Pinot Noir facts to celebrate International Pinot Noir Day, held August 18th each year.
To celebrate, we present some fun Pinot Noir facts for you today:
- Pinot Noir means ‘Black Pine Cone’ – ancient vine growers were pretty literal with the naming of this grape as the grape cluster looks like a pine cone, and the skin color is dark.
- Pinot Noir was favored by Romans and subsequently the Catholic Monks of Burgundy. It was god’s grape, so it had to be made in the finest quality, hence the relative abandonment of Gamay in the region that we still see the effects of today.
- Pinot Noir is pretty much the definition of ‘terroir’ – at over 1000 years older than Cabernet Sauvignon, the grape can be considered relatively primitive. That said, it is very susceptible to the soil, location, microclimates, etc. that it is grown in. Every growth produces a completely unique wine, as opposed to Cab which carries relatively similar flavors and profile irrelevant of specific growing regions.
- Much like Miles in the film Sideways, Pinot is moody, difficult, uncertain. It is the heartbreaker of all the grapes. It is temperamental. It is downright difficult to grow. It only works in certain cool climates, so if you get a heat spell, you might lose your crop. The fruit is clustered tightly together, get a mold, it’ll spread like wildfire. Got a disease? Pinot will catch it. Pests? Pinot’s thin skin will not protect it.
- Pinot Noir is a mutant. Well, not really, but it does mutate frequently. The grey mutation is Pinot Gris, the white mutation is Pinot Blanc, and there is the lesser known, but essential (in Champagne) Pinot Meunier. As well, there are over 50 recognized mutations within Pinot Noir itself (called ‘clones’). these are classified based on taste, skin color, and tannin. You might have heard of these ‘clones’ before, but by name, e.g. Dijon 777.
- Pinot Noir defined and launched the entire Oregon wine scene. Famous families from Burgundy were exploring the Pacific Northwest and saw striking similarities in the Willamette Valley to those in their home of France. So what’s next? Plant grapes there! And here we are today.
- Pinot Noir is the parent of Chardonnay. A natural crossing between a now all but extinct Gouais Blanc and Pinot Noir produced the Chardonnay grape we know and love today. Pinot Noir is also the Parent of Pinotage in South Africa, having been crossed with Cinsault. Chances are, Pinot has parentage or grandparentage to many common grapes we see today, genetic tests continue to understand the history of vitis vinifera, and we are nowhere near all the answers at this point.