Pinot noir wine is one of the most popular wines in the world and one of those fundamental wines that you get introduced to from the start. It’s on par with cabernet sauvignon and merlot in terms of popularity, so you definitely want to know a bit about it if you’re an aspiring wine lover.
And in this short guide, we’re going to teach you all the basic pinot noir facts you need to know without boring you with the snobby stuff. After all, wine is meant to be enjoyed, not discussed to death. If you don’t have time for the full picture, skip down to the FAQs for answers to the most common questions people tend to have about this wine.
Let’s start with a tiny bit of history about this wine.
A lot of people became pinot noir fans after the wildly successful feature film Sideways used it as a central thematic component in 2004. But pinot noir grapes have a much more storied and rich history.
They’ve been used for wine since at least the 14th century and probably much earlier. The oldest existing records reveal the French monks cultivated pinot noir grapes for wine. Whether it originated in France is a matter of some debate, but there’s no doubt that it now grows in many wine-producing regions of the world.
First of all, is pinot noir red or white? That’s where this grape starts to show its versatility. As its name implies (noir means black in French), pinot noir grapes are most commonly used to make red wine. However, vintners use them to make white wine as well, albeit less frequently.
Pinot noir in the United States truly came into its own and a commercially viable variety in the post-prohibition period. California’s various microclimates proved to be a great home for pinot noir, and several famous wines of this variety are still made there.
That’s enough about where the grapes came from and where they’re grown. What you’re probably here to find out is what does pinot noir taste like.
Before answering that, we should note that pinot noir wines vary widely. Two wines can be substantially different depending on where the grapes were grown, the growing conditions, and several other factors. With that in mind, most red pinot noirs will have some of these flavors:
French varietals of this grape tend to have more earthy notes and floral undertones. French vintners tend to ferment the whole grape, which increases the overall tannins in their wine. Typically, these are aged for ten years or more.
California pinot noirs, in contrast, are rich, lush, and spicy in general. They tend to be less tannic than those from France.
Overall, most people associate this wine with dark berry flavors, including strawberry, blackberry, cherries, and raspberries. Leathery notes are also common, as well as spicy notes like cinnamon and cloves.
The smooth tannins make it an almost silky wine, and it ranges in alcohol content from 12 to 15 percent alcohol by volume.
Pinot noir is considered a dry wine, but it’s light-bodied, so it won’t be as acidic as some of the other dry reds you may have tasted. It’s also relatively low in tannins, making it smooth and easy to drink either alone or accompanied.
Here are some tips to make the most of your pinot noir wine:
The next step is to learn what meals a pinot noir will go well with and when it’s best to avoid it. As a red wine, your mind probably goes directly to red meats and cold cuts. And that’s true, but this is a much more versatile wine than your typical red.
Its light body also makes it suitable for grilled fish, poultry, and even grilled vegetable dishes. If you want a dish that pairs perfectly with pinot noir, indulge in our truffle chicken with mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and baby turnips at Stubborn Seed. The flavors all complement each other superbly, and the wine serves to tie the whole dish together.
That about covers everything you need to know about this amazing varietal, and we hope you’ll try it with your next meal. Now, we’ll cover some specific concerns people tend to have.
It’s not especially more or less healthy than other red wines. Red wines tend to be labeled healthy by some health professionals due to their resveratrol content. Resveratrol is a compound that evidence suggests may reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
No, most wine drinkers agree that it’s a dry wine, although not as dry as a rioja or a chardonnay. Overall, it’s a balanced wine that most people find pleasantly dry rather than bone dry.
It can be both. There are both white and red pinot noir wines, but it’s overwhelmingly a light-bodied red wine.
Both merlot and pinot noir are slightly tannic with dark berry notes, but merlot tends to be much darker in color. Neither is notably sweeter than the other, but pinot tends to be silkier and usually found as a varietal, while merlot is often used in mixes.
High-end pinot noirs are complex and fruit-forward. Most drinkers point out raspberry, cherry, and blackberry as being present. Mushrooms and earthy tones are also common in this varietal, as are spices depending on the provenance. Pinot noir from colder climates tends to be more light-bodied, while warm climates produce a less delicate wine.
Unless you’re studying to be a professional sommelier, you now have all the tools you’ll need to pick out an excellent pinot noir. But if you’re starting out, we’d be honored if you trusted our experts to help recommend a wine that will leave you speechless.
Reserve a table today at Stubborn Seed in Miami, and we’ll make sure to pair your meal with the perfect wine. We’re dedicated to good cooking but also to creating a whole dining experience that never disappoints.
What will you pair your next pinot noir with? Was there something else you wanted to learn about this wine? Leave a comment right now, letting us know!