Grasping the Grape: Pinot Noir

Find out what makes this light-bodied red wine the world’s most popular and esteemed varietal, and why its complex personality makes it exciting.


Say It Right: Pee-no Nwar

Other Known Aliases: Spätburgunder (Spate-berg-under), Pinot Nero (Pee-no Nair-oh)

Don’t let the fact that it is one of the world’s most popular and esteemed varietals fool you. Truth be told, Pinot Noir is a little bit of a problem child.

In the vineyard, especially, this ancient grape can be quite prickly and is notorious for putting winemakers through their paces. Put it this way: it has strong feelings about the type of soil it’s grown on and is incredibly sensitive to climate, plus, its thin skin makes it an easy target for disease and insects, and it will punish you if you force it to be over productive. And that’s not to mention that it can oxidise very quickly during the winemaking process (not a good thing).

From a consumer standpoint, it isn’t exactly the easiest or most accessible grape either, especially for those just getting into wine. Aside from having a lighter, more delicate profile (read: more effort to appreciate), all the work and risk on the production side means that the really good, well-made stuff is going to cost you. What’s more, about 40 clones of the grape exist, the selection of which can have a huge impact on taste and quality.



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