Pinot Noir  

Origins       

  • Ancient vine, perhaps 2,000 years old

Distant origins in France - first documented mention in France in 1375

Characteristics   

  • Finicky grape: notoriously difficult to grow (which is partly why it is hugely intriguing to New World winemakers)
  • Likes well-drained, preferably calcareous, soils
  • Problems: fruit setting and also rot (tightly packed bunches)
  • Early budder and ripener, so best in cool climates with long growing season. Often jammy or stewed in hotter climates
  • Importance of best Dijon clones, as opposed to some older plant material
  • Mutates very easily: many different clones (so can be pale or dark in colour), some very poor
  • Must be pruned to yield low, or doesn’t taste of anything
  • Fruit quality: when young, strawberries, raspberries and cherries; when mature, mushrooms, game, and "undergrowth" aromas and flavours

 Vinification / Maturation          

  • Traditional vinification in open-topped tanks; cement or big vats
  • Maturation in French oak (wherever made). In Burgundy the % of new oak varies from none to 100% depending on style of grower and stature of wie. In the New World a higher % of new oak is often used, sometimes smothering the grape

Homeland       

Burgundy

  • Specifically the Côte d’Or, from Dijon south for 50km, where it makes up over half the vineyards
  • but also Côte Chalonnaise

Also to be found in…

  • France:  near Burgundy heartland, e.g Irancy and the Central vineyards of Loire, Sancerre and Menetou-Salon (these can make very pretty wines in good summers; Alsace; Savoie and Jura
  • Germany: some highly successful Spatburgunder
  • N.E. Italy: some good Pinot Nero in Alto Adige, but usually over-cropped
  • Switzerland: the Valais
  • Slovenia: the Vipava valley

USA: California: where best in cooler valleys open to maritime influence e.g. Sonoma, Russian River Valley, Carneros (fog), Santa Maria Valley; and Oregon: wines of great style from boutique wineries

  • New Zealand: grown all over NZ but traditional success in Martinborough (S end of North Island) and Marlborough (N of South Island), followed by splendid (but sometimes over-ripe and over-alcoholic) wines from recent plantings in Central Otago in South Island.
  • Australia: usually too hot (and therefore jammy, unsubtle and fast-maturing) but some fine Pinots from cooler areas such as Adelaide Hills (S. Australia) and around Melbourne in Victoria.
  • Chile: most successful in cooler, Pacific Ocean influenced sites, e.g. Aconcagua Costa, Casablanca, San Antonio, Itata and the far south – Bio-Bio.
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