Pinot Noir is a red grape variety that is part of the Pinot wine family that includes Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Meunier. This grape variety is most closely associated with France’s Burgundy wine region, which is renowned for its widely varying terroir. That means that Pinot Noir wines created in two different villages in Burgundy, even if separated by only a mile, may differ widely.
Pinot Noir’s popularity has led to it being embraced by winemakers in northern Italy, Germany, Chile, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, California and Oregon. In addition to Burgundy, the most famous wine regions producing the highest quality Pinot Noir wines include the Willamette Valley in Oregon, Sonoma and the Central Coast in California, and Otago and Marlborough in New Zealand.
Although Pinot Noir is a red grape variety used to make still red wines, it is also used in making sparkling white wines. Most notably, it is blended with Pinot Meunier in making Champagne.
With Pinot Noir so heavily influenced by its native terroir, the range of different expressions of this grape in terms of texture, bouquet and flavor can vary quite widely. Higher quality Pinot Noir tends to be richer and more intense, while lower quality wines are more watery and acidic.
In general, Pinot Noir grapes are renowned for creating light-colored, medium-bodied wines that are low in tannins. Flavor and aroma notes can include cherry (both black and red), raspberry, currant and different berry fruits. Pinot Noir wines from France (and especially Burgundy) are known for having very intense “barnyard” aromas.