Pinot Noir wine grape

Pinot Noir
For many the greatest of all red wine grapes, and certainly one of the oldest.  It almost certainly originated in Burgundy, where historical records prove it was well-established in the 14th Century, and perhaps as early as the 4th Century.  DNA evidence backs this up, suggesting that the variety is about a thousand years old.  It may well be only a second- or third-generation descendant of wild Vitis Sylvestris grapes.
 
Such a long history has lead to great genetic diversity.  There are over a thousand different recognised clones of Pinot Noir.  Some of these are so distinctive that they were long regarded as separate varieties: Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and the champagne grape Pinot Meunier are examples.
 
It ripens very early for a black grape, so it doesn’t suit hot regions where there’s no time for its flavours to develop before aroma and acid levels plummet.  Indeed it is the most cool-climate-friendly of the major black grapes, and the only one of any significance in Germany or Alsace.  Yet it buds early, making it prone to frost damage in cool regions, and its thin skins and tightly-packed bunches rot easily when exposed to autumn rains.  It’s susceptible to other vine diseases too: powdery and downy mildew, fanleaf and leafroll viruses.
 
The great diversity of clones available, combined with Pinot’s transparency to terroir, make it very difficult to generalise about its flavours.  Perhaps its main characteristic is charm.  Its wine is rarely more than medium-bodied, with red fruit flavours and haunting perfume.
 
Those thin skins mean that Pinot wine is not deeply coloured, and not usually very tannic either.  These characteristics have enabled it to become the main grape (along with its child Chardonnay and clone Pinot Meunier) of Champagne and similarly-styled sparkling wines around the world.
 

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