Do you know what’s special about 18th August? Apart from it being someone’s birthday, anniversary, or such like? Or it being National Fajita Day (yes, really) or Bad Poetry Day (I’m not making it up)? It’s (trumpet fanfare) International Pinot Noir Day!

So before we get to the serious stuff about the wine, here’s a little ditty that I’ve made up to celebrate all three days (advance warning: it is a seriously bad poem).

What wine to go with fajita?

A bold red, or something a bit sweeter?

So many to choose

From the grape-focused booze –

But Pinot Noir is hard to beat-er!

Enough of this frivolity – let’s look at a brief profile of Pinot Noir in ten points.


What’s in a name?

Pinot Noir = Black pine-cone. Apparently, way back in the mists of time, vine growers looked at the tightly-clustered bunches of grapes and decided that they looked a bit like a pine-cone – pin is French for pine. The noir is more straightforward – it’s simply French for ‘black’. And there we have it.

That’s a lot of Pinot Noir!

Pinot Noir is the 10th most planted grape variety in the world, totalling some 290,000 acres worldwide (117,000 hectares).

It’s big in America!

The United States is the 2nd largest producer of Pinot Noir after France. The United States has 73,600 acres; France 75,760 acres.

How old?

Pinot Noir is thought to be some 2,000 years old.

Who am I?

Pinot Noir has a bit of an identity crisis – it has quite a number of aliases, including the following eleven: Blauer Arbst, Burgunder, Cortaillod, Klevner, Modri Pinot, Mário Feld Tinto, Mourillon, Nagyburgundi, Pignola, Salvagnin Noir, and Spätburgunder.

By the way, DNA analysis shows that Pinot Gris (Grigio) and Pinot Blanc are colour mutations of Pinot Noir.

Baby, it’s cold outside

Pinot Noir enjoys a cool climate. In the Old World, Burgundy in France is its spiritual home, and it is also very happy in Germany and Austria. In the New World, look out for Pinots from New Zealand, the Pacific Northwest of America and the cooler areas of Chile. Generally speaking, red wines from cool climates tend to have a higher acidity, taste spicier, have lower alcohol, and a lighter body. Incidentally, Chardonnay enjoys similar conditions to Pinot Noir, so you’ll often find these two grapes planted in proximity to one another.

Difficult? Moi?

Pinot Noir is a bit of a diva: the grapes have thin skins and generally have low tannins meaning that pests are not easily deterred; the thin skins also make the berries more sensitive to heat – which renders them a bit of a difficult grape to grow.

Red, white or rosé?

Pinot Noir is one of the few red grapes that’s routinely made into red, rosé, white, and sparkling wine.

I’m getting a hint of raspberry ….

Pinot Noir can have quite a range of flavours depending on where it’s grown and the vintage. Fruity flavours include cranberry, cherry, strawberry and raspberry, but you may also detect vanilla, clove, liquorice, mushroom, wet leaves or tobacco.

Nom Nom!

When it comes to food, Pinot Noir is very accommodating. Pair it with fish and shellfish such as salmon, trout or lobster; poultry like chicken or turkey; lots of vegetarian dishes – especially mushrooms.

Pinots with more tannin are ideal with duck and other game birds, casseroles or stews like the quintessential beef bourguignon.

When it comes to cheese, try it with a flavourful Comté. Gruyère, Manchego or Cheddar, or a mature blue.


If you would like to savour a top-class Pinot Noir why not indulge in this month’s Wine of the Month – Gem Pinot Noir from Martinborough, New Zealand.

By Maureen Little