Around the World with Pinot Noir

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Did you know… that Pinot Noir is also known as Spätburgunder (in Germany and Austria) and Pinot Nero (in Italy)?

No matter its name, this cool-climate grape is known for reflecting the nuances of its terroir (some might call the grape finicky and temperamental).

“The world’s most popular light-bodied red wine is loved for its red fruit and spice flavors that are accentuated by a long, smooth, soft-tannin finish.”

Wine Folly, Magnum Edition. By Madeline Puckette & Justin Hammack. 2018.

But under the watch of a talented winemaker, Pinot Noir can be one of the most complex and rewarding of the red varietals.

And lucky for us, the Central Coast’s cool climate produces some exceptional Pinot Noir.

Here’s more about the grape that’s synonymous with Burgundy, France, and why you’ll want to try a good Pinot Noir soon.

Pinot Noir Origins

Pinot Noir originated in the central France city of Burgundy. With its cool continental climate and limestone-rich soil, Burgundy is the ideal spot for growing Pinot Noir.

A small area within Burgundy’s Côte-d’Or region contains 27 appellations. These produce some of the most famous (and expensive) Pinot Noir in the world, including those from the Nuits-Saint-Georges and Gevrey-Chambertin areas.

Outside Burgundy, Champagne, France, has the most plantings of Pinot Noir, where it’s used in many of the “Blanc de Noirs” Champagnes. The Loire Valley and Jura also produce Pinot Noir.  

The United States is the next largest producer, with California and Oregon the leading states.
Germany ranks third in Pinot Noir production, especially in Ahr, Pfalz, Wurttemberg, and Baden.

Other countries producing Pinot Noir include Moldova, Hungary, Romania, Argentina, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, and Chile.

  • FUN FACT: Pinot Noir can be made into three styles of wine: rosé, red, sparkling.

A Bit about Pinot Noir:
Aromas, Tastes, Expressions

A few characteristics make Pinot Noir grapes unique.

They have very thin skins, so they produce less tannin than other red grapes, and less pigment as well.

This is balanced by their high acidity, and the ability to ripen in a cooler environment.

These characteristics help create a wine that is complex, with both earthy (including mushroom, wet earth, and barnyard) and fruity (cranberry, cherry, and raspberry) characteristics. To retain the special traits of Pinot Noir, it’s often kept as a single varietal wine rather than blending it with other grapes.

Because of its lower tannin and higher acidity, Pinot Noir is a perfect food-pairing wine. Chicken, mushrooms, pork, and duck dishes are especially good pairings.

The perfect pairing wine?
(click to see more)

How Climate Affects Pinot Noir

Warmer climates tend to produce bold fruit flavors, raspberry, black plum, and clove tastes, while cooler climates lean toward tart fruit flavors, cranberry, red cherry, and mushroom tastes.

So, Pinot Noir from Burgundy is typically more earthy with delicate floral flavors and high acidity. Mushroom is a common aroma, as well as cranberry.

Pinot Noir from the Central Coast — cooler than other areas of California but warmer than Burgundy — often has aromas of plum, raspberry, vanilla, and allspice.

Central Coast Pinot Noir can also range from the refined and restrained Burgundian style to a more ripe and fruit-forward wine. And everything in between. 

While Pinot Noir lends itself to great variation, but many winemakers let the fruit’s characteristics shine through and avoid manipulation.

Many of this area’s Pinot Noir is grown in the cooler AVAs of Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande Valley, Santa Maria Valley and appellations around Santa Ynez and Santa Barbara. But there are cool microclimates in Paso Robles that produce some great Pinot Noir as well.

A Good Conundrum:
So Many Pinot Noir Wines to Choose From

With so many wineries in 805 Wine Country producing some outstanding Pinot Noir, we can’t even begin to list them.

Besides, exploration and discovery are part of the fun of finding your perfect Pinot Noir.

Just be sure to let us know what you’ve discovered in the wonderful wines of 805 Wine Country!

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We’re two Central Coast locals who appreciate wine – and the land, people, and story behind every bottle. Come along and let’s explore all that 805 Wine Country along California’s Central Coast has to offer.

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