Pinot Noir is one of the most popular red wines in the world and at the same time – one of the oldest.
Its popularity began when the church owned most of the noble land in Burgundy, and when the monks were the biggest winemakers in the world. At that time, Pinot Noir was the wine of choice of popes, kings, and dukes.
Although nowadays it is planted in many wine regions around the world, Pinot Noir is very complex and difficult to grow, which makes it so valuable.
Let’s try to describe Pinot Noir in the most understandable way:
Is Pinot Noir Sweet or Dry Wine?
Pinot Noir is always a dry red wine, with fruit flavored profile and aroma, which often causes the sweet taste. A small amount of residual sugar left in the resulting wine does not necessarily make a wine sweet or semi-sweet.
In fact, most of us won’t be able to detect a small amount of residual sugar in the wine, so the sweetness that you might be experiencing in Pinot Noir wine, comes rather from the fruit-flavored profile of the wine grapes, than from the residual sugar left in the wine.
Pinot Noir Sugar Content
Pinot noir contains 1-3% of residual sugar, depending on the winemaker’s style, and the region where the Pinot Noir grapes come from. Having some residual sugar left does not make the wine sweet.
Dry wines, such as Pinot Noir, typically contain approximately 1 to 3 grams of sugar per 5-ounce pour and between 5 and 15 grams per bottle.
The sweetness is determined by the amount of residual sugar the wine contains. Residual sugar is the natural sugar that remains in the wine and hasn’t been converted to alcohol during the fermentation process.
According to the European Union Authorities, sweet wine can be labeled as such only if it contains 4.5 % residual sugar or more, any wines with less are considered dry wines.
Some of the most popular sweet red wines are Port and Madeira, but they are made using a completely different process called fortification and are considered to be dessert wines.(1)
A bottle of Port contains approximately 8% of residual sugar.
What Does Pinot Noir Taste Like?
Pinot Noir is a very gentle and fruity red wine with soft tannins. The palate is dominated by fruit flavors such as sweet cherry, sweet blueberry, ripe forest fruits, and a hint of earthiness.
Its aroma is richly scented and could be described as jammy, further adding to the question of whether Pinot Noir is a sweet or dry wine.
Pinot Noir Taste Profile and Characteristics in Different Parts of the World
Not all Pinot Noir wines will taste the same. Just like with all wines, the taste of Pinot Noir is influenced by factors such as the region where the grapes were grown, the climate, and the winemaking style.
Old World Pinot Noir Taste
In wine geography, Old World wines are considered to be the wines that come from Europe, and sometimes South Africa and the Near East in Asia, and New World wines are the wines from the rest of the world.
The cooler northern climate in the Burgundy region will have a significant impact on the final Pinot Noir tasting notes, and produce a different wine than a Pinot Noir grown in warmer climates.(1)
Old World Pinot Noir, such as Burgundy, is a light, dry red wine with moderate acidity, 12-13.5% alcohol content, and the following flavor profile:
Bright ruby color
Red fruits, spice, and vanilla on the nose
Delicate palate with cherries, mushroom, and earthy flavors
New World Pinot Noir Taste
The warmer climate in New World wine regions, such as California, Australia, and New Zealand, will enhance the ripening of Pinot Noir grapes, resulting in a slightly sweeter wine, while still within dry limits.
A California Pinot Noir region, such as the Russian River Valley, will produce a dry, light to medium-bodied Pinot Noir wine with 13.5-15% alcohol, moderate acidity, and the following characteristics:
Ripe berries and dark fruits on the nose
Velvety palate with sweet black cherries, strawberry, and herb flavors
Some Foods Can Change the Wine Taste
Although Pinot Noir is a very enjoyable red wine on its own, it pairs very well with food. Due to its earthy and mushroomy flavors, Pinot Noir will pair very well with dishes such as Chicken Marsala, or pasta with mushroom sauce.
Pinot Noir pairs best with lighter meats, such as chicken and turkey, as well as with dishes like risotto and shrimp (without sweet sauces). It also complements seafood like lobster and fatty fish such as salmon and tuna steak.
At the same time, there are many foods to avoid pairing with, as they can make Pinot Noir taste sweet, tart, and off-flavored (e.g., confectionery, sweet sauces).
Pinot Noir for Beginners
Many people decide that wine is not the best drink for them because they jump straight to a big red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, and get overwhelmed by the rich, heavy flavors and the tannic taste of the wine. Read more for further insights into the differences between these two wines.
There is no question that Pinot Noir is the best red wine for beginners in every way. If you are just starting to explore wine, it’s better to begin with a light and fruity one and adapt your palate gradually to drier and heavier wines, such as Merlot, Syrah, or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Pinot Noir is one of the most discussed red wines in the world and the most demanding grape to grow. What makes this wine so special is its unique taste and the delicate and supreme flavors it offers.
Serve Pinot Noir slightly chilled for the best taste!
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