Pinot Noir is a fascinating grape on many levels. It is a grape of great legacy and length of cultivation. The Roman’s called Pinot Noir Helvancia Minor… imagine saying “yes, I’ll have a glass of Hevancia Minor please.” Pinot Noir is fitting not just because it is in the French but because it descriptive–Pinot meaning “pine” or “pine cone” for it’s tight clustering and pine cone shape.
Pinot Noir requires a visionary wine grower and maker, steely confidence, willing to persevere the challenge points and dealing with the grapes seemingly “mind-of-it’s-own” moodiness. Pinot Noir mutates easily, has very large differences between parent and offspring vines, succumbs to any and all problems that encounter any grape; it’s moodiness because it doesn’t like too much heat, chill, sun or vine coverage. There are at least 63 clones as recognized in France though it can vary in the US and New Zealand and elsewhere. While I wrote wine notes in 2004 there were 46 recognized clones. Pinot Noir is about change and a grape that can mutate easily there have been estimates of up to 1,000 clones. Pinot Noir can be difficult off vine as well… fermentation, colour retention and boiling out of the barrel.
Pinot Noir has a much stricter range of where it can be grown and that need to be adhered to in order to be an acceptable wine. The range is primarily California-Carneros, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Anderson, Valley, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Lucia Highlands, Oregon’s Willamette Valley, New Zealand, certain bands in Australia, Chile, Germany, Italy, and of course the mothership Burgundy.
While the popularization of Pinot Noir because of the movie Sideway and it’s central protagonist Miles helps to promote this wine. The sensitivities of both grape and man are nearly identical. While many credit the movie with making Pinot Noir more popular many others say that Pinot Noir’s quality declined slightly especially at the lower price point wines and the retrenchment of Syrah and Merlot.
Now think of this difficult wine grape being formed into a difficult wine to make–sparkling wine or Champagne. Certainly not all wines contain Pinot Noir but those that do it is a testament to goodness and celebration of life.
Pinot Noir is known as both Spätburgunder and Blauburgunder which certainly refers to Burgundy as the central focus of the name–Pinot Noir is also known as Pinot Nero. If on a blind tasting this varietal would be easily identified as a Pinot Noir grape while other red varietals might not be as easily identified. And the allure and evocation is written about as being a grape that is the most romantic. The aromatics of Pinot Noir along with it is capability to create a canvas of complexity; red floral notes, chocolate, herbs, lavender, Eucalyptus, bramble berries, cherry, and even cola notes.
Pinot Noir is a wine that is knowable and memorable and has the capacity to create many magical experiences.
I am writing a wine book and a big thanks to fellow Twitterers who supplied a consistent number of clones at least at the upper end. Book writing is a lengthy process but one which I have been doing for the past two years and hoping that my comprehensive book will be done in at least the next couple of years.
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