Eliza Hilliard on March 21, 2016 1 Comment Pinot Noir is a fickle grape. It is like having a picky house guest over that you have to go out of the way to please. It wants cool mornings, warm, long afternoons and cool, often fog enshrouded nights and evenings. It will come to the party, but only if the food is exclusive and its feet stay nice and dry. It likes to live in close quarters, but not too close, or it will get lost in the crowd…and it’s never around for very long. The best regions for the grape include these similarities: good drainage, fewer nutrients in the soil and the proper climate conditions. Here are the top reasons why Pinot Noir is a notoriously difficult grape to grow. Good Drainage and Fewer Nutrients Before we fully delve into the demands of this finicky grape, it is best to understand the basics of Pinot Noir. The definition of this variety can be found in its very name. Pinot is derived from the French word for pine and is indicative of the shape of the cluster (think pineapple or pine cone). Noir, of course, is night or black. All joking aside, this vine really does need dry feet to thrive. Studies have found that better water retention occurs in plants with a fewer total number of roots. The lowered quantity increases root function and efficiency. It makes the plant stronger and less susceptible to rot and disease. Pinot Noir grapes require more than just strong roots: the soil structure has to be perfect in order for these vines to flourish. Soil structure is more important to the grapes’ success than the chemistry of the soil. Cracks in the soil, sandy deposits or the presence of old root channels make the plant hardier. If these strict conditions are not met, the vine can produce larger clusters, which is bad for this grape in particular. Sparse water and nutrients produce fewer, more flavor-rich clusters of this variety of grape. Likewise, larger clusters are less full-bodied. The flavor is diluted by water content and the wine loses much of what makes it a noteworthy Pinot Noir. Often the vines are pruned drastically to prevent the production of the larger grapes. This practice redirects nutrients and water supply to the surviving clusters, providing a better fruit. Click Here to View All Stemware The Ideal Climate Since its original cultivation in the Burgundy region of France, Pinot Noir has been the premiere in light bodied reds. It is a descendant of Vitis vinifera, the common grape vine, which is the chief source for Old World vines and table wine varieties. The composition of this wine varies greatly by growing region, though the top producers all lay roughly within the same latitudinal line. The season is short, with only about 100 days spent on the vine and cool (55-59F) to intermediate (59-63F) temperatures. In the Northern Hemisphere, September is the prime month to harvest, though the season extends from April to October. The Southern Hemisphere is from October to April, with the prime month falling towards the end of January through mid February. The three largest producers are France, with almost 76,000 acres of dedicated land, the United States, with just under 74,000 acres, and Germany with a little less than 30,000 acres. France’s Pinot Noirs are still centered in and around Burgundy. The dominant aromas are earthy: think wet leaves and mushrooms, with a flavor of wild cherry. Germany’s Ahr region lies just outside of France, and produces many of the same earthy notes, but provides a sweeter, more plummy fruit that is reflected in the flavor. In the United States, Oregon is the preferred region. The flavor is much more fruit-dominant with black raspberries and cherries. Undertones can range from vanilla and clove to cola and caramel, depending on the terroir. Characteristics of Pinot Noir Though there are bold differences, each Pinot Noir should have many of the same basic characteristics. The light ruby body of a glass of Pinot Noir is a thing of subtle beauty. The wine is semi-translucent in the glass, though some vineyards are leaving skins on for as much as three weeks longer to produce a more dense, greater intensity of red. This can make for a more acidic wine, along with the loss of the gentle color, leaving some Pinot Noir traditionalists less appreciative. The dominant flavors are always fruit: raspberry, cherry, plum and cranberry. Secondary notes follow ranging from earthy to the delicate spice of tea leaves, jammy to more rich and sweet tones. Because of the quantity produced, Pinot Noir is hard to nail down to one region. Purists will stick to French varietals, with some allowance giving to the Germans. The American upstarts have a dedicated following, with lots of favorites stemming from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, particularly. Because the grape has to be pampered, Pinot Noir wines tend to be higher priced than other reds, but the dedicated following of enthusiasts is an indication of the quality of the wine itself. While this grape varietal puts up quite the stubborn fight year after year, there is a reason Pinot growers are up to the challenge. Pinot Noir is a staple in the wide world of wine, and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.