Wine begins with grapes, so understanding wine involves learning how and where grapes grow and the ways in which these factors influence a wine's character, flavor and structure.
Our "Great Grapes" series aims to spotlight the most important wine grape (Vitis vinifera) varieties. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive yet accessible introduction, exploring the major regions where the featured grape is grown, explaining its most important wine styles, evaluating recent vintages and spotlighting benchmark producers and wines. Depending on the grape, we'll discuss the influence of soil, climate, viticulture and vinification on wine style and quality. History, price and food matching will also be addressed. Pinot Noir, one of the world's most important red grapes, is the focus of the second story in this series. (The series premiered with "The Incredible Lightness of Riesling," Dec. 15, 2005.)
Thin-skinned and temperamental, Pinot Noir has reached sublime heights in its ancestral home of Burgundy. Yet only recently has it achieved real success in other regions. With progress in California, Oregon and elsewhere, more and more wine lovers are discovering Pinot Noir's unique array of aromas and flavors, as well as its ability to transmit terroir. Here is a detailed portrait of this great grape.