Pinot Noir wine: what countries make it and why does it smell of manure? - WineUncorked: Wine Reviews and Tips

Wine made with the black grape variety Pinot Noir will taste of cherries with some redcurrant and strawberry flavours too. If the wine has been stored ('aged') in oak barrels then it might also pick up oaky and spicy notes. But there's another less likeable side to Pinot Noir wines - some of them can exhibit a farmyard aroma.

Americans refer to this manure-like smell as 'barnyard' while the Dutch call it 'het putteke' which translates as 'the little pit' or the drains. Which doesn't sound great does it? This love/hate aroma is the result of a wild yeast called brettanomyces (often shortened to 'brett') which can be found on grape skins and in oak barrels. Not all wines develop it - thankfully. It is not considered a winemaking fault and many wine enthusiasts actively seek out wines with this added piquancy.

Pinot Noir is part of the famous duo of grapes grown in Burgundy, France (the other being the white grape Chardonnay). The variety is part of a family of Pinot grapes - the others being Pinot Gris (Gris translating as grey because the grapes have a grey/pink skin), Pinot Meunier (also grown in the Champagne region and used within its famous wine) and Pinot Blanc (Pinot white).

The Noir (black) version of this grape can be difficult to ripen and is also susceptible to rotting through its thin skins. The ripe grapes are red in colour, and not the deep purple of other red grape varieties. This results in reddish see-through wine with lowish tannin levels and high acidity.

You'll also find Pinot Noir growing in New Zealand, where its cool climate and hotter days suits this finicky grape. So much so that the Pinot Noir grape has adapted to the climate by growing thicker skins to protect itself from the sun's rays. These thicker skins result in higher levels of colour and tannin in the wine than would be seen in cooler French Burgundy.

There's also a small amount grown in Italy. For this we can thank Napoleon. It was said to be his 'favourite' wine (along with champagne) and he always took along a case or two on his campaigns. This Emperor of France also proclaimed himself King of Italy which gave him licence to plant his favourite wine grape in the newly aquired country. There are still some Pinot Noir vineyards in northern Italy but you'll see the resulting wine labelled as Pinot Nero - replacing the French word for black with the Italian version.

Other Pinot Noir growing nations include the USA in the cooler coastal regions of California (Sonama and Russia River Valley); Australia particularly near coastal, cooler Melbourne and Germany where the grape is known as Spatburgunder (or 'late Burgundy'),

You may also come across some Californian red wines labelled Burgundy. Confusingly these wines are not necessarily made with Pinot Noir grapes or have anything to do with Burgundy.

The reason is historic. Californian winemakers have been labelling their wines with generic European wine regions since the nineteenth century (so we also see Californian Champagne and Californian Chianti) which has been irritating European winemakers for as long as it's been going on and several attempts to ban this legal loophole have been attempted.

In 2006 it looked like the end had come for Californian Burgundy, when a trade agreement between the United States and the European Community was signed to make all American winemakers follow the protected placename legislation used in Europe - so only wines made in Burgundy from Burgundy-grown grapes could be labelled Burgundy. But somehow the Americans wriggled out of this and allowed Californian winemakers who had been using European wine regions on their bottle labels to continue if they wanted to.

So this means you can buy Carlo Rossi Californian red Burgundy. Which is a massive hit with the hip hop and rap music community and where you'll find a growing group of its stars and their followers who are wine enthusiasts.

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About WineUncorked and its editor, Paula Goddard Read more