Pinot Noir: What Is It?

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Pinot Noir describes the name of a grape and wine variety. The phrase, derived from the French language, means pine-pinot and black-noir. The grapes usually grow in cone-shaped pine clusters and have a dark hue. The wine is made up of 100% grapes and comes in four single varietal types of wine, including red pinot noir (the most popular), sparkling pinot noir, white pinot noir, and rose pinot noir.

Characteristics of Pinot Noir Grapes

This is a versatile grape used to make red or white wine. The grapes have a light red color and translucent skins since they usually retain water while still on the vine. However, grapes are commonly used to make red wine, and that’s why white pinot noir wines are rare. The main characteristics of these grapes include:

Faster growth: the grapes have a shorter growing season than other grapes. It only takes pinot noir grapes 100 days to grow fully, while other wines might take up to eight months to attain full maturity.

Selective growing conditions: these grapes thrive in a narrow range of temperatures and environmental conditions. You will find the grapes mainly in dry climatic areas with chalky or clay soil with warm days and cool nights.

Delicate: these grapes have thin skins, making them more susceptible to infections than other grapes. They are vulnerable to fungus and rot that might quickly spread if not handled as soon as possible.

What Does this Wine Taste Like?

Pinot Noir’s versatile profile means that its flavor significantly varies, depending on where the grapes were grown and the surrounding growing conditions. For instance, France’s pinot noir may have an earthier flavor with forest-floor and mushroom notes. On the other hand, a Californian pinot noir might have notes of clove, vanilla, and black cherries. But the general profile of this wine gives it the following taste description:

Earthy: has elements of leather and mushroom notes

Fruity: this includes cherry, strawberry, blackberry, and raspberry flavors.

Spicy: this includes notes such as clove, tobacco, and cinnamon,

How is Pinot Noir Made?

This popular wine is made from black-skinned grapes that normally thrive in cooler climates. These grapes are notoriously known for their growth difficulty.

The grapes are harvested early in the morning or at night to ensure that the grapes remain fresh. The cooler early morning or night temperatures delay the fermentation process to some extent, and this offers more control during the wine-making process.

After harvesting, the grapes are de-stemmed and placed in a stainless-steel tank. Here, there will be given time to undergo the “cool soak” before the fermentation process starts. The cool soak is important in ensuring Pinot Noir ends up with smoother tannins and deeper color.

The next step involves crushing the grapes to produce juice. The juice and grape skins must be left to ferment at lower temperatures to retain the unique aromas. Some manufacturers may also stir the juice and skins to enhance the richer color and develop smoother tannins.

After that, the juice, skins, and seeds will be separated into different barrels, especially made from French oak. The juice will stay here for 9-12 months before it’s finally bottled.

Why is Pinot Noir Difficult to Make?

There are various viticulture hazards that its wine grapes are susceptible to, including rot. the grapes with thin skins usually grow in tightly packed clusters, making them highly susceptible to rot since the tight bunches don’t allow easier airflow. Additionally, this also promotes uneven ripening.

Pinot Noir grapes also love the cooler climate spectrum since the thin skin makes them susceptible to sunburns in warm areas.

Where is Pinot Noir Grown?

Pinot Noir can be found worldwide, but certain places have a higher concentration. France is the largest Pinot Noir producer with high concentrations in Champagne, Loire, Burgundy, and Alsace.

In the US, the leading producer is found in California, with the wine grapes being grown in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, which normally experiences the cooler Pacific Ocean winds.

You can also find it in the Italian regions of Veneto, Tuscany, and Lombardia. Other notable European countries include Switzerland and Germany. Recently, the cooler sub-regions of Bio Bio and Casablanca in Chile also cultivate this wine grape. This is an international wine variety known for its trademark finesse of disappearing in hot weather and warmer climatic conditions. It has a high level of acidity, and its delicacy is unmatched. In terms of acres, here are the top 6 biggest wine-producing countries:

I. France

II. United States

III. Germany

IV. Moldova

V. Italy

VI. New Zealand

Is Pinot Noir Dry or Sweet?

The red fruit flavors make many people question whether this wine is dry or sweet. While its juice has a high level of acidity naturally, this isn’t an indication of high sugar content. It’s also worth noting that Pinot Noir’s processing style makes it dry.

After the juice is pressed from the grapes, yeast is used to convert the sugar from the grapes into alcohol. The converted sugar is responsible for creating the dry wine. Some manufacturers usually leave some sugar behind, i.e., the residual sugar that gives the wine a hint of sweetness and rich profile.

Pinot Noir was a fruity flavor- the red fruit flavor. The most prominent flavors in this wine are usually cherry, raspberry, and strawberry. Generally, the versions of this wine tend to vary based on the different climatic conditions and regions, which result in various flavor profiles. But regardless of that, the wine will still have its fruit-based flavor.

How to Drink Pinot Noir

The best way to serve this drink is in a large bell-shaped glass. This will allow you to enjoy its aroma fully. This wine doesn’t need to be decadent, but you must store your unfinished wine in a fridge and ensure that you consume it within three days. If you wait longer, the oxidation process will end up damaging the wine.

So, do you need to serve this red wine warm or cold? There is a common misconception that all red wines should be served at room temperature. Understand that room temperature varies depending on the season and your location.

But the best way to serve this wine is specifically at 55 degrees Fahrenheit or when it’s slightly chilled.

Pinot Noir contains low sugar content and high amounts of antioxidants. This makes it ideal for health-conscious individuals who need to watch out for what they eat. Taking this wine will improve your body’s natural antioxidant properties, which might help to eliminate free radicals from the body.

Is Pinot Noir the Same as Merlot?

No. while they are almost similar, they have different profiles. Both wines have similar berry flavors and are categorized as tannic red wines. However:

Merlot wine is mostly used in blends, while pinot is generally made as a single-varietal wine.

Pinot noir has a lighter color, and its tasting notes include red fruits such as raspberries. On the other hand, merlot is darker and has flavor notes that resemble dark fruits such as blackberries.

What are the Best Food Pairings for Pinot Noir?

This wine’s beautiful tannings, complex structure, and light body make it ideal for pairing with a wide range of foods. You can pair this wine with your favorite foods depending on the location. For instance, fruit-forward pinot noir wines typically from warmer climates should be paired with seafood and fatty fish. Besides that, you can pair this wine with meat dishes and vegetable-inspired dishes. The best food pairings include:

Grilled meats: the combination of these meats’ spicy and game-like quality creates a sweet combo with this wine. The presence of a smoky and sweet barbecue flavor from the grilled meats will trigger your taste buds and make you enjoy this wine even more.

White meat: it’s one of the most popular pairings used with this wine. Note that pinot noir’s high level of acidity and lower tannins make it ideal for pairing with pork, duck, chicken, or turkey.

Mushroom: this wine has earthy and mushroomy notes, making it an ideal match for your mushroom dishes. The mushroom will smoothly bring out this wine’s fruity nature, making it more enjoyable.

Fish: fish makes a suitable pair not only with white wines but also lighter red wines such as this. You can pair your pinot noir with salmon or trout. Besides that, you can pair it with lobsters, shrimp, and scallops.

Cheese: it’s a classic pairing option. The best types of cheese that suit this wine’s profile include aged goat cheddar, brie camembert, and aged gouda.

Tips for Serving Pinot Noir

Don’t decant the wine: it’s usually ready to be served right out of the bottle.

Ideal temperature: the wine should be served when slightly chilled, preferably at around 12 degrees Celsius.

The right age: this wine can age gracefully up to eight years.

The right glass: you should serve this wine from a large and bell-shaped glass for you to fully enjoy the aroma. Ensure that you drink it within a day of its opening.

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