What is Pinot Noir Wine?

Commonly referred to as the “noble grape” or “red burgundy,” Pinot Noir is a blue-tinged grape variety that’s classified under the vitis vinifera species of grape vine. This fussy grape makes a popular red wine and originates from Burgundy, France.

While Burgundy continues to pump out some of the finest Pinot Noir wines in the world, high-quality Pinot Noir is grown and made today in many cooler climates around the world.

In fact, a recent world-wide tasting has showed the certain wine regions within New Zealand are producing some of the best value Pinot’s in the world.

“the any occasion wine…”

For many, Pinot Noir is the any occasion wine. It’s light enough that it can be enjoyed throughout the summer months and can be paired with almost any fish. Pinot Noir is also diverse enough in flavor that it works well with some meats and cheeses.

While demand for this light red wine has increased dramatically, the grape itself tends to be finicky and relatively difficult to grow. As such, prices for the wine have increased in recent years.

Typically, younger Pinot Noir’s taste less complex and red fruit notes tend to be the most prominent. As Pinot Noir’s age, their complexity is enhanced, revealing more earthy and smokey mineral notes.

Background on the Pinot Noir Grape Variety

A red, fickle grape, originating and made famous in Burgundy, France; Pinot Noir is now grown in many countries around the world. In fact, Burgundy almost exclusively grows Pinot Noir as its sole red wine grape variety. Needless to say, they’ve gotten pretty good at it over the years!

Pinot Noir vines require soil that is both aerated and drains well for optimal growth. These vines are typically rooted in soil with high concentrations of gravel, chalk and or clay. Climate wise, the vine needs warm (but not hot) sun-filled days and crisp cool evenings with minimal weather variation before harvesting.

The grape itself has a thin skin (hence low tannins), which unfortunately makes it easily susceptible to disease and rot. All things considered, winemakers must watch their crops closely. Even the most experienced Pinot Noir winemakers can have trouble growing this variety, though some terroirs make for easier cultivation than others.

What does “Pinot Noir” Actually Mean?

A French designation, the word “Pinot” translates to “Pine,” as a reference to the way the grapes cluster together on the vine, similar to a pine cone. “Noir,” also French, translates to black, referring to the color of the dark, thin-skinned grape.

How Long Has Pinot Noir Wine Been in Production?

We can trace the drinking of Pinot Noir wines back to sometime during the first century – when the ancient Romans recorded drinking it not long after they captured much of the Gaul region – which is now France.

There is no definitive evidence as to when exactly the grape was first fermented and enjoyed, though needless to say it’s been around for a long while.

Learn About These Other Wine Grape Varieties

Chenin Blanc
Petit Verdot
Pinot Grigio
Pinot Meunier

Written By Greig Santos-Buch

Greig Santos-Buch is a Co-Founder at Winetraveler.com and a WSET 2 Merit wine writer. He works with several brands focusing on experiential and immersive-style travel. In his spare time, you can find him hiking with a bottle of Cabernet Franc in his backpack or scuba diving trying to talk a reef shark into trying Swiss wine.

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Pinot Noir Wine Profile & Food Pairings


Red – (Cherry, Plum, Raspberry, Strawberry, Cranberry, Guava, Currant, Pomegranate)

Earth & Mineral Tones

Shale, Chalk, Clay, Gravel

Additional Complexities

Light Oak, Smoke, Spice, Earth, Mushroom

Structure & Body

In the glass, Pinot Noir is typically translucent in color and light to medium in body. A traditionally dry wine, it emits obvious hints of bright red fruit on the palate and through its aromas.  Yet these flavors are not particularly rich and tannin elements are subtle.  The lighter, velvety feel combined with a low tannic content and medium-high acid makes Pinot Noir particularly easy to drink.

Sugar Dry

Tannins Low-Medium

Acid Medium-High

Alcohol Varied

Finish Smooth, Floral, Medium


Despite Pinot Noir being rooted in France, it pairs particularly well with most Italian dishes. Especially tomato-based sauces and dishes.

Fatty Fish

Heavier fatty, oily fish, like salmon and sardines.


Aged Cheddar, Gouda

Additional Pinot Noir Pairing Ideas

Salmon, Sushi (Tempura and heavier fish preferably), Steak (Lean), Poultry (Grilled), Pork (Grilled), Duck (with spicier and heavier bodied Pinot's), Lamb, Grilled Vegetables

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Comments ( 2 )

    • From where in France, Dave? Old World Pinot Noir does tend to be more earthy and tertiary-forward. Especially when you’re comparing something like a Burgundian to a Napa Valley Pinot. Most of this has to do with the climate and production techniques. If you compare a Willamette Pinot to a Red Burgundy however, sometimes you can find some similarities because they’re on the same latitude.

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