Pinot Noir is widely grown in most wine-producing regions of the world. It is the main grape used in red Burgundy and is grown extensively in Champagne. The variety is highly prone to mutation, with around 50 of its clones officially recognised in France, which makes it possible to choose clones that regulate ripeness, rot resistance, yield and overall quality. Due to Pinot Noir’s versatility, there are few general qualities that can be assumed across the species as a whole. However, Pinot Noir wines are generally light skinned, medium bodied and with relatively low levels of tannin.
Pinot Noir is quite a demanding grape to grow. It usually buds early and is particularly susceptible to frost. Its yields are generally low, and its relatively thin skin makes it prone to mildew and rot. Particularly hot climates also cause complications, with its grapes over-ripening. However, various clones can be used to mitigate these effects, and clonal selection increased in the 1970s as a result. The vines grow best on limestone soils in cool climates.
Despite the challenges associated with Pinot Noir compared to the other main noble varieties, its influence continues to grow. In France, production rose from 22,000 hectares in 1998 to 26,300 hectares by 2000. The largest increase in growth came in Champagne, where it is one of three grapes that makes up the region’s famous wine.
Pinot Noir is an exceptionally old grape, and is most likely a variation on wild vines. Evidence suggests that Pinot Noir was grown in Burgundy as far back as the fourth century.