Pinot Noir is a fairly fickle variety that will only really thrive in cooler climates and is generally unsuited to very warm regions where there would be no time to develop interesting fruit flavours before acid levels plummet. Furthermore, its thin skin makes it susceptible to rot and disease, so its safe to say that a Pinot Noir grower’s lot is not an easy one! However, when the stars align Pinot Noir can produce the most elegant, perfumed wines money can buy. No other grape has the same power of seduction – from its naturally delicate colour and the charming raspberry and cherry notes of a younger Pinot Noir, through to the more gamey, earthy aromas of more mature wines.
Without doubt its spiritual home is in Burgundy, specifically the Côte d’Or – a narrow strip of land which stretches from south of Dijon to the town of Beaune. In this area lie villages that produce wines that are famous and revered throughout the world – Gevrey Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, Vosne Romanée and Nuits St Georges to name a few. These villages produce silken textured ethereal wines with the haunting herbal and forest floor aromas that come with age.
The New World is now giving France a run for its money when it comes to Pinot Noir. The wine growing areas of Sonoma in California, Williamette Valley in Oregon and Central Otago in the South Island of New Zealand are regions that are now producing top-class Pinots. The characteristic red fruit flavours are in abundance, but as with Chardonnay, climactic differences can have marked effects on the resultant wines. The Old World Pinots of Burgundy are, in general, of higher acidity, lower alcohol and lighter in body than their New World counterparts. The greater exposure to sunlight in the New World regions tends to produce rounder and fuller bodied wines. However, many New World producers are trying their utmost to make lighter, more elegant Pinots ‘in the Burgundian style’. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Only time will tell!