Probably my favorite wine varietal, but also one of the most misunderstood around. People either seem to love it, or hate it without much in between.
I'm not one to talk in terms of poetry but I'm not afraid to quote those that are when it comes to wine. Joel Fleischman of Vanity Fair describes Pinot noir as "the most romantic of wines, with so voluptuous a perfume, so sweet an edge, and so powerful a punch that, like falling in love, they make the blood run hot and the soul wax embarrassingly poetic."
Ok so we know Pinot Noir is planted all over the world and is especially famous in Burgundy France on the Cote-d'or(which is really only a 2 mile wide by 30 mile long stretch of hills) and is now famous in American in places such as Oregon and the California central coast and the Russian River Valley in Sonoma.
What is it? It is a red wine grape which is considered by experts to be only 1-2 generations removed from wild vines. That is to say this grape isn't a combination it is truly an old world grape that can be found described in books around 2000 years ago, if not longer as the ancient Romans starting tending the varietal around 100AD.
Why do winemakers like it?
Pinot Noir is difficult to grow for a number of reasons:
Spring frosts kill the vine
The child vines often produce fruit very different from their parents
Every type of serious vine sickness is common in Pinot Noir
Is a carrier for a couple of insects that can destroy an entire vineyard in 3 years or less
It is hard to ferment
The vines are so small that they often do not protect the fruit from birds
Winemakers love it for exactly these reasons. Yes, partially it is a challenge to produce year in, year out great bottles but wine is not beer. The idea is not to have the same wine bottled every year, wine is suppose to be a living thing that changes over time. The tannins in Pinot Noir often product a sort of liquid silk when done correctly, often between 5-8 years after the vintage.
Pinot Noir is known as the heatbreak grape for many reasons and more then a few winemakers believe the varietal is as picky and more stubborn then any human they've ever had to deal with.
Me, I simply enjoy the complexity when it is bottled correctly.