The Pinot grape and its mutations

Let's talk Pinot and its mutations

Also called 'the heartbreak grape' because of its sensitivity to poor growing conditions, Pinot Noir is an ancient eastern French vine and one of the oldest grape varieties in the world. It is one of the hardest grapes to grow, due to its thin skins that makes it susceptible to disease, sensitive to terroir and changeable weather. Its thin skins make it also harder to extract colour and tannins.

As  Pinot Noir ripens fairly early, it’s primarily grown in places with cooler climates and when appropriately cultivated, it creates wines that are almost ethereal.

Pinot Noir is a very transparent grape that can really display the difference in terroir (grape-growing environment), between adjacent plots of vineyard, and even more between different countries.

Finding areas with the right climate is very important. The most renowned Pinot Noir is from the Grands Crus of the Côte d'Or, in the heartland of Burgundy, France. It is also grown in Champagne, for use in blends, as well as single varietal Blanc de Noirs.

Within Europe, Baden in Germany is also known for the high-quality of its Pinot Noir wines. In the New World, it can be found from a number of regions, including Los Carneros and Sonoma (California); Martinborough, Marlborough and Central Otago (New Zealand); Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Tasmania (Australia); Walker Bay (South Africa) and Casablanca Valley (Chile).


Same same but different

There are many different Pinot Noir clones available with varying characteristics - all these varieties are all related but unique unto themselves.

Pinot Meunier 

Is a red grape mostly known for being one of the three main varieties used in the production of Champagne, alongside its father Pinot Noir and the white grape variety Chardonnay. Until not long ago, it was quite uncommon to find it not blended; but recently, it is being appreciated for the body and richness it contributes to Champagne.

Pinot Blanc 

Is a point genetic mutation, or color mutation. Pinot Noir contains the largest amount of active anthocyanin (one component that contributes to the color of a grape). Pinot Blanc is a mutation of Pinot Noir with the least amount of anthocyanin (it’s inactive).

Pinot Gris 

Is originally from the vineyards of Burgundy, and it's a Pinot Noir pink-skinned mutation that has now found home in many regions all across the World. Is it a ‘middle mutation’, kind of half way between Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc.

Speaking of which, we often get asked if Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same thing. They are, same same, but different. While Pinot Gris plantings are mostly concentrated in the Alsace region of France, Pinot Grigio is simply the Italian translation. While the grapes are genetically identical, the winemaking techniques differ from country to country.

Grape varieties can have specific regional birthplaces, but often they’ll find themselves on new terrain where they continue their legacies.

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