Pinot More - A difinitive guide to all the Pinot wines!
Pinot what now? Pinot more! There are number of wines that hail from or are related to Pinot Noir and have taken at least part of its name. You could think of them as all hailing from the same family in a sense that there is a collective sense about them while they each retain some truly unique characteristics that make them special. But with all the Pinots out there, and even more winemaking styles devoted to them, it can all start to get a bit confusing. What is the difference between Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier? Between Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris? Wait now you're telling me there is an Orange style but its not actually Orange wine? So we sat down, pulled our collective knowledge and created the definitive guide to all the Pinot wines.
Pinot Noir - The grandaddy!
AKA Spätburgunder, Blauburgunder, Pinot Nero
The grandaddy of the "Pinot" wines, Pinot Noir is one of the most popular varieties of red wine in the world. A difficult grape to cultivate, Pinot Noir relies on cool climates to produce its best berries, and when it does oh boy is it good! There are few grapes in the world that illicit such a cult following as Pinot Noir, and once you have had a taste of a truly exceptional wine you will spend the rest of your life in search of ever better experiences.
Blanc de Noirs
This is a style of wine we are seeing more and more of, maybe because it is awesome, or it might have just been the law of sudden ubiquitousness. Now that we have mentioned it, go out and find some Blanc de Noirs because they are stunning, beautiful wines. Blanc de Noirs is a white wine made from Pinot Noir. The juice is pressed and the skins quickly removed so the juice can ferment and age on its own. Blanc de Noirs wines are as fruity, heavy, and full bodied as a white wine can get, with a decadent, rich gold tone that sometimes has a little bit of a copper or pink hue. These are the ultimate in decadent white wines as you will often see from the price.
AKA Pinot Grigio, or Grauburgunder
Pinot Gris, also known as Pinot Grigio, is a mutation of the Pinot Noir grape that has given the berries a lighter skin color. Pinot Gris is a delicious, light, crisp, and fruity dry white wine. Pinot Gris is a people pleaser through and through. It is one of the most approachable and easy drinking wines around, but beyond the basic supermarket wines you get some truly amazing.
Pinot Gris - Ramato style!
Whoa there! This is a whole other level of Pinot! One of the coolest features of the Pinot Gris grape is the pinkish-grey skin so you know winemakers somewhere wanted to see what would happen if they let the juice have some contact with the skin. The result, Ramato wine! Ramato wines are somewhere in between Orange and Rose wines, often pink or copper toned in color but still a little cloudy. Ramato wines are very different to their white counterpart in taste as well, hitting you with stone fruits, gentle acidity, and just a feint hint of funk. Its basically entry level Orange wine, but holy heck is it good!
Pinot Blanc or Pinot Bianco
Pinot Blanc is another, albeit more fragile, mutation of Pinot Noir used to make white wines. The skins are very light in color, as you would expect from most white wines, but produces a rich, full bodied white wine. In that sense Pinot Blanc often gets treated like Chardonnay. The wine is typically fruitier and less acidic than its "grey" cousin but still pretty acidic and delicious to drink. Pinot Blanc can be a little tart, making it a fun wine to drink.
Pinot Meunier is a light bodied red wine that takes light bodied reds to a new level. Its hard to nail down just how the relative of Pinot Noir came to be, but we sure are happy it exists. Pinot Meunier is often one of those unsung heroes in Champagne, but it is as a still red wine where Pinot Meunier really begins to *ahem* shine. Pinot Meunier is like Magneto to Pinot Noir's Professor X. Driven by similar goals, but with darker, and more complex means of getting there. You may not be sure of Pinot Meunier is a good guy here, but there is something appealing about this amazing red wine that will make you feel very happy.
We are throwing Pinotage into this guide not because it is a mutation of the Pinot Noir grape like the others, but because it is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault (incorrectly considered to be Hermitage at the time hence the "tage" in the name Pinotage). Pinotage shares very little in characteristics with its father Pinot Noir, having a much fuller body to begin with. Although thought of by many to be an abomination at first, Pinotage has gone on to becomes South Africa's signature grape.
Other notes about the Pinot grapes
Whats with the "burgunder" names?
A lot of German winemakers refer to the grapes by their German names, all of which derive from Burgunder and not Pinot. Ze German name of Burgunder means "from Burgundy."
What is this obsession with terroir?
It is hard to find a grape, or series of grape as widely planted as Pinot Noir and its brood of mutations and hybrid children, so you could be forgiven for a hot second in thinking that there is no real difference. Au contraire mon frère, the different Pinot grapes can thank their delicate nature for being true expressionists of terroir. It is with Pinot Noir and the like that you start to realize what climate, soil, and tradition can do to wine. Pinots make terroir make sense.
Did Sideways really create the market for Pinot Noir?
Yeh, kind of. Its a little sad, but its true. Paul Giammatti helped elevate Pinot Noir thanks to his love for it in the movie Sideways. Pinot Noir sales increased 16% in the Western United States while Merlot sales dipped 2%. Although you cannot say that the movie created the market for Pinot Noir wine, it certainly had a positive effect on demand.