The Pinot Noir taste profile is made up of a unique combination of color, flavors, aromas, and structure. These elements are referred to as wine characteristics. Pinot Noir has hallmark characteristics that will help you identify the wine by sight, smell and taste and you won’t even have to look at the bottle.
Each type of wine grape develops a unique combination of flavors and aromas. These flavors and aromas are influenced by things like their growing environment (climate and soil – aka terroir), the fermentation process (aka yeast converting sugar to alcohol), and maturation (such as aging in oak barrels).
Pinot Noir is a grape that grows best in cooler climates like Burgundy, France and Willamette Valley, Oregon.
The color for red wine ranges from Pale Red to Bright Ruby Red to Deep Purple. Red wine color comes from the grape skins. Grapes with thin skins and light skin color will translate to a pale red wine and will be translucent (you’ll be able to see through the wine). Grapes with thick skins and dark skin color will translate to a deep purple wine color that is opaque (in other words you won’t be able to see much of anything through the wine).
Pinot Noir Wine Color: Pale red and translucent.
Pinot Noir is a thin-skinned grape with light skin color. This one characteristic sets Pinot apart from many of the other red wines out there.
Flavors & Aromas
Look for Fruit, Floral, Herbal, Vegetal, and Spice notes to identify flavors and aromas in wine.
Fruit: Red wines come in a range with cool-climate wines showing more tart red fruit notes (red cherry, raspberry, strawberry), to warm-climate wines exhibiting more black fruit notes (blackberry, black cherry, black currant).
Spice: Notes like vanilla and clove come from aging in oak. In red wines, you may also find notes of black pepper.
Vegetal: Some red wines exhibit notes of green bell pepper.
Pinot Noir Flavors & Aromas: red fruit notes of red cherry and raspberry along with vanilla and clove from aging in oak barrels.
Wine structure is a combination of acidity (that sour, pucker sensation), sweetness levels, tannin (that bitter taste and drying sensation), alcohol levels (abv: alcohol by volume), and body (the heaviness of the wine — think skim milk vs whole milk).
Pinot Noir Wine Structure: High acidity, dry, medium tannin, 13.5-14.5% abv, light body.
Hallmarks of Pinot Noir Taste Profile
The typical taste profile of Pinot Noir is high acidity, medium tannin and light body with red fruit notes of raspberry and red cherry along with vanilla notes from oak aging.
Look for Pinot Noir from these top regions:
- France – Burgundy (labeled Bourgogne)
- Oregon – Willamette Valley (labeled Pinot Noir)
- California – Mendocino and Sonoma (labeled Pinot Noir)
- New Zealand – Wairarapa, Central Otago, Nelson, Marlborough (labeled Pinot Noir)
Learn more about the history, top regions, wine recommendations, and pairings with this Pinot Noir post.