Is Pinot Noir Red or White Wine? Everything You Should Know


So, you love red Pinot Noir? Yeah, me too. But have you ever wondered if there’s a white version of it as well? Perhaps, even a rosé one? Or, you are just starting your journey in the fascinating, vast world of wines and you are curious to find out is Pinot Noir red or white wine.

Well, the answer is simple. Pinot Noir can be both a red and white wine. Although the major Pinot Noir production is in red wine, there is a white Pinot Noir as well. While it is not as popular as sparkling Pinot Noir and rosé Pinot Noir, white Pinot Noir is produced in many regions around the world.

Glasses on a barrel

Pinot Noir is one of the most popular and acclaimed grape varieties. It is known for its complex flavors and aromas. Have you ever wondered why “Pinot Noir”? It is named after the grape’s clusters of tightly packed, dark purple-colored fruits, strongly resembling a pinecone.

Pinot Noir Wines Around the World

France is considered to be the home of the Pinot Noir grape. Unlike Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, planted in almost every wine country around the world, the Pinot Noir grape is very picky about the region where it grows. Some of the noteworthy wine regions to mention are:

  • Burgundy
  • Alsace
  • Loire Valley
  • Oregon
  • California
  • New Zealand
  • Germany
  • Italy

Pinot Noir grapes thrive in cooler climates with a long growing season, which allows the grapes to ripen slowly and develop complex flavors while preserving their acidity.


Facts About Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is the only grape variety permitted for producing red Burgundy wines.

The Pinot Noir taste is often characterized as dry, and at the same time, fruit-forward. It presents notes of red fruits, such as cherry and raspberry, earthy undertones, and a silky texture.

Pinot Noir is typically a light to medium-bodied red wine, with naturally high acidity, which gives the wine a refreshing, lively quality and helps to balance its fruitiness. The acidity level can also vary depending on the climate and soil conditions in which the grapes are grown.

Barrels With Grapes

Pinot Noir typically has an alcohol content ranging from 12% to 15%. The level is determined by the winemaker’s style and the region where the wine is produced.

When it comes to pairing food with Pinot Noir, it is probably the most versatile wine in the world. Despite being a red wine, Pinot Noir pairs very well with a variety of fish and seafood, such as salmon, tuna and lobster. At the same time, it makes a perfect companion to red meats, mushroom-based dishes and soft cheeses such as Camembert or Gruyère.

Because of its fruity nature, before serving Pinot Noir you should store it at a lower temperature than most other red wines. You can find out more about the best temperature to serve Pinot Noir here.

Origins of Pinot Noir Color: The Wine Making Process

First, you should know where the color of wine comes from. In winemaking, there is a process called “maceration” which is when the wine must (the pressed juice from the grapes mixed with water and yeast) gets in touch with the skin, seeds, and stems of the grapes.

Maceration involves soaking the remains of the grapes in the wine must for a specific amount of time, depending on the winemaker’s style, and the final goal of what the wine should be.


During the production of red wine, the skins of the grapes are left in touch with the wine must for a longer period, to reach the final red color. The process can last for several days, weeks, or sometimes, even months.

In fact, the duration that the skins are left in touch with the grape juice while fermenting defines the final color of Pinot Noir.

What Color is Pinot Noir?

The color of Pinot Noir can range from light ruby red to a deep purple red. The final color of Pinot Noir wine depends on factors such as:

  • Age of the wine

  • Region where the Pinot Noir grapes are grown

  • The style of the winemaker

How Does Age Influence the Color of Pinot Noir?

Aging the wine will change its color. The main reason behind that is the breakdown of pigments in the wine. White wines gain a darker color while aging red wines results in a lighter color of the final wine.

laying the wine

The barrels used for aging the wine also make a difference in the final color. New Oak barrels aging results in a deeper color of the wine in comparison with the wines aged in older barrels.

Aged Pinot Noir wine tends to be lighter in color than young Pinot Noir. (0)

The Effect of the Wine Region on the Final Pinot Noir Nuance

The type of soil and its condition also play a role in the wine color, as there are certain minerals and nutrients that can impact the color of Pinot Noir grapes. For example, soil that is rich in calcium produces grapes with thicker skin, and thicker skin means a deeper color.(1)

How Does the Winemaking Style Influence the Color of Pinot Noir?

Hand picking

The winemaking style and techniques can have a huge impact on the color of Pinot Noir wines. The most important are:

  • Blending

Blending thin skin grapes such as Pinot Noir with thicker skin grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot results in deeper color Pinot Noir wines.

The opposite applies if you add a small amount of Pinot Noir grapes to a Cabernet Sauvignon base blend, as it leads to the color slightly fading.

  • Filtration

Filtration is the process of filtrating the wine using several techniques, in order to reach wine clarity by removing the sediment and solid particles.

Heavily filtered wines may lose some of their color, flavors, and aroma.

  • Maceration

During maceration, the winemaker decides whether to produce a red, white, rosé, or sparkling Pinot Noir.

White Wine

At first glance, it might seem confusing how can red wine grapes produce white wine. White Pinot Noir is produced by fermenting the juice without the skin of the Pinot Noir grape.

White Pinot Noir wines are quite rare, but they are a very interesting style to taste. They tend to be heavier in body content than other white wines, mostly since they are made from red Pinot Noir grapes.

The color of white Pinot Noir wines can range from light gold to deep yellow.

One fascinating fact about the Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio grape varieties is that, although quite rarely, they produce wines that are the opposite color of what they are commonly known for.

Rosé Wine

Rosé Pinot Noir wines are produced in a method similar to the production of Pinot Noir red wines, and can only be made from black grapes.

Rose wine

The grapes are crushed and the grape skins are left in contact with the wine must for a shorter period of time, in order to achieve the pink color. Once the color is achieved, the grape skins are removed to prevent the color from going red.

Rosé Pinot Noirs are typically very light in color and body, due to the delicate nature and gentle skin of the Pinot Noir grape.

Sparkling Wine

pinot noir sparkling

Sparkling Pinot Noir wines are usually white and rosé, and very rarely red. The process of extracting the color is the same as with white, rosé, and red Pinot Noir.

Red Pinot Noir grapes are crushed, and the juice is fermented with or without contact with the grape skin, depending on the desired color and style of the wine.

To produce the bubbles, there is a secondary fermentation process that takes place in the bottle.


You don’t have to search high and low to enjoy a delicious bottle of Pinot Noir. You don’t even need to spend hundreds of dollars to get your hands on a great one. With a little know-how, you can find a plethora of affordable and tasty options. In fact, even your neighborhood grocery store, like Trader Joe’s, has a huge selection of Pinot Noir for you to choose from.

And if you’re a Pinot Noir newbie, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. Start with a bottle from California, then work your way up to Oregon (especially the Willamette Valley), and finally, indulge in some Burgundy.

Stan Kushkin

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