Pinot noir: an endemic or a flexible variety?

Pinot noir has its historical roots in Burgundy and is generally considered as an endemic vine variety which means that its adaptation is very specific to this environment and that its wines are the most expressive in the same particular situations. Now, Pinot noir has become an international variety because growers rely on its exceptional œnological potential and reputation to reproduce something excellent under their own conditions, and also because the general style of the wines is original and dominated by ‘finesse’ which is a new trend on the international wine market. In that context, it is interesting to evaluate the ability Pinot noir has to adapt, either as a vine variety interacting in a first time with the climate which is the entrance door to the terroir,, or as a wine in terms of ‘typicity’ and specific elements revealed by sensory analysis.

The method which is used is a survey of some sensory analysis of Pinot noir wines around the world done by the authors, which is based, first on the characterization of the degree of maturation on the main trend called ‘fruity unfolding’ (from non mature, to fresh, then mature, dried, jam or cooked fruit), second on the identification of some very specific elements such as general balance (acidity) or particular fruits (wild cherry) or elements of the ‘derived series’ (floral, spicy, mineral, balsamic, mushroom characters…).

The main analysis concerns the type of macro/meso-climate in relation to the wine ‘typicity’. The interest of the study is that wines are produced under a maximum range of situations. Some Burgundy terroirs under Semi-Continental climate being references and considered as able to produce some exceptional wines, the following climates are chosen: Continental (Cosne s/Loire, Alsace, Franconia, Valais), Continental Semi-Arid (Gansu), Cool – Mountain (Eastern Pyrénées – Hautes vallées), Cool (North Oregon, Australia – Victoria), Temperate – Cool (Loir et Cher, New Zealand – Malborough), Temperate (Friuli,), Mediterranean – Temperate (High Languedoc, Penedes, California – Monterey), Mediterranean – Mountain Kosovo), Mediterranean (Languedoc plain), Mediterranean – Semi-Arid (Mendoza-Tupungato), Subtropical (Carmelo – Uruguay), Subequatorial – High Altitude (Boyaca– Colombia).
The results show that:

Pinot noir can be cultivated and produce quality wines under many climates within the range of 1700-2300 °C; days of Huglin’s Heliothermal Index, which gives some security in front of the climate change.

The type of adaptation of Pinot noir depends on the elements of the wine ‘typicity’: it may be considered as ‘flexible’ because it reproduces very often on a wide range of climates the sensory characteristics of ‘fruity-cherry’ and ‘balance/elegance’; it may be considered as ‘endemic’ because it expresses a lot of specific sensory characters which depend on the ‘viticultural terroir’ (perception of acidity, wild cherry, artemisia, violet, mild spices, leather, truffle, chocolate, degree of excellence…).
That study needs to be deepened in the fields of micro-Climatology, .sensory analysis, grape berry Biochemistry.

Authors: Alain CARBONNEAU (1), Robert BOIDRON (2)

(1) Professor of Viticulture of Montpellier SupAgro, IHEV bâtiment 28, 2 place Viala, 34060 Montpellier cedex
(2) Honorary Director of ENTAV, ‘La Rochette’, 71960 La Roche Vineuse


Keywords: Pinot noir, Burgundy, world climates, adaptation, wine sensory analysis,’typicity’

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