This fussy, fickle and challenging varietal is equally infuriating and captivating for the winemaker and vigneron. It produces thin-skinned grapes, which are more susceptible to sunburn, hail, rot and disease than most varieties, therefore its handling and vineyard location require careful consideration.
Pinot Noir is the variety responsible for the great red wines of Burgundy, planted in the iron rich red soils of the Côte d’Or and aged in oak barrel. It also plays a support role as a blending partner in Champagne and provides some light and elegant red Loire wines (Sancerre in particular).
When it is good, Pinot Noir can have deeply perfumed aromas with notes of black cherry, redcurrant, summer fruit and plenty of power, spice and a silky balance. Grown in excessive heat it becomes sweet and unbalanced, too cold and wet during ripening and traces of rot and bruising can remain in the wine.
The cool coastal districts of California and Oregon and New Zealand’s Central Otago and Marlborough regions have proved the most successful challengers to Burgundy. The Languedoc, Corsica, Tasmania and Patagonia in Argentina all show promise.