Pinot Noir is a food friendly, versatile grape that is also kind of a b*tch to grow. The biddies dive into what you can expect from Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France versus the United States versus New Zealand, best vintages and more. If you’re wondering how to pick out a pinot, this is for you.

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Sources:

Wine Cellar Insider

This Day in Wine History

Ancestral grapes: reviving the forgotten varieties of Champagne (cluboenologique.com)

The History of Pinot Noir (thisdayinwinehistory.com)

The King Of Burgundy: The Surprising History of Pinot Noir | VinePair

The history and characteristics of Pinot Noir | Naturalvine

RIP: Meiomi Pinot Noir (That We Once Knew) * Strong Coffee to Red Wine

The History of Pinot Noir | SonomaCounty.com

Decanter | New Zealand Pinot Noir

It’s Not You, It’s Brie | Pinots

Erath | History of Oregon Pinots

Forbes | Spatburgunder

Study Notes On All About Pinot Noir:

*Please note these are the literal notes we created to record the podcast and sections may be copied and pasted from our sources above.

UMMM EXCUSE ME??

Did you know: Pinot Noir is a French word that is pronounced “pee-noh nwahr.” The “pinot” part of the word is pronounced with a silent “p,” so it sounds more like “nee-noh.” The “noir” part of the word is pronounced with the “r” sound at the end, so it sounds more like “nwahr” than “nwar.” So, the word is pronounced as “pee-noh nwahr.”

Basic Background:

  • Pinot is from the French word meaning “pine” and “noir black
  • Pine refers to the grape variety’s tight clusters of fruit that resembles pine cones

Organoleptic Characteristics: 

  • Organoleptic – the action of using the senses of your organs
  • Used for both red and white vinification
    • White – think neutral base for Champagne
  • When it comes to red it should never be too intense and transparent in color
  • Strong acidity and low tannins
  • Fruity and floral nuances 
  • “Wines can be sensual”

Why so Difficult

  • One of the  biggest contributing factors is its thin skin
    • Makes them vulnerable to sunburn and other heat damage so they require careful canopy management to ensure they get both the right amount of sunlight and protection 
  • Also, very prone to diseases such as powdery and downy mildew
  • Pests include mites and nematodes
  • Highly sensitive to soil type: they prefer well-draining, slightly acidic soil and a cool climate with moderate temperatures 

History

  • Competing origin story: many say it was around in 1st Century when ancient romans enjoyed it in the region of Gaul (modern day France)
    • First written mention of the rape was 14th C
  • Other mention it originated between the Black and Caspian Seas
  • It was the wine of choice for the sacraments (Catholic church)
  • Brought to the new world in late 19th/early 20th Centuries – took off in the 1960s and 70s
https://www.princeofpinot.com/article/787/
  • One of the oldest known grape varieties 
  • Attest to its presence as early as 2000 years ago in Burgundy where one of its origin stories is from 
  • The vine was lost for a few centuries but did reappear after the fall of the Roman Empire under Charlemagne which is when the lands were reassigned to the monasteries 

FRANCE

BURGUNDY Pinot Noir 

  • Around the year 1000 AD (after the Romans had abandoned their early vineyards in France) the Cistercian order of Monks began gaining authority outside the modern city of Dijon 
  • Believed devotion to hard labor brought them closer to god and they began cultivating the rocky hillsides of early Burgundy
  • Maintained hundreds of vintages and took detail notes
    • Experimented: described how, where, why vines thrived or died
    • Attributed with creating world’s first harvest reports and inventing the idea of “terroir” 
  • Burgundy wasn’t on a major trade route so the Cistecian order didn’t sell large volumes of wine like Bordeaux and the Loire
  • Religious devotion drove them to high-quality wines
  • Gamay was outlawed in the region by Duke Phillipe in 1395 paving the way to make Pinot Noir the now called “King of Burgundy”
  • Burgundy gained more recognition
    • Pope Urban V refused to return to Rome because “you can’t get wine like this in Italy”

CHAMPAGNE Pinot Noir

  • Although Champagne in the Middle ages planted a multitude of varieties, it until the 1860s that Pinot Noir had established itself as the most popular variety 
  • Post phylloxera – Pinot Noir (along with Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay) were replanted in favor of other varietals that once dominated the landscape

UNITED STATES

  • Just like like Merlot, Sideways greatly affected Pinot Noir but in a positive way making it a Hollywood star of sorts
  • One thing we need to worry about is the impact of climate change; some of these California wine growing regions are become too hot to handle the heartbreak grape
  • The wine pioneers of early California were avid experimenters and imported the cuttings from famous vineyards in Europe to California, especially Sonoma County
    • 1883: John H Drummond was growing Pinot Noir in his vineyard wish is know part of the Kunde Family’s wine property
    • Grown at the legendary Fountaingrove (profile?) winery from the 1880s-1940s

RUSSIAN RIVER Pinot Noir

  • One of the first successful plantings of Pinot Noir in the US was in the Russian River Valley
  • Commercial wine production in this area began in the 1850s but Pinot Noir really flourished after Prohibition
  • Sonoma County (where Russian River is located) is considered the leading producer of Pinot Noir among California counties 
  • Realized it was increasingly difficult to grow in comparison to Cabernet Sauvginon
    • “God made Cabernet Sauvignon whereas the Devil made Pniot Noir” – Andre Tchelistcheff 
  • This kept it a rather marginal varietal until farmers Joe Rochioli (self named winery and vineyards) and winemakers like Joseph Swan (self named winery) took a chance on Pinot Noir in the 60s and 70s whereas the cult continued to grow the 80s and 90s


THE FALL OF AMERICAN PINOT NOIR

  • The story of Meiomi: Upon its original release it was sold by independent merchants and cost maybe $25/bottle
  • Meiomi was roughly 97% Pinot Noir at that time with some amounts of mostly white grapes like Riesling, Gewurtz, Chardonnay, Grenache
  • The grapes were sourced from all over California but had a pinot noir heavy portfolio
  • Constellation Brands bought Meiomi for $315 million and the price dropped to about $16
    • With the price change, so did the profile and taste
  • Most American wine, there are exceptions, but at least in California, in order for the wine to be labeled varietally it must be a minimum of 75% of that varietal
    • As we’ve discussed, Pinot Noir is very difficult to deal with and with that comes a lot of cost
    • 25% of other grapes can be blended in
    • If you’re Pinot Noir is too dark, it’s definitely influenced with other grapes and/or megapurple (i would love to do an episode on megapurple if there was enough info) 

OREGON, WILLAMETTE VALLEY – 

  • Oregon Pinot Noir pioneer David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards first planted Pinot Noir in Oregon in 1965
    • several other growers followed suit throughout the 1970s. 
  • In 1979, Lett took his wines to a competition in Paris, known in English as the Wine Olympics, and they placed third among pinots. 
  • In a 1980 rematch arranged by French wine magnate Robert Drouhin, the Eyrie vintage improved to second place. The competition instantly put Oregon on the map as a world class Pinot Noir producing region.
  • Bolder style of pinot: Wines lean more plum/blackberry, french oak can add cinnamon/clove/vanilla

NEW ZEALAND

  • Combination of maritime client and diverse soils produces fruit-forward, aromatic and balanced wines “brighter, zippy spice” than CA
  • Vines first planted in 1883, but pinot noir didn’t take off here until late 1900s
  • Most planted red varietal
  • From Central Otago, Marlborough and North Canterbury

GERMANY

Episode 17!

  • Germans are in love with the great Pinot varietals of the world, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. 
  • It is a little known fact, but Germany is the world’s 3rd largest producer of Pinot Noir and over the last 40 years has adapted the same high quality production methods that are also found in Burgundy, France.
  • Spatburgunder
  • “Despite varying degrees of vintage variation, however, German Spätburgunder has never been better, and it should be the Pinot Noir you’re seeking to drink.”
    • Burgundian-style Pinot with a hint of smoke and minerality, ample ripe fruits from raspberry, cherry, to black plum, all framed in French oak

Grapiness

  • 16 known unique different types of pinot noir
  • Difficult to cultivate

Countries Planted

  • France
    • Burgundy (Calla wrote)
    • Champagne
    • Sancerre
    • Alsace
    • Jura
  • United States (almost as much planted as France)
    • California, Russian River Valley
    • Oregon, Wilamette – should touch on 
  • Moldova
  • Italy
  • New Zealand – should touch on
  • Australia
  • Switzerland
  • Chile
  • Argentina
  • Germany – should touch on 

Best Vintages

  • Burgundy, France: Some of the most highly regarded vintages for pinot noir in Burgundy include 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015, and 2018.
  • Willamette Valley, Oregon: Some of the most highly regarded vintages for pinot noir in the Willamette Valley include 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2012.
  • Sonoma Coast, California: Some of the most highly regarded vintages for pinot noir in the Sonoma Coast include 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2010.
  • Martinborough, New Zealand: Some of the most highly regarded vintages for pinot noir in Martinborough include 2005, 2009, and 2010.

Top Winemakers

  • Domaine de la Romanee Conti: Burgundy France (hear all we have to say about that on episode…. ?)
  • Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue: Also in Burgundy 
  • Williams Selyem: Russian River, California for over 40 years
  • Domaine Drouhin: Willamette Valley Oregon
  • Cloudy Bay: Marlborough New Zealand 

Best Selling Winemakers:

  • Kim Crawford (New Zealand)
  • Meiomi (FAKE)
  • La Crema Pinot (ehhh)
  • Willamette Valley Vineyards… alright
  • Erath… alright
  • All noble grapes have their own holiday! Pinot Noir is Aug 18