What is Pinot Noir?

Pinot is the Don Juan of grape varieties: a really seductive charmer. It's hard to grow, but in the right circumstances produces elegant wines of exceptional quality. Pinot will never be the blockbuster that Shiraz is, but recent growing techniques are make for ever bigger, richer wines.

Pinot Noir is a varietal that mutates easily, hence its cousins Pinot Meunier (red) and Pinot gris (white). In mature vineyards there may be many different clones of the same plant. The fascination for many producers is finding the right clones for their vineyards and for the style they wish to produce.

New Zealand in little more than a generation has built a reputation for exceptional Pinots, even as far south as chilly Central Otago. California has an international reception for succulent, ripe Pinots along the cool North coast, in Carneros and the Russian River. Now Chile is joining in with vivid, youthful wines.

Main characteristics

Colour: red; from pale garnet to deep ruby

Body: medium bodied

Tastes: aromas range from pure raspberries, redcurrants and cherries through to more rustic, farmyard-y notes. Pinot Noir has appealing fresh acidity and delicate ripe fruits, with velvety tannins

AKA: Spätburgunder (Germany), Switzerland (Blauburgunder)

Spotter's guide: Pinot Noir's spiritual home is in France, in Burgundy. However Alsace and the Loire are also important producers. Germany; Austria; Eastern Europe; California, Oregon, USA; Chile; New Zealand; Australia. Sparkling wine: more or less wherever wines are made according to the traditional (champagne) method. Pinot Noir (along with Chardonnay and to a lesser extent Pinot Meunier) is one of the key elements of Champagne

Keep or drink? Pinot is a chameleon - most of them may be drunk young, but the finest will develop and be more complex in 5-10 years or more

Price range: £4.99-£499 and more

Try it with

Goat's cheese & cranberry tartlets
Slow cooked leg of lamb
Lamb en croûte with redcurrant sauce