Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is one of the most versatile wines on the list. This is my go-to for just about any situation. On the one hand, it’s a great sipping wine that doesn’t have to be paired with any food. On the other, it goes perfectly with Salmon and even works with a juicy steak. Good to know when you’re selecting a bottle for the table and your dinner companions have ordered a mix of seafood and meat.

Pinot Noir has a reputation as one of the most finicky grapes to grow. They take a lot of care and attention. Their thin skins make them more susceptible to disease and they are a low yielding grape, which means there is not much room for error. They grow best in cooler climates such as:

  • Oregon
  • France
  • New Zealand
  • Chile

We’ll focus on those regions and may splash in California as a comparison.

In the name of learning, you’ll want to pick up a bottle from each region and taste them. Notice the flavors, what you like, and what you don’t like. Better yet, bring some friends together to help you taste and compare. Ask each of them to bring a bottle from one of the regions. I’ve found that going to a wine shop and searching for a particular kind of wine has helped me learn how the shops are organized and how to select wine.



I’ve made a few recommendations below.  If these wine selections are not available — no worries — just look for a rated pinot within your price point from each region.


The Four Graces Pinot Noir -Willamette Valley |

The Four Graces Pinot Noir
Vintage:  2015
Varietal:  Pinot Noir
Appellation:  Willamette Valley
Rating:  87pts Wine Enthusiast
Avg Price: $26

Faiveley Bourgogne - Pinot Noir - France |

Joseph Faiveley Bourgogne
Vintage: 2015
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Appellation: Bourgogne (Burgundy)
Rating: 87pts Wine Enthusiast
Avg Price: $19

French wine can be super confusing because their labeling and classification system is pretty complex. In the US many wineries include the grape varietal very prominently on the label, which helps the consumer. This isn’t the case in France. So, let’s talk about Burgundy and how to simplify.

Burgundy is in the east-central part of France. There are two main varieties of grapes grown in the region – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Red Burgundy is Pinot Noir and White Burgundy is Chardonnay. There are other grapes grown here, but we’ll save those details for another time.

Oyster Bay - Pinot Noir - New Zealand |

New Zealand
Oyster Bay Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2016
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Appellation: Marlborough, New Zealand
Rating: 87pts Wine Enthusiast
Avg Price: $19

Cefiro Reserva Pinot Noir - Chile |

Cefiro Reserva Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2016
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Appellation: Casablanca Valley
Rating: 87pts Wine Enthusiast
Avg Price: $13

Meiomi Pinot Noir - California |

Meiomi Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2016
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Appellation: Sonoma County-Monterey County-Santa Barbara County
Rating: 88pts Wine Enthusiast
Avg Price: $25

Tasting Notes

Now that you have your Pinot Noir line up, it’s time to taste!

Just follow these three steps to become familiar with Pinot Noir from each region. You can even have some of the food pairing suggestions on hand to see how they work together.


Take your glass and tilt it over a white napkin or paper. Compare the color across all regions. In general Pinot Noir should be a lighter red. If you put your fingers between the glass and the napkin, you should be able to see them.

TASTING PROFILE:  Light ruby, a bit translucent.


Let’s see how aromatic Pinot Noir is. Hold your glass at your chest and see if you can catch any scent. Then move it to your chin and try to smell. Then really put your nose in the glass and take a big sniff. What scents do you catch? Swirl the wine and then sniff again. What scents do you catch now?

TASTING PROFILE:  Not an aromatic grape. With nose in the glass, you’ll get cherry, blackberry, cranberry, vanilla, currant and rose scents.


Take a taste and swirl it in your mouth. What flavors do you taste? After you swallow, how long does the flavor linger and how would you describe those flavors?


Fruit:  Light fruit flavors of cherry and raspberry.

Acidity:  Medium to high levels. (This is tartness in the wine and hits underneath the back of your tongue and throat.)

Tannin:  Medium to low levels. (This is bitterness that comes from the grapes skins.)

Oak:  Pinot spends time aging in oak which gives hints of vanilla and toast.

Body:  Light to Medium body. (This is how heavy or full the wine is. Think water vs. milk.)


Explore More Pinot

Pick one or two regions that you like the best.  Try Pinot Noir from different wineries in those regions. Continuing to explore and taste will help you become more familiar with that wine and will make it easier to select what you enjoy. When I go to a restaurant and I don’t recognize the brand, I usually look at the region it is from. I always go for a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. I know I’ll never be disappointed.


Easy Rating System

After you taste each wine, give it a rating using this easy rating system. Add notes to help remember what you liked or didn’t like about the wine.

5pts   Love!
4pts   Like
3pts   Good, but not great
2pts   Meh
1pt      Not for me



Pinot Noir goes with practically everything. It’s a red that is very versatile and crosses between fish and meat easily.

Pair with grilled or roasted:

  • Fish (salmon is a fantastic pairing, and also goes with white fish easily.)
  • Veggies
  • Meat (steak, chicken, duck, burgers)

Cheese pairings:

  • Gruyere
  • Brie
  • Camembert
  • Swiss
Pinot Noir Badge

Congrats! You’ve decoded Pinot Noir. Share your accomplishment with your friends!


Explore the Wine Tasting Guide for Merlot Next >>