Red Wine 101: Getting to Know Pinot Noir

In the tannic sea of red wines, pinot noir stands out as many a wine drinker’s very favorite. Canonized in popular culture by Paul Giamatti in Sideways back in 2004, pinot is highly sought after by expert collectors and is one of the world’s most widely drunk varietals.

So why does everyone love pinot noir? It’s really no mystery but here are three clues anyhow.

A Red by Any Other Name

Pinot noir is one of the noble grapes, six varieties of the fruit renowned for the high quality wines they produce that have been grown in France since the time of the Romans. In its birthplace of France, it’s not known as pinot noir, however. The French refer to wine by region instead of varietal, so if you’re looking for a real French pinot noir you’re actually looking for a (very expensive) red burgundy. When produced in Australia, California, Chile, Oregon or New Zealand it’s known as pinot noir. Bottles from these regions are generally a little easier on your bank account.

Once You go Noir

Pinot noir is notoriously easy to drink and is considered the gateway red wine for inexperienced drinkers. Many people who find red wines too heavy are likely to enjoy pinot noir as it tends to be light to medium-bodied and fruit-forward. It has a smooth mouthfeel and complexity of flavor that would normally be associated with a darker red while still maintaining an overall delicate and clean impression on the palate.

Plays With Food


With tasting notes of dark and red fruits like cranberry, currant, plum, black cherry and raspberry and gentle herbaceous notes of dried leaves and faded roses, pinot noir complements a wide variety of dishes. With its high acidity and low tannins it pairs well with lighter dishes like poached salmon or herb roasted chicken over salad. It’s also a wonderful match for street foods with more robust flavors like carne asada or lamb barbacoa tacos. Pinot noir can also complement vegetarian dishes like mushroom risotto or party foods like cheese boards of gouda and cheddar.