Winegrowers Supplies -  Vine variety information

Pinot Noir

Other names: in France: Pinot Franc Noir, Bourguignon Noir;
in Germany: Spätburgunder, Blauer Spätburgunder, Blauburgunder, Clavner, Klavner, Klebrot;
in Austria: Blauburgunder, Blauer Spätburgunder, Blauer Nurnberger;
in Switzerland: Klevner, but labelled "Dole" when often blended with Gamay Noir;
in Italy: Pinot Nero, Pignol, Pignola;
in Croatia: Burgundac Crni, Modra Klevanyka;
in Czechoslovakia: Rouci, Rouci modré;
in Hungary: Kisburgundi kék;
also Franc Pineau, Noirien, Savagnin Noir, Morillon, Auvernat, Plant Doré, Cortaillod and Nagyburgundi;
in England: Wrotham Pinot: the Wrotham (pronounced "rootum") Pinot is an English variety with white hairs on the upper surface of the leaves, and is particularly resistant to disease. Ray Barrington Brock of Oxted Viticultural Research Station was alerted to a strange vine growing against a cottage wall in Wrotham in Kent, which local lore said was descended from vines brought over by the Romans. An experimental Blanc de Noir was made at Oxted, and in 1980 Richard Peterson took cuttings to California, where he started making a pink sparkling Wrotham Pinot. Wrotham Pinot is sometimes (wrongly) regarded as a type of Pinot Meunier, but it has a higher natural sugar content and ripens two weeks earlier. Gillian Pearkes in her book Vinegrowing in Britain published in 1982 wrote: "Wrotham Pinot, is an Anglicized sport of the Pinot Noir." which is a correct description.

Mother: unknown
Father: unknown

Country of origin: France
Year of breeding: one of the oldest varieties, whose origins are unclear. In De re rustica, Columella (writing during the 1st century A.D.) describes a wild grape variety similar to Pinot Noir growing in Burgundy, known from when the Romans invaded Gaul. Pinot became among the first vines to be domesticated, its name 'Pinot' suggesting its pine-cone shaped clusters, was in use as early as the fourth century. Its pre-eminence as the hallowed grape of the Côte d'Or dates from 1395, when Duke Philippe the Bold banned plantings of Gamay in favour of Pinot Noir.

For years, grapevine varieties have been identified by physical features of their leaves and fruit. But those traits can vary according to environmental conditions. In the 1990s DNA fingerprinting, which compares characteristic patterns in the genetic material of a plant, animal or human, proved to be a highly accurate way to identify grapevine varieties no matter where they are growing.
In 1997 University of California at Davis reported they had developed genetic fingerprints for 51 wine grape varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon. They crushed young grapevine leaves from each of the varieties, extracted DNA from the leaves and examined distinct DNA sites known as 'microsatellite' markers that differed from the surrounding DNA in chemical makeup. They then used statistical analysis to determine the likelihood of the Cabernet Sauvignon microsatellite fingerprint deriving from the fingerprints of any two of the other varieties. These analytical methods pointed to Cabernet franc and Sauvignon blanc, as being the genetic parents of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Expanding on that work, the researchers enlisted the collaboration of French colleagues. After reviewing the historical French literature on wine grapes and taking into account previous speculation on variety origins, they chose 300 varieties from among the more than 2,000 maintained in a collection near Montpellier, France, by the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique.
In France, leaf samples were taken from the 300 varieties, DNA was extracted from them, and taken to UC Davis where the DNA fingerprinting technique was used to generate a DNA profile for each variety. They first compared all the varieties at 17 distinct DNA 'microsatellite' markers and looked for genetic evidence of close family relationships. Then they chose 60 varieties for more detailed comparisons.
Their analysis of these 60 varieties at 17 additional DNA marker sites revealed that 16 of them were probably the offspring of the same pair of parent varieties - an original 'Pinot' and Gouais Blanc. A further statistical test, similar to that used to validate human DNA fingerprinting results, confirmed the very high probability that these two varieties were indeed the parents. In 1999 they announced "We are more than 99.99 percent sure that Pinot and Gouais Blanc are the original parents for these 16 varieties (including Chardonnay and Gamay Noir).".

In August 2007, French researchers announced the sequencing of the genome of Pinot Noir. It is the first fruit crop to be sequenced, and only the fourth flowering plant.

Breeder/License holder: clone producers
Number of clones: a very large number (French, German etc)
           Information on French clones  and German clones.

The French Etablissement National Technique pour l’Amelioration de la Viticulture (ENTAV) set up a programme to select the best clones of Pinot Noir. Laurent Audeguin of ENTAV believed that most American clones, such as 'Pommard' and 'Wadenswil', produce wine that is inferior to and very different from French Pinot Noir; the recent popularity of ENTAV Dijon clones in the USA appears to support that hypothesis. It has even been suggested that the difference between Oregon and Californian wines is principally a clonal effect, Oregon having mainly 'Wadenswil' (UCD2A) and 'Pommard' (aka 'Coury', UCD4), California has a lot of the well-regarded Joseph Swan clone.

Year of entry into the German Federal Office's Varieties Register: 
Area planted in Germany (July 2006): 11,660 hectares, 11.4% of the total vineyard area.
Area planted in England (as at August 2004): 49.1 hectares, 6th largest
It is grown in almost all wine producing countries, achieving particular success in the cooler climate regions. Notable success has been achieved in the Martinborough and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.
In California in the Carneros district (in both Sonoma and Napa Counties), also in the Russian River Valley (Sonoma County), in Santa Maria Valley (Santa Barbara County), in Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) as well as the Pinnacles (Monterey County) and more recently in Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey County). Also in Oregon.

Wine Character - colour: ruby red, careful vinification is needed to preseve its colour
                      - bouquet: fine
                      - palate: fine, fruity, velvety, hints of almonds, low in tannin
Noble wine, 'the best red wine in the world'. Aromas and flavours often detected in varietal wines include cherry, mint, raspberry, truffles and the ubiquitous gamey odor in new wines often referred to as "animalé" by the French winemaker.

Pinot noir is considered to be the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, wine grape in the world. However when it is successful, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to man, particularly as can be found in Burgundy's Côte d'Or.
The presence in Burgundy of a mineral called montmorillonite, which facilitates the plant’s absorption of elements from the soil, may be one of the reasons why red Burgundies so precisely reflect their microclimates.
Pinot Noir is more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping - concentration and varietal character disappear rapidly if yields are excessive and yields as little as 25hl/ha are the norm for some climats of the Côte d'Or.

Because of the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines are lighter in colour, body and tannins. However the best wines have grip, complexity and an intensity of fruit seldom found in wine from other grapes. Young Pinot Noir can smell almost sweet, redolent with freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. When mature, the best wines develop a sensuous, silky mouth feel with the fruit flavours deepening and gamey 'sous-bois' nuances emerging.

Pinot Noir's key role in producing the finest Champagne should not be forgotten; particularly from the montagne de Rheims.


Time of bud-burst: middle-late

Shoot-tip: open, very hairy, light green
Strength of growth: medium, fairly upright (some clones are more upright)
Growth of side-shoots: medium-strong

Leaf: - size: medium                              - shape: round, weak 3-lobed to 5-lobed
        - colour: dark green
      - surface undulation: low-medium    - petiolar sinus: V-shape, open

Flowering time: late
Flowering strength: high (a high stem helps to maximise flowering strength)

Grape bunch: - size: small (to medium)    - density: tight (some clones are looser)
Berries:        - size: medium                   - shape: round to oval
                   - skin colour: dark blue-red to violet-red; thin skins, low in tannin

Time of veraison: middle-early to late
Time of harvest: middle (a first selection of the ripest grapes) and middle-late (the rest)

Grape yield: medium
Must-weight: medium-high (needs to be over 80 Oe to make a really good red wine)
Must-acidity: high

Wood ripening: good
Winter hardiness: medium-good
Wood colour: grey-brown, dark striped and flecked

Chlorosis resistance: 
Susceptibility to - Oidium: medium           - Peronospora: medium
                       - Botrytis: medium          - Roter Brenner: 
                       - Phomopsis                   - Stem-atrophy: 

Preferred soil: fertile, warm, loose, deepish, not dry; not clay, although some Burgundy soils are very 'sticky' when wet! Limestone based subsoils are ideal but it also performs well in marly loam.
Suitable rootstocks: SO4, Binova in normal soils; 5C and 125AA in strong growing soils; 5BB is not suitable. For close planting, 3309, Fercal, 161-49 or 420A.

Normal stem height: 0.7 to 0.8m, a 1.1m high stem is advantageous in a damp climate
Normal row spacing: 1.8 to 2.0m, wider planting helps to avoid bunch rot
Vine spacing in the row: 1.5m or wider helps avoid bunch rot by better air circulation

Winter Pruning:       eyes/buds per sq. metre of land occupied by the plant.

Advantages:  Noble red wine of highest repute. Also makes excellent rosé and the finest Sparkling wines.

Disadvantages:  Needs a suitable site. Birds love it.

Advice:  requires a relatively cool climate in order to remain on the vine long enough to develop flavour, aroma and complexity. Although it needs ample warmth to ripen fully, it is susceptible to too much heat as well as to frost, humidity and rot.

With Pinot Noir clones the 'strength' against fungus attack by botrytis cinerea plays a very  significant roll. When desiring to produce a high value red wine the percentage of grapes affected by botrytis cinerea must be less than 5% of the grapes processed. Pinot Noir wines are extremely sensitive to the phenoloxydase LACCASE, an enzyme that is excreted from the botrytis cinerea fungus. It is responsible for maturation affects (unpleasant ageing/maturation tones, nuts, over-ripe plums, glue...) and for yellowing.