Pinot Noir

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What is pinot noir?

Aside from being the inspiration for the highly underrated song “Peeno Noir” from the TV show The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, pinot noir is a very popular grape variety used to make red wine. There are quite a few other pinot varieties, but when someone casually drops something like, “I’m about to order an extremely crushable pinot from Saucey right now,” into a conversation, they’re almost certainly talking about pinot noir. That’s because it’s the most popular lighter-bodied red wine in the world.

Is pinot noir a good wine?

“Good” is subjective, but of course. But a good bottle of pinot noir is kinda like The Beatles in their prime; it’s all but impossible not to thoroughly enjoy it. Pinot’s roots can be traced back to the Burgundy region in France (oh la la) and historically, the difficulty of growing the grapes created scarcity, and with scarcity comes, in part, prestige. But in more modern times, other regions have likewise made names for themselves in the pinot game. Check out Joel Gott hailing from Oregon; La Crema from Sonoma, California; and Yellow Tail from Australia.

And yes, the protagonist’s obsession with pinot noir in the movie Sideways did indeed play a big part in the wine’s current popularity.

Is pinot noir dry or sweet?

Sweetness in wine comes from residual sugar, of which pinot noir generally has none or very little. Pinot is fruity, though, and its high acidity lends a juiciness to it that may register for some as “sweet.”

It’s made in a dry style, which means natural sugars from the grapes are converted into alcohol by yeast during the fermentation process. A truly sweet wine like a port or even a riesling utilizes a method in which fermentation is stopped before all the sugar is converted into yeast.

What is the flavor of pinot noir?

Generally, a pinot noir exhibits a red-berry fruitiness, with little hints of mushroom and what wine peeps sometimes call “forest floor”—like, literally, that smell of wet-ish leaves on a forest floor. But to keep things simple: pinot noir largely means you’ll get a wine with juicy red berry flavors, but no treacly sweetness.

What is the difference between pinot noir and merlot?

Like pinot noir, merlot is a grape variety. As a varietal wine (i.e. merlot is the only grape used), merlot is more full-bodied and tannic than pinot noir. But it’s also used quite often in red wine blends. While much depends on whether a merlot is made in a Bordeaux tradition (i.e. earlier harvest, which yields a lighter and more acidic wine) or in the “international style” which is big flavor, big alcohol, big everything, pinot noir will generally be a lighter red than merlot.

And yes, the protagonist’s constant dogging on merlot in the movie Sideways did indeed drastically decrease merlot’s popularity. But merlot is making a comeback, especially with smaller producers—stay tuned.