There’s a reason they call pinot noir grapes the Heartbreak Grape and it’s not because of the correlation between breakups and wine consumption. If you’ve ever wondered what makes pinot noir so special and elegant in the world of wines, here’s the simple answer: it’s not easy to grow. The conditions that yield the perfect grape for a medium-bodied and flavorful pinot noir are very particular and that’s why they can only be grown properly in certain regions of the world.
As of today, the regions producing the best pinot noir grapes are France, Oregon, California, Germany, Italy and most recently, New Zealand. Each region yields different tasting wines even though they come from the same grape, so if you’re not exactly sure where to begin your pinot noir adventures, this should help just a little:
When it comes to pinot noirs, France is the real OG. In fact, for many years it was believed that pinot noir grapes couldn’t grow to their full potential outside the Burgundy region but, surprise! They totally can. When enjoying a real Burgundy wine, expect earthy, sometimes cherry-like flavors and low tannins (the stuff in the wine that makes your mouth feel dry after).
New Zealand is kind of the self-proclaimed new cool kid on the block when it comes to pinot noir. More commonly known for its sauvignon blanc, New Zealand started giving France a run for its money thanks to its fruitiness—which many Millennials and wine newbies prefer—laced with the complexity of Old World wine.
Having Oregon in the U.S. is a lot like having our own little (a lot bigger than actual Burgundy) Burgundy, except better in terms of variety. When it comes to variety of flavors, aromas and complexities, Oregon pretty much has the pinot noir game figured out. Expect earthy and cranberry flavors in many or Oregon’s best and most popular wines.
Thanks to its year-round cool climates and beautiful scenery, California makes the perfect vacation destination for humans, so it’s no wonder when grapes grow there, they stay there. That is until they’re turned into a wide selection of pinot noirs ranging from light and fruity to rich and spicy. While California doesn’t yet have quite the reputation of France and Oregon, it’s well on its way to cultivating some of the best grapes for pinot noirs in the world.
If Burgundy’s pinot noir had a more mysterious but for some reason younger brother, his name would be pinot nero. Italy’s dark, rich and earthy take on pinot noir is nothing less than you’d expect from the romantic boot known for its delicious food and wine.
German pinot noirs, also known as (a slightly more intimidating) Spatburgunder, are typically grown in the Ahr region of Germany. Thanks to warmer climates, winemakers here are able to cultivate an earthier, ripe and plum-like flavor. A nice change from the everyday German beer, eh?
To say the least, pinot noir grapes are tricky to grow and hard to keep alive. They’re picky about the weather, they don’t have the thickest skin and are pretty prone to rot—they are after all the Heartbreak Grape. But to know them is to love them and though difficult to cultivate, there’s no denying they’re worth the effort for a heck of a tasty wine.