Pinot Noir

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Pinot Noir is the most important and oldest form of pinot. It is the grape variety wholly responsible for red burgundy and one that suddenly became the height of fashion, thanks to the 2004 film Sideways. It gives its name to the noirien family of grape varieties. Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, which can be grown in all but the coolest conditions and can be economically viable as an inexpensive but recognizably Cabernet wine, Pinot Noir demands much of both vine-grower and winemaker (see climate and wine quality, for example). It is a tribute to the unparalleled level of physical excitement generated by tasting one of Burgundy’s better reds that such a high proportion of the world’s most ambitious wine producers want to try their hand with this capricious and extremely variable vine. Although there is relatively little consistency in its performance in its homeland, Pinot Noir has been transplanted to almost every one of the world’s wine regions, except the very hottest, where it can so easily turn from essence to jam.