If you’re looking for a Pinot Noir price guide, here’s what you need to know. Pinot Noir is a fickle, unforgiving grape. It is grown in many disparate areas, made in even more disparate ways, and can run the full spectrum of quality, from cheap and easy to austere and impressive.
Perhaps no other grape has captured the romance, imagination, and experience of wine tasting in the same way. Famed California winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff summed it up succinctly, saying “God made Cabernet Sauvignon, whereas the Devil made Pinot Noir.”
And yet, Pinot Noir consistently scores as one of the highest-ranked wines in any vintage. It constantly commands extremely high prices at auction. Some producers in Burgundy have sold their Pinot Noir before it is even bottled, a process called “en primeur.”
Why has a grape that is so difficult to produce become one of the most appreciated wines in the world? The answer, connoisseurs will tell you, is all about taste.
Where Does Pinot Noir Come From?
These days, Pinot Noir is grown all over the world. It’s not unusual to see great examples coming from New Zealand, the United States, Germany, or even Greece.
Pinot’s home base, however, will forever be Burgundy, France. The origins of the grape are clouded in mystery, but most oenologists agree that Pinot Noir originated in Burgundy itself, with reliable historical records dating it to around the 4th Century CE.
Some records age it even older than that, with some academics believing Romans came into contact with tribes in modern-day France that were drinking some type of Pinot Noir in the first century CE.
Some consider Pinot Noir a “founder variety” of grapes, meaning it’s one of the few varieties of grapes that have been used to make wine since early human history. It has been around long enough to spin off a few similar genetic mutations, most notably Pinot Grigio and Pinot Blanc.
Dr. José Vouillamoz even argues that it is a possible genetic grandparent to Syrah, a more inky, meaty grape variety. No matter its origin, most scholars can agree that the name comes from the French pin, or “pine,” referencing how its small tight clusters resemble a pinecone.
Pinot Noir: A Fickle Friend
Pinot Noir does not make it easy on a winegrower. If the climate is too warm, Pinot Noir can fail to develop its trademark flavors or quickly lose acidity. As a result, most of the successful planting sites tend to be in mild or cool climates.
In those vineyards, Pinot Noir ripens more evenly but is still susceptible to mildew and mold brought on by autumn rains. Clusters of Pinot Noir are notoriously tight-bunched, which makes it even easier for mildew to appear.
The grapes can ripen poorly and unevenly in damp soils, such as clay or marl. Management of the leafy canopy on the vine is integral, as intense exposure to sunlight can cause sunburn on the grape skins.
The challenges do not end there. The wide spectrum of Pinot possibilities also appears in the winery itself. Some winemakers choose to de-stem or direct press their fruit, making a comparatively cleaner version of the varietal. Other producers process the whole cluster without pressing to release the juice.
Some may choose to leave the stems in contact with the fruit clusters, which results in a more woodsy and earthy version of the wine. Oxidation is a constant fear of the winemaker, and Pinot is especially susceptible among red wine varietals.
No matter what choices the winemaker makes, the thin skin of Pinot Noir ensures that every producer must handle their fruit with great care. Pinot Noir is rarely blended with other wines. Because of its particular and persnickety character, most winemakers prefer to let the varietal stand-alone and unadulterated.
One notable exception is in Champagne, where some of the world’s most premier bottles can contain up to seven different varieties, including Pinot Noir. It is commonly pressed without skin contact, which is known as Blanc de Noirs–literally, “white of (or from) blacks.”
What Does Pinot Noir Taste Like?
Given the many variables in growing and producing Pinot Noir, it’s not at all surprising to encounter many styles of wine. Quality Pinots are frequently light-bodied, fruit-forward, low in tannin, and high in acidity. They regularly deliver aromas of cranberry and cherry, and sometimes strawberry.
Just as often, a fine bottle of Pinot will be medium-bodied and more tannic, with flavors of mushroom, forest floor, and clove.
Climate is a huge factor contributing to the quality of Pinot Noir. Most of the finest examples come from cooler regions, both near a coast and further inland. There are also plenty of examples of warmer climate Pinots.
These bottles are typically a little more fruit-forward, bright, and easy-drinking compared to their more expensive and austere counterparts. Burgundy, the poster child for Pinot Noir, produces what are probably the most elegant examples of the variety.
Most of these bottles will be earthy, with predominant notes of soil and mushroom, flanked by brighter fruit flavors of cherry and rose. These bottles are rare and, often, extremely expensive. Most of these examples may be aged for many years to come.
Other Old World countries producing quality Pinot include Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and Germany, where it is known as Spatburgunder. While they might not garner the critical acclaim of their Burgundian counterparts, they are often extremely pleasant to drink and may be obtained at a fraction of the cost.
New World countries typically produce a more fruity and agile version of Pinot Noir. Fantastic examples can be found in New Zealand, where it is known as the country’s premier red variety.
In the United States, California and Oregon are both churning out wonderfully elegant examples that often bring notes of cherry, violets, and vanilla. Pinot can even grow successfully in Australia, as long as the climate is cool enough.
Most recently, excellent interpretations are coming from Tasmania and the Mornington Peninsula.
What Food Should I Pair With Pinot Noir?
Given the seemingly innumerable versions out there, Pinot Noir can almost be thought of as an all-purpose pairing wine. The fruiter versions–that is, those coming from warmer, sunnier climates–are excellent with dishes high in protein and fat.
Try roast duck or quickly seared tuna. For the more robust and earthy Pinots, it’s almost even easier to pair. Try out vegetable-centric dishes like ratatouille or eggplant parmesan, or go for the traditional dishes of Burgundy like Coq au Vin or Boeuf Bourguignon.
What Pinot Noir is Right for Me?
Finding your preferred style of Pinot Noir can be an overwhelming experience. There are almost as many versions of the wine as there are people producing it.
However, if you know a little about where the wine comes from and what flavor profile you personally prefer, you can make an educated decision and begin enjoying your wine before you know it.
Pinot Noir Price Guide
|Anderson Valley, USA||2016||Long Meadow Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir||13%||$39|
|Virginia, USA||2017||Ankida Ridge Vineyards Pinot Noir||14.5%||$48|
|Cote de Nuits, France||2016||Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils Clos de Vougeout Grand Cru||13.5%||$213|
|Monterey, USA||2017||Vinum Cellars Pinot Noir||14.5%||$15|
Recommended Pinot Noir from VinePair
Long Meadow Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2016
This American Pinot Noir smells like cola, cinnamon, and a forest in autumn. The palate is so soft, you’ll want to chew on it. The mouthfeel is silky and delicate and would pair nicely with some nibbles and good friends (if you even want to share). – VinePair Staff
Ankida Ridge Vineyards Pinot Noir 2017
After you’ve sipped this wine; that’s when it hits you. The nose is soft, tight, and smells like cherries and soil. On the palate, it’s the definition of silky, with an incredibly balanced mouthfeel.
Hailing from Virginia, this wine lingers on your palate as well as in your mind — nay, your soul. The aromas and the texture are in such harmony that you’ll understand what balance in a wine inherently means. – VinePair Staff
Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils Clos de Vougeout Grand Cru 2016
Smell this wine, and give in to grapes grown in one of the most revered vineyards for Pinot Noir on the planet. Aromas of savory jerk sauce with a little grilled meat char breathe into earthy balsamic.
The palate is the definition of delicate, with acidity lifting the fruit core like one would a baby — carefully and confidently, as you enjoy the playful elegance of this wine. – VinePair Staff
Teutonic Wine Company Bergspitze Whole Cluster Pinot Noir 2018
Big, juicy, and tart, this wine has a nice tannic structure running through to keep the extreme fruit core tame. The acidity is wild and makes for a very refreshing wine. This bottle is so worth the e-commerce. – VinePair Staff
Vinum Cellars Pinot Noir 2017
It’s not easy finding a good, affordable Pinot Noir for a weeknight, so this is a nice go-to. It’s juicy, grippy, and smells like the fresh soil from your garden. It’s buoyant on the palate with a tart core.
This is a great bottle to share with friends or have a few glasses with just yourself and Netflix. -VinePair Staff
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the difference between Merlot and Pinot Noir?
Merlot is another very well-known grape around the world. It’s commonly associated with a separate French wine region, Bordeaux, which is located in the southwest corner of the country near the Atlantic ocean.
Typically, Merlot is more tannic, more full-bodied, and higher in alcohol than Pinot Noir. Some Merlot is even as robust and aggressive as Cabernet Sauvignon.
2. Is Pinot Noir served chilled?
More often than not, Pinot Noir is served at room temperature. When wines are warmer, they will often display more delicate aromas than if they are too cold.
That said, most wine professionals will recommend that you drink Pinot at cellar temperature; that is, at about 55 degrees Fahrenheit/12 degrees Celsius.
3. Is Pinot Noir dry or sweet?
Generally speaking, Pinot Noir is dry. The smoothness for which Pinot is known comes from the delicate balancing act of acid and tannin. Just how dry the end result will be is a decision made by each individual winemaker.
4. How many calories are in a bottle of Pinot Noir?
The industry standard for the amount of caloric energy stored in a single glass of Pinot Noir is about 120 calories. Therefore, there are approximately 620 calories in an entire bottle of Pinot.
5. Is Pinot Noir gluten-free?
All wine is naturally gluten-free in its unadulterated form. However, some winemakers will make chemical additions to wine that alter its molecular structure, and can change it from its natural state.
When in doubt, it’s always best to ask your local sommelier or wine shop about which bottles are best for your dietary needs.