Varietal 3: Pinot Noir| Part D: Comparing Pinot Noir

Oregon Pinot Noir benefits from its cooler northerly climate, Pacific breezes and foggy days allowing the grape to ripen slowly developing fresh red fruit flavors while maintaining higher acidity.  Many similarities exist between wines from the Willamette Valley, the primary AVA for Pinot Noir, and Burgundy in France.  Both lie at similar latitudes, 45o north, and wine making styles used by winemakers are often derived by French tradition.  Complexity is created by gentle use of oak for smoky, clove-like flavors and just like their Burgundian cousins, can age well resulting in mushroom and compost influences.  As we compare U.S. Pinot Noir to  Europe, Burgundy, France in particular, the similarities are more and more recognizable.

Europe‚Äôs famed Pinot Noirs reign from the Burgundy region of France.  As mentioned, the northerly climate with sunny warm days and cooler nights is ideally suited for this finicky grape to thrive.  Premium wines have intense red fruit flavor and refined exposure to French Oak barrels, which are milder in their influence on wines than American Oak, create smoky flavors.  With its higher acidity, Burgundy Pinot Noirs can age nicely forming flavors of mushrooms and damn forest floor.  These wine making decisions result in complex wines with unique flavor and aromas some wine drinkers love and some do not.   While nearly all Pinot Noir wines are single varietals, it is nearly impossible to find a bottle of wine from this region with Pinot Noir on the label due to French wine laws.  Instead look for French wines labeled Burgundy, Bourgogne, or one of the regional Appellations, Villages or famed vineyards.  Yes, this can be extremely confusing and the best wines will come with a steep price tag.  

U.S. Growing Regions:

  • California – Sonoma Coast, Monterey, Santa Barbara, Anderson Valley, Carneros
  • Oregon
  • Other notable states to include Michigan, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island

Global Growing Regions:

  • France – Burgundy
  • Chile
  • South Africa
  • Australia
  • New Zealand