|Pinot Noir is often described
as being a "difficult" grape, to grow, to deal
with in the winery, and to find truly great examples of,
but fans are passionate about this variety, as sensually
expressed by the dialogue between Miles and Maya in the
2004 movie “Sideways”.
Noir is one of the oldest grape varieties to be cultivated
for the purpose of making wine. The reputation that
gets pinot noir so much attention, however, is owed
to the wines of Burgundy, France. For most of wine history,
this two-mile-wide, thirty-mile-long stretch of hills,
called the Côte d'Or, is the only region to achieve
consistent success from the pinot noir vine.
The quality of Bourgogne is due
to a number of factors. Its vineyards slope gently down
toward the East, providing the vines with long sun exposure
yet avoiding afternoon heat. The soil there is very
calcareous (chalky; containing calcium carbonate), offering
good drainage. Well-drained soils have a higher average
temperature, which assists ripening. Pinot noir seems
to reflect more pronounced Gout de Terroir, or flavor
of the soil, than other black grape types, making vineyard
site selection a critical factor.
Difficulties plague pinot noir
at every step, from propagation to even its bottle-aging
characteristics. Genetically unstable, the parent vine
may produce offspring that bear fruit that is nothing
like the parent's in the size and shape of the berry
or cluster and will frequently even have different aromas,
flavors, and levels of productivity. There are 46 recognized
clones (genetic variants) of Pinot Noir in Dijon, France.
Ampelographers estimate there are as many as 200 to
possibly 1,000 clones of pinot noir worldwide. By comparison,
cabernet sauvignon has only twelve identifiable clones.
Nearly every affliction known
to affect vines is common among pinot noir vineyards.
Although quite tolerant of cold climates, it is particularly
susceptible to Spring frosts, because it is one of the
earliest-leafing varieties. Pinot Noir is also one of
the more difficult wines to ferment. Partly due to the
presence of 18 amino acids, which are naturally balanced
in this variety, Pinot Noir ferments violently, often
"boiling" up and out of its container, speeding
the process out of control. Color retention is a major
problem for the thin-skinned berries. Pinot is very
prone to acetification and often loses the sometimes
promising aromas and flavors it seems to display through
fermentation and aging, as soon as it is bottled.
There is one component in which
Pinot Noir seems naturally quite rich, three to four
times higher compared to other varieties, especially
when it is grown in cooler and more humid climates:
resveratrol. While this may not affect the aspects of
sensory enjoyment, it may draw the attention of health-conscious