What is Pinot Noir?

A guide to this red wine variety

Pinot Noir is a type of red wine that is popular around the world for its light to medium body and fruit-forward taste.

It is a black wine grape variety of the species Vitis vinifera that originated in France and is now grown in many countries, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Chile.

Pinot Noir wine is typically characterized by its red fruit, flower, and spice aromas that are accentuated by a long, smooth finish.

Flavors of dark cherries, red currants, and berries are common, along with notes of mushroom and soil. The wine is usually low in tannins and has medium-high acidity, making it a versatile and food-friendly wine that pairs well with a variety of dishes.


Pinot Noir is a red wine grape variety that originated in the Burgundy region of France.

The grape has been grown in the region for centuries and is considered one of the oldest grape varieties in the world. The name “Pinot Noir” comes from the French words for “pine” and “black” and refers to the grape’s dark color and the pine cone shape of its clusters.

The grape was first mentioned in historical records in the 14th century, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that Pinot Noir became widely recognized as a high-quality grape variety.

In the 19th century, the grape was brought to other parts of Europe and eventually to the United States, where it is now grown in several states, including California, Oregon, and Washington.

Today, Pinot Noir is one of the most popular and widely planted grape varieties in the world. It is known for its complex flavors and aromas, which can vary depending on the region where it is grown and the winemaking techniques used.

Pinot Noir is a notoriously difficult grape to grow and requires a cool climate, well-drained soil, and careful attention to detail in the vineyard.

Despite these challenges, many winemakers continue to be drawn to the grape because of its unique characteristics and the high-quality wines that can be produced from it.

Grape Characteristics


Pinot Noir is a blue-tinged grape variety that has tightly clustered, pinecone-shaped bunches of fruit.

The grape’s skin is thin and delicate, which makes it susceptible to disease and pests. The grape is small, round, and dark, with a diameter of about 1 inch. Pinot Noir grapes are typically harvested in late September or early October.

Flavor Profile

Pinot Noir is a light-bodied red wine that is known for its complex and delicate flavor profile.

The wine has a red fruit, flower, and spice aroma that is accentuated by a long, smooth finish. The primary flavors of Pinot Noir include cherry, raspberry, mushroom, clove, and hibiscus.

The wine is typically dry, with a medium body, low tannins, and medium-high acidity. Pinot Noir’s alcohol content ranges between 11.5-13.5% ABV. Pinot Noir is a fussy grape that is notoriously hard to grow.

The grape is sensitive to temperature, soil, and moisture, which makes it difficult to cultivate. The grape’s delicate skin makes it susceptible to disease and pests, which can impact the wine’s flavor profile.

Pinot Noir grapes are grown in cool climates, such as Burgundy, France, and the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Overall, Pinot Noir is a delicate and complex grape that produces a unique and flavorful wine. Its light body and delicate flavor profile make it a popular choice among wine enthusiasts.



Pinot Noir grapes are known for their thin skins, which means that they have naturally less tannin, color, and extract than other grape varieties.

To make Pinot Noir, the grapes are destemmed and crushed before being transferred to fermentation tanks. During fermentation, yeast consumes the grape sugars and converts them into alcohol.

Winemakers can choose to ferment Pinot Noir in either stainless steel tanks or oak barrels.

Stainless steel tanks are preferred for their ability to preserve the grape’s natural flavors and aromas. Oak barrels, on the other hand, can impart additional flavors and aromas to the wine, such as vanilla, spice, and toast.


After fermentation, the wine is aged in oak barrels for several months to several years, depending on the winemaker’s preference.

During this time, the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation called malolactic fermentation (MLF). This process converts the tart-tasting malic acid into softer-tasting lactic acid, giving the wine a smoother mouthfeel.

Winemakers can choose to age Pinot Noir in either new oak barrels or used oak barrels. New oak barrels impart more flavor and aroma to the wine, while used oak barrels allow the grape’s natural flavors and aromas to shine through.

Some winemakers also choose to age Pinot Noir in stainless steel tanks or concrete vats to preserve the wine’s natural flavors and aromas.

Overall, winemaking plays a crucial role in shaping the flavor, aroma, and texture of Pinot Noir. The choice of fermentation vessel, aging vessel, and aging time can all affect the final product, making each bottle of Pinot Noir unique.

Food Pairings

Pinot Noir is a versatile wine that pairs well with a variety of foods.

Its light to medium body and low tannins make it a great match for lighter dishes, while its acidity and fruitiness can also stand up to heartier fare. Here are some food pairing suggestions:

  • Poultry: Pinot Noir is a classic pairing with chicken dishes, whether roasted, grilled, or sautéed. It also pairs well with turkey and duck.
  • Salmon: Pinot Noir’s fruitiness and acidity make it a great match for salmon, whether grilled, baked, or smoked.
  • Pork: Pinot Noir’s earthy notes complement the flavors of pork, whether roasted, grilled, or braised.
  • Lamb: Pinot Noir’s acidity can cut through the richness of lamb, making it a great match for dishes like lamb chops or roasted leg of lamb.
  • Mushrooms: Pinot Noir’s earthy notes make it a natural pairing for mushroom dishes, whether sautéed, roasted, or in a creamy sauce.
  • Soft Cheeses: Pinot Noir pairs well with soft, creamy cheeses like Brie and Camembert.

When pairing Pinot Noir with food, it’s important to consider the wine’s style. Fruitier styles of Pinot Noir go well with lighter dishes like chicken and fish, while more tannic styles can stand up to heartier fare like beef and game meats.

Ultimately, the best pairing is one that you enjoy, so don’t be afraid to experiment and find your own perfect match.


Pinot Noir is a complex and nuanced wine that has captivated wine enthusiasts for centuries. This grape variety is notoriously difficult to grow, but when it is done correctly, it can produce some of the most exquisite wines in the world.

Pinot Noir is a versatile wine that can be paired with a wide range of foods. It is particularly well-suited to dishes that feature earthy or savory flavors, such as mushrooms, truffles, and roasted meats. It also pairs well with rich, creamy sauces and cheeses.

Whether you are a seasoned wine enthusiast or a newcomer to the world of wine, Pinot Noir is a wine that is worth exploring. With its complex flavors, elegant structure, and ability to pair well with a wide range of foods, it is a wine that is sure to impress.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

Written by Lauren McKenna

Lauren is a soon to be Temple University graduate. Her love of travel has introduced her to food and drinks from all over the world. She provides MyBartender with a global view of all things alcohol.

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