Learn what’s behind the Pinot Noir grape

Tanya Morning Star
Wine Education grey Dot Grape Varieties grey Dot

Pinot Noir is one of the most beloved and well-known grapes worldwide

Pinot Noir originates from Bourgogne in France, and while notoriously hard to grow, it can be found around the globe. The clusters grow tight together, which makes them susceptible to rot and uneven ripening, detrimental to the winemaking process. 

This grape is the top of an extensive family of grape varietals that all are mutations of the classic Pinot Noir.

Pinot Gris — pink-skinned grape

Pinot Blanc — white-skinned grape

Pinot Meunier — lighter red-skinned grape

When paired with the now obsolete Gouais Blanc, Pinot Noir has birthed Chardonnay, Aligoté, Savagnin of the Jura, and Gamay.


A versatile grape

Like Chardonnay, this is a highly versatile grape and can be molded into various styles by each winemaker. Although it is not often blended with other wines due to its ability to uniquely express terroir. It’s often used to make rosé wines as well. Thanks to the delicateness of the grape, it produces bright rosés with notes of strawberry and watermelon. 

Yet, when you’re in the Champagne region, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are the two grapes used in the production of Champagne. In the instance of a Blanc de Noirs, you will be only drinking red-skinned grapes, so there could be a blend of the family pairing. 

The grape tends to craft wines with relatively high alcohol and acidity, depending on the climate, of course, so in that way, it can be full on the palate. Yet, it has thin skins and tends to produce wines with subtle tannins and light in color — the best wines made from grapes grown in cool climates where they will ripen slowly.


Pinot Noir from France

It’s been said that monks tended to the first Pinot Noir vines in Bourgogne back in the Middle Ages. As a result, these wines from Bourgogne are some of the grape’s most beloved and ageable styles. These wines tend to take on more terroir flavors with mushroom, potting soil, and earthiness accompanying the cherry and rose notes that are slightly lighter in the expression.


Pinot Noir from California

California produces most of the Pinot Noir grown in the United States. Breezes from the Pacific Ocean help cool the otherwise too warm climate for the grape to succeed. You’ll find a lot of this wine from Santa Barbara up through Napa Valley. Thanks to oak aging, these wines are richer in red fruit notes and may have hints of baking spices.


Pinot Noir from the Pacific Northwest

Continuing up the West Coast, you’ll find the grape in Washington and Oregon. Being a bit further from the sunshine than their California counterparts, these wines are lighter in color and more delicate to drink. You’ll also catch strawberry, raspberry, and mushroom notes with a lightly floral aroma. 

Pinot Noir is truly a magnificent grape to fall in love with, especially if you are interested in discovering what makes each wine so unique.

Chef Image

About Tanya Morning Star

Founder & CEO of Cellar Muse, CWE, FWS, IWS, SWS, WSET Diploma Instructor

Certified by the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne as one of 60 global Official Ambassadors of Bourgogne Wines, the only Official Ambassador of Orvieto Wines, and a Vinitaly International Italian Wine Ambassador. 

Tanya Morning Star has been working in the wine industry; in restaurants, retail, and education for more than two decades. She has been teaching about wine since 2004. Her love of classical wines, passion for history, nature, and gastronomy inspires her educational approach. In 2018, she was bestowed the French Wine Scholar Instructor of the Year.