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Why is Pinot Noir known for being such a difficult wine to make?

Posted by Catherine Nguyen
April 27, 2017

 
Clos de la Tech presents the first video in our Pinot Noir 101 series, "Why is Pinot Noir known for being a difficult wine to make?" with Tim McGarr.


 

Legendary winemaker André Tchelistcheff, who pioneered Beaulieu

Vineyards’ George de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, once

said that “God made Cabernet Sauvignon whereas the devil made Pinot

Noir.” That description came from the extreme difficulty of producing fine

Pinot Noirs from bud set, through weather and disease threats, to

capricious fermentation and ageing.
 

As prominent wine consultant Tim McGarr says in the following video, Pinot

Noir presents many challenges that test one’s skills as a winemaker. It can

be said that Pinot Noir (French for black pine cone, based on its conical

berry cluster shape) is the Goldilocks of wine. It requires not too hot, not

too cold, but “just right” well-drained soil, preferably limestone. Spring

winds and rains can damage the grapes, washing away the flowers and

buds, and can lead to powdery mildew and fungus. The grapes, unlike

Cabernet Sauvignon, are thin-skinned and susceptible to hail, animals,

insects and sudden shifts in weather.
 

After harvest, the juice requires careful and gentle handling. It ferments at

its own speed, stopping and starting because of temperature fluctuations,

and it performs best when transported to barrels by gravity feed rather than

pumping.
 

As McGarr says, “If you go through all those stages, meet the challenges of

this finicky grape, finish all of that with your sense of humor intact, Pinot

Noir can be one of the most beguiling and enchanting wines, with fantastic

bouquet, wonderful texture and aromas, great length of flavor, with spice

and complex red and black fruits. The best wines will continue to age well

for the next 10 or 15 years.”
 

As Master Sommelier Madeline Triffon said, Pinot Noir is “sex in a glass.”