If Pinot Noir Is Your Wine of Choice, We Have News for You
What’s not to love about Pinot Noir? It’s elegant, complex, and has a well-balanced, fruit-forward flavor. And thanks to its lighter body (as reds go), many would call it the perfect pairing wine—it goes with endless dishes, from chicken and fish to truffle macaroni and cheese, mushroom risotto, and more.
One thing many of us get wrong about Pinot is that it’s inaccessible. Sure, the grapes are finicky (high maintenance and hard to grow, yes, yes), but that doesn’t mean Burgundy or bust. Pinot Noir grapes grow all over the world and produce highly worthwhile bottles of wine, each with its own unique flavor profile. "While common aromas and flavors associated with Pinot Noir are cherries, raspberries, and strawberries, as with all wines, the taste of Pinot can vary significantly from region to region, making the process of tasting and trying each one a fun process," says Jonathan Cristaldi, a sommelier and Vivino contributor. Here are the regions that grow and bottle Pinot Noir best, according to Cristaldi.
Pinot Noir from France
Deep in the heart of France’s Burgundy region is the Côte d’Or, or “Golden Slope,” which is where the world’s most sought-after Pinot Noirs are grown. Vineyards like Grand Cru and Premier Cru produce highly sought after red wines of immense structure, elegance, and complexity. Beyond Burgundy, France offers a treasure trove of excellent Pinot Noirs. For sleek, dark-fruited, earthy examples look to Alsace, while earthier styles with lots of minerality can be found in Loire. And of course, no dive into Pinot Noir is complete without bottles from Champagne. If you see “Blanc de Noirs” on a Champagne label, it means the wine is made entirely from red grapes, which are typically Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir from Austria
Still a relatively young region for Pinot Noir, Austrian Pinot Noirs, known as “Blauer Spätburgunder” and “Blauburgunder,” are loaded with a spectrum of red berry flavors like strawberry, raspberry, and morello cherry, along with forest floor, potting soil, and plum skin notes.
Pinot Noir from the U.S.
Northern California has had a stronghold on some of the best American Pinot Noir bottlings, with Sonoma County offering a range of Pinots that are dark berried, rich, and can show impressive power and concentration. Heading south to California’s Central Coast, producers in Santa Barbara County are making waves where Pinot Noir takes on vibrant, ripe cherry flavors courtesy of warmer growing seasons, while veering into wildly aromatic and flavorful baking spice notes, blood orange, orange peel, and nicely integrated cedar spices. Oregon is another excellent producer of Pinot Noir: the combination of the cool climate and volcanic soil make the Willamette Valley an ideal region for these grapes. Lastly, don’t miss the earthy and rustic Pinot Noirs from New York State’s Finger Lakes region and the Hudson Valley, where Millbrook Vineyards and Brotherhood harbor strongholds.
Pinot Noir from New Zealand
With close to 700 wineries, Pinot Noir accounts for an astounding 72 percent of red wine production in New Zealand. That’s a lot of Pinot! As for the most notable regions, there’s Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa on the North Island, then skipping over the Cook Strait there’s Marlborough, Nelson, Canterbury, Waipara, and Central Otago on the South Island. Aromas and flavors of bright cherry, red berries, plums, red florals, and baking spices all meet an array of rich, full-bodied dark berry flavors underscored by a mix of savory notes, chocolate, and earthiness as you head further south, especially depending upon the producer.
Pinot Noir from Chile
The Pacific Ocean’s icy Humboldt Current ushers in immensely cool winds, which mitigate Chile’s hot summers, meaning that its San Antonio, Casablanca Valley, and Bio Bio Valley remaining cool year-round and are well-suited for Pinot Noir grapes. Decanter critics have been big proponents of these wines, with recent reports noting the “exciting diversity” of Pinots from Chile, which tend to show cherry, red currant, and complex earthy notes mingling with sweet spices.