The origins of Pinot Noir have been traced back to the 1300s, when French monks are credited with producing an early version of this historic fine wine in the Burgundy region of France. Indeed, you may be more familiar with this red as it is known there – as Pinot Noir (literally, ‘black pine’ owing to the color and shape of the bunches of grapes) – along with its sister varieties (actually mutations of the same grape), Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) and Pinot Blanc (Pinot Bianco). Pinot is a very ancient grape, thought to have been around for more than 1000 years, so we can excuse a little variation along the way. Whilst France is the world’s biggest producer of Pinot Noir, with the US coming in second, in Italy, where it’s known as Pinot Nero, this wine has been increasingly gaining in popularity and is now cultivated far and wide – from Alto Adige and Trentino in the North, to Sicilia in the South – although the majority of its production is concentrated around the hills of the Oltrepò Pavese in Northern Italy. In the US, Pinot Noir is found fairly widely in California, and also in the Willamette Valley, Oregon.
What different varieties of Pinot Noir wines are produced? Surprisingly perhaps, given its name, Pinot Noir is not used just for red wines: there is also a rosé version, and even a rarer white wine produced from the Pinot Noir grapes. Indeed, it is also a common component in blended sparkling wines such as Champagne. Talk about versatility.
What is Pinot Noir’s typical taste profile? Whilst Pinot Noir is typically rather light in color, presenting an almost translucent blood-toned hue, it is certainly not lacking in flavor. Expect notes of red berry fruit, alongside earthier notes and spices such as clove. If aged in an oak barrel, a certain smokiness can also usually be identified. This is a wine with a distinctive flavor, not easily confused with anything else. Whilst acidic, it has low tannins, making it light and silky smooth on the palate.
Which are the best Pinot Noir wines? This is a sophisticated, elegant red. The Franz Haas winery in Alto Adige produces an excellent example: at 13% ABV this is not an overpowering wine, yet its depth and complexity of flavor are outstanding, comprising notes of raspberry, plum jam and marzipan. For a still rosé, try Zeni’s ‘Vigneti delle Dolomiti’, with notes of cherry and a lingering almond flavor; or Isimbarda's Oltrepò Pavese ‘Cruasé’ for a sparkling version, with only 12% ABV and full of vibrant red fruit with just a hint of rose. One thing’s for sure – here at Tannico you are certain to be spoilt for choice when it comes to discovering the full extent of what Pinot Noir has to offer.
Light and versatile also apply when it comes to pairing Pinot Noir with food. Spring dishes are a welcome accompaniment – a light chicken stew with peas or fresh asparagus for example – as is roasted poultry and soft cheese. Cold cuts and meat terrines also work well on warmer days. Whether you opt for choosing the wine first, or planning your menu beforehand, there’s a Pinot Noir for every occasion.