The Many Faces of the Pinot Noir Grape

the many faces of the pinot noir grape

Pinot Noir is a firm favorite with both vintners and wine lovers around the globe displaying different expressions across the Old and New Worlds. This international popularity is a fine endorsement that it’s worth the trouble because, in fact, Pinot Noir is very difficult to grow.

Firstly, Pinot Noir 101. Thin-skinned and delicate, Pinot Noir wines are usually light ruby in colour and have light to medium levels of tannin. It can range in style from fruity and easy-drinking to complex, earthy, and spicy. It all depends on where it is grown and what style the winemaker wants to achieve. Many people browse endlessly on alcohol stores online in search of the “best” Pinot Noir, however given that the range of choice can be overwhelming, we’ll break down the main expressions of this fine wine here.


This central-east region in France marks the benchmark for Pinot Noir production around the world. Known here as simply, Burgundy, this finicky grape displays differently in every appellation in this famous wine-producing area.

There are four quality levels here. At the bottom is regional or Bourgogne AC, next there’s village level, following this is Premier Cru and, at the top of the tree is Grand Cru. The styles according to level, range from fruity and early drinking up to complex, layered, intense, and age-worthy.

It’s important to note that you can still find an excellent Pinot Noir at the lower appellation levels. After all, they’re pretty good at making wine in Burgundy all round!


In this quality wine-producing country, Riesling reigns over white wines and Pinot Noir over the reds. Germany’s overall cool climate (it’s just about at the northern limit of successful grape growing for winemaking) give this red fruity, perfumed notes and delicate tannins. It can also be made in rosé styles here.

Known locally as Spätburgunder, it’s made with particular finesse in the regions of Pfalz and Baden.


Pinot Noir loves cool climates so much of the wine regions in this antipodean country are too sweltering for it to thrive. However, in the pockets of cooler temperatures where it is grown, it makes very fine wines indeed with New World panache.

The Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, and Tasmania regions enjoy cooling altitudes and/ or ocean breezes both of which set the scene for quality Pinot Noir cultivation. If you enjoy a glass from these parts, you can expect medium-bodied wines with prominent cherry and strawberry plus bright acidity. They’re definitely worth a try!

New Zealand

This southern hemisphere country is one of the star producers of Pinot Noir. Martinborough on the north island is where you’ll find a style with lower acidity and rich red fruit in a spicy full body. Marlborough and Central Otago on the South Island produce lighter style Pinot Noir and, as well as still wines, make it in sparkling styles.

USA, Chile, and South Africa

It’s impossible to talk about Pinot Noir without mentioning Oregon in the USA. With its perfect moderate climate, the style here is acidic, and spicy with concentrated fruit. California is generally too hot for Pinot Noir but cool spots like Los Carnero, Santa Barbara, and Sonoma AVAs turn out intensely fruity wines with cherry and strawberry while bottle ageing reveals leather, game, and vegetal tones.

Elsewhere in the New World, Chile’s Casablanca region has built a reputation for premium fruity, strawberry jam Pinot Noirs with herby notes while the coastal area of Walker Bay in South Africa makes small quantities to a high-quality level. Oak adds toasty tones.

Enjoy your Pinot Noir drinking journey whatever your taste in its range of styles. This grape has so much to offer with its variety of expressions in many wine-producing countries – not solely the more renowned spots listed here. If you are keen to learn more, read about the different faces of Chardonnay as well and happy exploring across the world of wines and spirits and cheers!