Pinot Noir is early budding and ripening plus thin-skinned and difficult to cultivate which is why it’s only grown in cool climates or warm to hot regions with moderating influences like sea breezes or altitude. It’s rarely blended with other varieties, but some wines may see a mix of Pinot Noir from different vineyards or even vintages to create balance or a particular style.
Owing to the difficulty in cultivating Pinot Noir and its all-around fussy character, it isn’t made in high-volume styles like many grapes are. In spite of its finicky nature, it’s loved by vintners and wine consumers alike. Burgundy is its home and where enhancing methods like malolactic fermentation and lees ageing in vinification have been developed to perfection. Such techniques are widely admired and reproduced in Pinot Noir wine regions around the globe.
Depending on where it’s grown and vinified, Pinot Noir can be fruity and easy-drinking – like in Alsace where it’s the only black grape permitted – or complex, rich, and spicy. Burgundy is hands-down, the wine world’s benchmark producer. Neighbour Germany also has a reputation for bright, perfumed red and rosé wines made from Pinot Noir (or Spätburgunder as it’s known there).
Fine, high-end Pinot Noir is also made in New World countries like New Zealand where the long sunshine hours result in a full-bodied expression and in Australia where cool-climate places like Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, and Tasmania turn out elegant styles.
Walker Bay in South Africa is also famous for top-tier Pinot Noir as is Casablanca Valley in Chile, spots along California’s North Coast and Willamette Valley in Oregon. Generally, the sunnier the area, the richer and more concentrated the fruit notes. Although Pinot can prosper in warm places, it likes cooling winds, elevated vineyards, and cool night-time temperatures to compensate for the heat of the day. That’s why, in spite of this grape’s preference for cooler climes, some warm to hot regions have a reputation for gorgeous Pinot Noir!
Fun fact: Pinot Noir is usually produced as a varietal wine but in Champagne it’s blended with Chardonnay and Meunier to make the popular bubbly. When Champagne is “Blanc de Noirs”, it means it’s made entirely from Pinot Noir and/ or Meunier!