Grape Guide: In Praise of Pinot Noir

In the first of our Grape Guide series, we’re getting under the skin of the wine world’s most ethereal, elusive and enigmatic variety. 


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Five Pinot Noir Facts

  • Pinot Noir is a black grape that produces not just an array of red wine styles but also rosés, sparkling wines of all colours, even still white wines.
  • Pinot Noir is one of the holy trinity of Champagne varieties, along with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.
  • Pinot Noir is very old indeed, first documented in eastern France just under 650 years ago.
  • Pinot Noir grapes make some of the most celebrated wines on earth, particularly in its spiritual homeland of Burgundy.
  • Pinot Noir is now the second most planted grape variety in the UK, just after Chardonnay.

Pinot Noir in the vineyard

Pinot Noir is notoriously temperamental to grow. It’s the Goldilocks of grape varieties, liking things not too hot, not too cold, not too wet or dry. In overly warm climates, Pinot Noir ripens too quickly and produces dull, jammy wines. Where it’s too cool for the grapes to ripen fully, its wines are ‘green’, thin and astringent.

Add in Pinot Noir’s susceptibility to all sorts of vineyard diseases and you may think it’s a wonder that many growers bother with it at all. But you only have to try one great Pinot Noir to understand why they do. Because in the right conditions, this fickle customer is capable of oenological alchemy, creating hauntingly beautiful wines unique to the terroir in which they’re grown.

Ridgeview Sparkling Red Reserve
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What kind of wines does Pinot Noir make?

Pinot Noir is a relatively thin-skinned variety, which means it produces red wines at the lighter end of the scale in terms of colour, body and tannins. Some of these wines are simple, cheerful and laden with easy-drinking red fruits like raspberry, cherries and redcurrants. But when grown on the best sites and nurtured in the winery, Pinot Noir is a masterpiece of complexity, taking on a dazzling array of spicy, floral, earthy, even gamy notes. 

But the joys of Pinot Noir extend far beyond red wines. Since the pulp inside those thin skins is clear, Pinot Noir can be pressed gently to make white wines or slightly more firmly to produce rosé

Still rosé Pinot Noir is an increasingly popular choice for English producers. In his brilliant book on English wine, Oz Clarke writes that “rosé wines will be one of the most important styles made in Britain over the next 10 to 20 years”.  But here as in Champagne, it’s in sparkling wines that Pinot Noir plays its other truly heroic role, next to Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. 

In Classic Method sparkling wines, whether white or rosé, Pinot Noir contributes those hallmark red-fruit notes, along with depth, heft and body.

How English sparkling wine is made, Bloomsbury style
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Where is Pinot Noir at its best?

Burgundy’s Côte d’Or translates as ‘Golden Slope’, and this is where the alchemic qualities of Pinot Noir originate. Its cool climate and free-draining soils provide perfect growing conditions; its mysterious patchwork of Grand Cru vineyards produce minute quantities of some of the world’s most fabled red wines. 

No other growing area can match the Côte d’Or’s prestige for Pinot Noir. However, cool-climate regions such as Oregon and coastal California in the U.S., Central Otago in New Zealand and Germany’s Baden Valley are also synonymous with top-quality Pinot Noir. 

As a constituent of Classic Method sparkling wines, Pinot Noir is historically associated with Champagne. But today’s shifting climate patterns have placed other regions in the spotlight, with the UK very much to the fore. Our warmer summers and long growing season give Pinot Noir ideal conditions to ripen gradually, especially on the very best sites, such as our estate and partner vineyards. 

This gradual ripening ensures the grapes retain acidity as they build sugars, phenolics and flavour compounds – the essential balance for top-grade sparkling wines.

Pinot Noir at Ridgeview

Pinot Noir has a prominent place in Ridgeview wines and a special place in our hearts. For many years the variety has been our Head Winemaker Simon Roberts’ muse, bestriding our Signature and Limited Edition Ranges.

Cavendish NV

Pinot Noir leaves its rich red-fruit signature on our classic NV blend, beautifully rounding out the Chardonnay finesse and freshness. Versatile Cavendish stands up to all kinds of adventurous food pairings – try it with Sussex charcuterie, smoked mackerel paté or beetroot carpaccio.

Fitzrovia Rosé NV

The colour of cherry blossom and a riot of raspberries and redcurrants, our Pinot-dominant sparkling rosé is a masterclass in fruit-driven purity. It’s a fantastic aperitif but comes into its own alongside a Sussex cheeseboard or summery pudding such as Eton Mess.

Rosé de Noirs

Making up the lion’s share of the blend, Pinot Noir is in showstopping form here. As well as contributing to the stunning rose gold hue and the silky smooth texture, it ladles cherry blossom and summer fruits onto the palate. Made for Asian cuisine, from fragrant salads to crispy aromatic duck.

Blanc de Noirs

Our celebration of the very best Pinots is only made in vintages when the grapes ripen in perfect harmony, showcasing Pinot Noir in all its red-cherry glory. It’s such a rich, complex wine, opening up daring food pairings such as spiced duck, braised fennel or sticky ginger aubergine.

Sparkling Red Reserve

Innovative, offbeat and beguiling, this wine is a work of art! Made from the finest hand-picked Pinot Noir grapes fermented on their skins, it’s a dazzling ruby red colour and a veritable fruit basket in the mouth. Cherry, pomegranate and forest fruits are joined by lingering vanilla and pepper spices. A mouthwatering match with smoky BBQ flavours.

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