Pinot Noir wine grape Restaurants, Wine, Travel, Opinions

Pinot Noir grape variety
Wine glossary

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Country: France

Pinot Noir is one of the world’s most important wine grapes. The small, tight bunches of blue-black grapes thrive on the slopes around the town of Beaune in eastern France where they are the source of the red wines of Burgundy.
All red wine produced in Burgundy must have Pinot Noir in it although some other grape varieties are permitted. For example, the white mutants of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, may be used in red wines from Burgundy provided they do not exceed 15% of the blend. Gamay, which takes its name from a village right in the heart of Burgundy, can comprise up to 75% of the wine labelled as Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains and can also be used in the sparkling Cremant de Bourgogne. It is more common to find Gamay these days in the southern region of the Maçon and Beaujolais. The other red grape that is found in some wines from the northern area of Burgundy is César.
Many people who know about Pinot Noir in Burgundy do not realise that it is widely planted outside that area and flourishes in the Loire Valley, in particular where it is found in the red wines of Sancerre, Cheverny and Fiefs Vendéens appellations. It is also one of the main grape varieties of Champagne particularly in the Montagne de Riems sub-region and the Aube sub-region in the south. Pinot Noir is also found further east in the high reaches of Alsace and the Arbois.
Moving west along the Loire Valley the first place you come across Pinot Noir is Sancerre (and the nearby Coteaux du Giennois). Here there are fine examples of 100% Pinot Noir such as the Domaine Daniel Chotard Champ de l’Archer.
Moving further west to the area around the city of Blois in the appellation of Cheverny there are some stunning Pinot Noir blends available. The Domaine du Moulin Les Ardilles is a blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Gamay. This is a refined, elegant and vibrant natural wine that represents amazing value for money.
And once you reach the ocean at the far end of the Loire Valley you find the Fiefs Vendéens appellation where biodynamic guru Thierry Michon makes a pure Pinot Noir from gnarled vines that grow close to the sea. His best, and most expensive wine called La Grand Pièce, is made from old vines that grow on crumbling striated schist which imparts an underlay of minerality to the wine. He also makes a wonderful blend of Pinot Noir, Gamay, Cabernet Franc and Negrette called Reflets.
It is also widely planted in the so-called New World including Oregon, Washington and California in the United States and, of course, in Australia and New Zealand.
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