This is a Fouroom template. Explore more under

Pinot Noir: The Chameleon Queen of Wine Grapes

March 30, 2022

Pinot Noir isn't a grape variety; it's an addiction.

Once you find yourself ensconced in Pinot's warm embrace, there is little hope. No matter whether you're pouring drinks or emptying them yourself, there are few more dreamy beverages than a silken glass of Pinot Noir perfection.

But Pinot Noir is more than just a sensual seductress; it's a fascinating grape. Thought to be just one or two generations away from wild plants, Pinot Noir has a 2,000-year history that has given endless scope for mutations, spawning Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc & Pinot Teinturier, among others.

Pinot Noir bunches

Famously, Pinot Noir can even have pink Pinot Gris bunches on the same plant - what is known as 'chimeric plants'. This comes from a rare cell mutation, where Pinot Noir skins form around cells mutated to Pinot Blanc, with Pinot Gris as the result.

Pinot Noir clones are intriguing, too, with more than 1,000 registered. However, it's only more recently that we've isolated these clones, as most vineyards were historically a massale selection (with many different clones). It wasn't until the 60s when French nursery workers began taking cuttings from the healthiest vines to help combat viruses. This process initially brought us the infamous 'Pinot droits' - large berried, upright-growing clones known for good yields but not quality. In 1971, the first official, guaranteed virus-free French Pinot clones were produced in numbered lots, delivering the popular Bernard clones of 113, 114, 115 et al. and the more recent releases (like 667, 777), which are widely planted in Australia.

Pinot is also the veritable mother vine, with the Pinot & Gouais Blanc crossing believed to be the parent of Gamay, Chardonnay, Aligote & Melon. At the same time, research suggests that Pinot is the grandparent of Syrah, Teroldego & Lagrein (pictured above).

For a final fun fact about Pinot, it might be surprising to hear that there is much more Pinot Noir planted in Champagne, despite Burgundy being the grape's spiritual home.

Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties by Julia Harding, Jancis Robinson & José Vouillamoz
Revealed: why your Pinot Noir is actually a Pinot Blanc (or was that a Pinot Gris?), Frédérique Pelsy, The Conversation.
Image courtesy of The Conversation