonderful wines all over the world, including Australia, Austria, Chile, Germany, and more.
All around the world you'll find many different varieties of this wonderful wine-- and the Pinot Noir description of each variety will be a bit different, each with its own bouquet, flavor and texture.
Why Such Variety in Pinot?
Some of this variety is thanks to this grape's propensity for mutation-- providing a diversity of clones with which a clever brewer can tinker. While the majority of Pinot Noir wine has a light or medium body and a fruity smell, the way it's grown and produced / paired with other flavors can change everything.
Currently, for example, many vintners in California produce Pinot Noir that is, by description, very dark and intense. Meanwhile in Austria, Pinot Noir is more similar to a the French version, Pinot Noir Burgundy wine (and sometimes bears the name Blauburgunder, meaning blue burgundy). And all over the world, this is the grape of choice for sparkling white wines.
In recent years, Pinot Noir has become a truly global wine. In Germany they use the grapes to produce a version that's often aged in barrels, creating another unique flavor signature. While in New Zealand the wine produced in Martinborough has received a variety of international acclaim.
The French Connection
When most people think of a basic Pinot Noir description, the first thing they probably think of is the French version of this wine, which is produced in the Burgundy region. You can't talk about the definition of Pinot Noir without talking about Burgundy Pinot, a rich wine that ages beautifully. These are usually pricey, as they're best when well-aged and are often produced in small batches.
Pinot Noir Popularity
It was a round 2004 when Pinot Noir really started taking off in popularity in the United States. This has a variety of reasons. For one, it's an elegant "status" wine that indicates a true wine lover. It's also a lighter bodied red wine that pairs nicely with a wide variety of food. And it also has begun to produced with greater frequency and success by American vintners in California and Oregon.
And, of course, as I've illustrated on this page... there are enough varieties of this wine and enough different Pinot Noir descriptions that anyone would be hard pressed not to find a version of this wine they love. After all, there are so many flavors to choose from!
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