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In Good Taste

Introduction to Pinot Noir

Introduction to Pinot Noir

Wine lovers are often intrigued by the history and origin of their favorite varietals, and Pinot Noir wines certainly have a long and interesting story. Centuries ago, growers noticed these small grapes grow in tight clusters that they compared with a pinecone, hence its name – Pinot is French for pine. There are several distinct types of Pinot grapes, including sub-varietally identifying color variations (blanc, rouge, noir, gris, rose, violet, tenteurier, moure, etc.) The French word for black is Noir, so these dark-colored grapes are called Pinot Noir. If you’re interested in Pinot Noir pronunciation, try rolling “pea-know-nwa” off your tongue.

Pinot Noir grapes were first cultivated in the Burgundy region of France, during the 1st century CE. The fine reputation of these wines led to some international export of grafts from the stock vines, and today, vineyards in about thirty different countries boast Pinot Noir grapes.

Growing Conditions

The ancient Pinot grape may actually represent a direct domestication of the Eurasian wild grapevine (and hermaphroditic-flowered) Vitis sylvestris. Most wild grapevines are dioecious, with exclusively male or exclusively female flowers, and this natural selection feature makes the wild grapevines stronger. In cultivated grapevines this feature allows the vine to be more focused on the ability to produce excellent fruit!

While the hermaphrodite-flowered grapevine is self-pollinating, it can also be cross-pollinated. The proximity of fields of different types and qualities of grapes almost inevitably led to the introduction of mutations and altogether new varieties including Chardonnay, Aligoté, Auxerrois, Gamay, Melon, and many others, stemming from the Pinot Noir vines. Researchers test the DNA of the grapes’ skin, fruit, and even leaves to discern the origin and designation of the vines. Growers who want to be assured of consistency use grafting to embed the original plant into new vines.

How It's Made

The juice of the Pinot Noir grapes is uncolored, and the finished wine is colored by the skin’s anthocyanin. Pinot Noir grapes are made into a variety of delicious wines, including red and rosé, and even sparkling white wines, and award-winning champagne. In fact, Pinot Noir is the most-planted grape varietal (38%) used in sparkling wine production in Champagne and other wine regions.

Pinot Noir grapevines are cropped to achieve a lower yield of grapes for better quality wines. Pinot Noir wines are among the most popular in the world. Here in the U.S. we have vineyards in all fifty states, with our top wine producers including California, Washington, and New York. Both California and Oregon have produced some exceptional Pinot Noir wines as well as some of the best red wines in recent tastings.

Unfortunately, these thin-skinned grapes are notoriously difficult to grow, as they ripen slowly and unevenly and are susceptible to vine molds. In many countries, the terroir for Pinot Noir is a more intermediate climate with long, cool growing seasons. This slower ripening imparts a more earthy taste to Old World wines, while those grown in New World warmer climates — like California, Oregon, or Australia — have a more noticeable fruity bouquet.

Pinot Noir is a dry red wine that tends to be of light to medium body, with a pleasant boldness. Its medium-high acidity adds freshness and balances the nuanced flavors.  While most wines with a lighter body tend to be lower in alcohol than the heavier-bodied wines, the alcohol in Pinot Noir depends on the climate where it’s grown as the ripening process influences alcohol levels. Pinot Noir from cooler regions like France and Germany often has 12–13.5% ABV, and when grown in warmer climates like California and Australia it can range from 13.5–15% ABV.

A Food Friendly Wine

The magic starts when the grapes ferment into wine, as chemical compounds are produced that are identical to those found in other fruits and foods. This creates a fruity red wine with an aroma of black or red cherry, raspberry, currant, and other berries.  As it ages in fine French oak barrels it acquires sweet vanilla and toast characters.

The five basic tastes — sweet, salty, sour, umami, and bitter — are all your tongue is really capable of tasting, but the lasting impression this wine leaves in your mouth is far more complex. Wine lovers describe the flavor and aroma in terms of its sweetness, alcohol, acidity, tannins, and oak. If you’re wondering if Pinot Noir is sweet - it’s known as a pleasant wine that’s not too dry, but certainly not sweet. Pinot Noir is classified as a dry red wine that many lovers of sweet red wine also enjoy.

Tannins are the proteins found mainly in the skins of the grapes, so they're less prominent in white wines. Once a wine starts to age, the tannins begin to break down in the bottle, giving the wine a more complex taste with a warmer and softer feel that lingers. You'll feel these well-balanced wines more in the mouth, and they tend to bring out a smile.

A Holiday for Pinot Noir

August 18 is International Pinot Noir Day, but we can enjoy this velvety-smooth wine year-round. Blending the nuances of sweet red fruit, tart cherry, and earthy mushroom, Pinot Noir’s taste is classy, food-friendly, and welcome as a complement to any table or cellar. Pinot Noir is a low-tannin red wine that pairs exquisitely with pasta, chicken, mushrooms, and even fatty fish like salmon. As a light-bodied red wine, it’s also popular as a complimentary refreshment with the perfect charcuterie board.

Red wine is typically served in glasses with larger bowls, which allow more surface area of the wine to reach the air. This helps the wine demonstrate the aromas and flavors we enjoy. Unlike white wines, which are served cold (43-55°F)  in glasses with longer stems for holding without warming the wine, darker wines are enjoyed at less chilled temperatures. The light-bodied red wines are great at 55-64°F, while more full-bodied red wines prefer 60-68°F and the fortified dessert wines fall close to the middle of these.

Pinot Noir in the Spotlight

Pinot Noir is one of the most popular types of red wine. Ironically, the popularity of this light red wine was enhanced by a movie that won an Academy Award in 2005, when the central character was compared to Pinot Noir grapes, as “Thin-skinned. Temperamental. In need of constant care and attention.” The film Sideways was not so fortuitous for other red wine types though, as Merlot was disparaged by the same character, and Merlot growers attested an estimated $400M loss in income over the next decade. There may have been many reasons for the overall increase in wine consumption, of course.


Some people assume that Old World wines are preferable and therefore the best Pinot Noir wine comes from the vineyards in Burgundy France. We can attest that those ancient vineyards are a treasure and certainly some of the best Pinot Noir comes from there. But French judges have come to appreciate the uniqueness, quality, and sophistication of California wines, and in some cases, prefer them over French wines. In the legendary 1976 blind tasting known as “The Judgement of Paris,” nine French judges selected wines from California as their favorites. This certainly opened doors to more international exports and experiments.

The pursuit of the best bottles of wine, whether it’s sweet red wines, dry sparkling champagnes, or the perfect Pinot Noir should be savored. We can agree that there are plenty of delicious choices available. Let’s keep tasting and keep open minds that welcome pleasant surprises!

Rosé of Sangiovese


Sangiovese can be found in both the Chianti and Montalcino regions of Tuscany (it all sounds so romantic, right?) and is known for producing classic medium-bodied wines. Rosé wine is actually made from red grapes, and this is where the Rosé of Sangiovese comes to play. Crisp, fruit-forward, and easy-to-drink, it's everything you want in your bottle of Rosé and more.




Big, bold, and full of flavor—exactly what you’d expect an Italian wine to be! This classic Italian grape produces some of Italy’s most straightforward red wines and is often used as a blending grape. Not here, though. We let Montepulciano do the heavy lifting as a heavy red wine and shine on its own. If you enjoy the smell of leather bound books, nibbling on dried fruit, and complementary notes of bitter, dark chocolate and sweet plums, you will love this Italian wine. No need to pair it with any certain dish—Montepulciano tastes great with all the Italian classics.

Cabernet Sauvignon


If Pinot Noir is the light and juicy queen of reds, Cabernet Sauvignon is her bolder, heavier, meatier sister. Often referred to as just “cab,” it’s the wine of France’s Bordeaux and California’s Napa Valley. There’s nothing subtle about Cabernet Sauvignon—high in alcohol, full-bodied and robust, you can usually find this red served with a ribeye, New York Strip, or filet mignon (re: carnivores love cab). Classic cabs usually offer tasting notes of chocolate, coffee, and darker fruits like prunes and plums. The Unprecedented Cabernet Sauvignon is as classic as they come, and we highly recommend letting the bottle sit and mellow until your next red meat and potatoes dinner!

Pinot Grigio

La Pluma

If you’re looking for more zest in your life, a bottle of Pinot Grigio can provide that. We included a classic Pinot Grigio in the La Pluma collection because we’re all about light and easy here, which is exactly what this grape from Italy is. It has that dry sense of humor that seems so effortless with a punchy acidity to keep you on your toes, all while offering notes of lemon, limes, green apples, and honeysuckle. Long story short; when it’s been a heavy day and your soul is seeking light things only, you’ll be happy to have this bottle on hand.

Pinot Noir


We couldn’t create the In Good Taste Unprecedented collection without the Golden Retriever of wines: Pinot Noir. Pinot is likable, it’s easy, and its natural state of being is simply charming. It’s an incredibly easy red wine to love, which is why so many people do. The grape itself is from the Burgundy region of France, but has made its way to California, Oregon, Australia, Italy, Argentina, and Germany since. Our Pinot Noir has no surprise twists—it’s a classic light red with just the right amount of sweetness to keep you coming back for another glass (or two).

Coteaux Bourguignons


The Burgundy region of France is home to their best Pinot Noirs, but we took the grapes into our own hands to create something extra special with our Coteaux Bourguignons. It’s a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, which results in a French red that’s light in body but full in flavor. The ripest blueberries and freshest herbs can be easily detected in this French burgundy blend. May we suggest pairing it with some creamy brie and freshly baked bread? It’s a oui-ning combo.




A little sweet. A little tart. A little salty? You truly get it all with this white Italian wine. If you're into that biting acidity, Verdicchio will probably be high on your list of most-loved wines from our Andiamo collection. Citrus fruits like mandarin, lemon, and grapefruit are at the forefront, but what really sets this Italian wine apart is its distinct notes of almond. While our Verdicchio can start out tasting a bit tart, the more you sip, the smoother it becomes. In fact, we suggest approaching it as an aperitif (Italian for an alcoholic drink sipped before a meal to stimulate the appetite) to experience its full effect.


Côtes du Rhône White


This was one of our first French wines to join the Passport collection and one sip will explain why. Some background on the Rhône Valley in France: While this region is known for its dark, juicy reds, a very small amount of special white wines are made in the Rhône Valley. Our Côtes du Rhône is packed with French-perfected, floral flavor and Old-World charm. Its natural tang paired with the weighty Marsanne grape and aromatic Roussanne grape results in a crisp, savory sip that’ll transport you to a sunbathing chair by the Rhône itself.


Bordeaux Rouge


When you picture medieval folk sitting around a feast with goblets of wine, chances are they were drinking Bordeaux. This wine has been made in France since forever and is arguably the most classic French wine out there. Bordeaux is known for its full body, smoky notes, and rich, oaky taste. If you love cabs, chances are you will adore Bordeaux. For our Passport wines, we had to include this classic French red for you to sip and enjoy to your heart’s content. Best savored over a rich meal like lamb ragu, ratatouille, or BBQ.


Ventoux Rosé


You probably know that the Tour de France is held on Ventoux Mountain in France, but did you know that the same area is known for its high-altitude rosé? This is the kind of quintessential French rosé that you don’t need to spin your wheels over—it’s simply delicious, crisp, and perfect for warm weather. Despite its delicate, pale pink color, each sip is lush with flavor, from tropical passionfruit and zesty citrus to refreshing melon. This has the potential to be your new summer go-to, so we’d suggest stocking up.



Wild Child

Say “¡Hola!” to Spain’s main grape: Tempranillo. This red grape put Rioja wine on the map and is un vino tinto classico. It’s best compared to a classic cab, but with a bit more unique magic that’s hard to put your finger on, which is why it’s a part of our Wild Child line. This medium- to full-bodied wine with its relatively higher tannins usually offers complex notes of cherry, fig, cedar, tobacco, and dill. This is the type of red wine you want to buy and pour for a Latin-infused meal; think carne asada, tacos al carbon, or just perfectly cooked steak fajita meat.


La Pluma

We knew the only red in the La Pluma collection had to be exceptionally good and exceptionally light. That’s why including a Grenache was a no-brainer. If smooth, fruit-forward, light-bodied reds appeal to your tastebuds, this could be your new favorite. The grape itself is tricky; depending on the climate of where its grown, Grenache wines could be light, dense, or somewhere in the middle. La Pluma’s version has all the airiness and flavor notes we wanted in our Grenache, which is how we know you’ll love it. Get the most of this red by pairing it with roasted meats, spice-heavy vegetables, and Mexican-inspired dishes with lots of cumin.




This grape goes by different names in most European countries, but what remains the same is its fruity floral nature. Delicate in every way and extremely quaffable, this wine is as dainty as they come.



We really try not to play favorites at In Good Taste, but there is just something about an Italian Barbera that hits different in the best way. Barberas are the perfect wine for pizza night; they're low in alcohol, and medium-bodied but taste super light, and their berry and plum flavors pair incredibly well with savory tomato sauce and cheese! Another fun thing about Barberas? They actually taste great when chilled, which is not something we're in the habit of suggesting for our red wines. Our Italian Barbera lies somewhere between the body of a cab and a pinot and is the ideal choice for a "ladies who lunch" kind of afternoon.


Wild Child

We couldn't not have a weird white in the mix, right?! The Vermentino grape is native along the coast of Italy on the island of Sardinia (yeah, like the fish). Because of its origin, this grape offers a salty, crisp flavor that's incredibly easy to drink and enjoy. We say it's "weird" only because it's not widely known by name, but chances are you've probably had it before if you've ever ordered white wine in an Italian restaurant. If you love peaches and lemons and get a kick out of anything that reminds you of the sea, our Vermentino is the perfect Italian white to experience on a sunny day outside.




For the Chardonnay lovers who are looking to dig a bit deeper in the world of bold whites, a Viognier (pronounced vee-own-yay) could be your next big adventure. Viogniers tend to have more range; while they can be creamy with hints of vanilla like their Chardonnay counterpart, they also offer lighter, fruitier flavors like tangerine, mango, and honeysuckle. It’s still a more full-bodied white wine, but unlike Chardonnay, it’s softer on acidity and more perfumed. Spend an afternoon with a glass of Viognier amongst the flowers and it’ll all make sense.


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