Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is one of the most prolific grape varieties in the world, commanding a higher average price than any other wine grape. From Burgundy to the coastal regions of California and beyond; this grape shines as a labor of love for those who produce it. A notoriously difficult grape to grow, it shows its sense of place like no other grape variety, giving off a true representation of the vintage it was grown in and the land it was produced upon.

Sales & Service

Styles of Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is usually light bodied and very much subject to the growing conditions of the region it is produced in. In cooler areas of Burgundy, we find it almost “see through” in the glass, with heighted acidity and more non fruit than fruit flavors. However, in the warmer pockets of California, we find this grape to be more medium bodied, with darker color and prolific amounts of fruit aromas and flavors. Knowing the climate of the region it is produced in tells the story of the style of wine that will most likely present itself in the glass. As in most cases, new world examples will be more fruit forward than old world examples.

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Geography

In Burgundy, France, we find the most famous and oldest expression of the grape. From the grand cru wines of Chambertin to the village wines of Nuits-St-George, amazingly interesting wine and history intertwines, yielding a topic that could take a lifetime to understand completely. In Burgundy, the grand cru wines yield astronomical prices, followed by the premier cru and village level offerings. In the new world, Sonoma County, California is a prime source for pinot noir production, as is Oregon, New Zealand and South Africa.

 

Overall, the warmer the growing conditions, the riper the wine will be with more fruit, body and alcohol. Understanding the basic geography and typical characteristics of red Burgundy is essential for making a great recommendation to a guest in a hospitality setting.

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The above graphic shows how Burgundy is broken down in terms of production level by quality level. The quality pyramid in Burgundy is unique to that particular area, with the wines in the grand and premier cru categories commanding extremely high prices. This is not a definitive guide, as many grand crus wines underperform in comparison to premier cru wines.

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New World offerings of Pinot Noir, like many other old world new world comparisons, will be more fruit forward and less dry than their Burgundy counterparts. This is an explanation that holds true with many wines when describing them to a guest. One can find great offerings of this grape variety from California, to New Zealand to South Africa. The styles vary greatly, but given the thin skinned nature of the grape and its enjoyment of moderate climates, this wine is most often light to medium bodied.

Selling Pinot Noir

Like many old world new world comparisons, Burgundy will be slightly drier, with more "non-fruit" aromas a flavors. On the other hand, warmer areas of California will be more fruit forward, less dry and have more body. Explaining these nuances is important, alongside asking the proper questions of your guest to get to their desired preference. 

 

Advanced Principles

Pinot Noir is very susceptible to growing conditions and is at the mercy of the nature cycle in terms of its potential quality. Combine this with its natural finicky growing tendencies, and you have difficult conditions to overcome with this grape even in the most perfect of vintages. In cooler vintages, Pinot Noir can be very light, high levels of earth flavors and acidity levels and can be unappealing to the modern wine drinker.

 

In warm vintages, it can take on syrup like fruit quality and appear to be blended, as the thin-skinned grape lets off a medium to full body in some warmer new world appellations. Care should be especial taken when recommending wines from Burgundy for new world drinkers and vice versa, as the styles of each differ and can be a shock to your guests.