10 Interesting Facts About Pinot Noir

1. It is known as the Heartbreak Grape.

Despite its popularity, Pinot Noir is not the easiest grape to cultivate. It is very thin-skinned, which makes it liable to get damaged in the vineyard. It is also difficult to ripen, requiring specific conditions and high standards of care. It is for this reason that it has been given the moniker of the “heartbreak grape,” no doubt in reference to the feeling the winemakers experience when something goes wrong, as is quite common amongst those who are not experienced with Pinot Noir.

2. Pinot Noir literally means ‘black pine’.

The name Pinot Noir comes from the French words for pine and black. The black part should be self-explanatory, as the grapes have a very dark colouring, but people may be confused as to where the pine portion comes from. The word pine alludes to the grape variety having tightly clustered, pinecone-shaped bunches of fruit.

3. It has French roots.

Pinot Noir’s home is France’s Burgundy region, particularly in Côte-d’Or

4. It is a cool grape.

No, really. Besides being highly fashionable, it literally prefers cool climate regions to warmer ones. Remember the Heartbreak Grape? Well, yes, it is a rather temperamental variety that does not flourish in warm weather. This makes the cooler Elgin Valley the ideal Cape Winelands region to grow Pinot Noir very successfully. Fairly good examples are also found in New Zealand.

5. It makes great fizz.

Apart from Burgundy in France, Pinot Noir is planted extensively in Champagne for sparkling wines and there are currently more Pinot Noir vines planted in Champagne than in Burgundy.

6. A nutty professor brought it to sunny South Africa.

Professor Abraham Perold, the Father of Pinotage, originally imported Pinot Noir to South Africa on the Swiss BK5 clone. He cross-pollinated Pinot Noir with Hermitage, also known as Cinsault, and so Pinotage was birthed in 1925.

7. Less colour, more elegance.

Pinot Noir differs from all other important dark-skinned varieties in more than one way: it has fewer colour pigments, it is more prone to oxidation, it has fewer flavouring substances and tannins, and is liable to lose a significant proportion of these during the winemaking process. If you want to taste Pinot Noir at its best, you must handle it gently and be content with pale, wonderfully aromatic but relatively light-bodied wine with copious amounts of elegance and finesse.

8. It favours whole bunch pressing.

Whole bunch pressing is excellent when making MCC and allows much less mechanical interaction with your grapes, which in turn results in must with lower turbidity, pH and less lees. At the same time acid is retained and delicacy is enhanced. On the other hand, whole bunch fermentation is favoured when producing still red Pinot Noir. The influence of whole bunch fermentation is twofold in nature. Apart from the presence of the stems, the berries are also not broken. A process similar to maceration carbonique consequently develops where internal berry fermentation can occur to impart a unique character to the wine. It has its disadvantages, though. Everything must be hand-harvested and brought into the cellar in crates. This method is labour-intensive, lengthy, and thus expensive.

9. It has its own day.

Yup. Not that we need an actual date to drink Pinot Noir, but August 18th is officially International Pinot Noir Day. Head out to Elgin Vintners and procure yourself a case of our finest. Then get together with your friends who each brings a bottle of his / her Pinot Noir of choice, and sample vintages and styles you are less familiar with. It is a great opportunity to broaden your wine palate and indulge in this luxurious varietal

10. It is the most highly priced varietal in the world.

For one, it is not grown everywhere. It is also prone to rot due to tight bunches and clusters, is difficult to work with and generally delivers a below-average crop. All these factors contribute to the price of Pinot Noir. Half of the 50 most expensive wines listed at wine-searcher are Pinot Noir wines from Burgundy.

Reference List:

Anon (2016) Xtra Wine Blog “Interesting Facts about Pinot Noir”. Available at: <https://blog.xtrawine.com/en/interesting-facts-about-pinot-noir/>  [Accessed on 21 April 2020]

Casey (2020) “Wine Holidays 2020”. Available from: <https://travellingcorkscrew.com.au/blog/international-wine-days/>  [Accessed on 21 April 2020]

Halliday, J. & Johnson, H. (1992) The Art and Science of Wine.

Hands, P. & Hughes, D. (2001) “New World of Wine from the Cape of Good Hope – The Definitive Guide to the South African Wine Industry”.

Mocke, B. (2017) “The Quest to Become Whole”. Available at <https://www.wineland.co.za/quest-become-whole/>  [Accessed on 21 April 2020]