One of the oldest and most prestigious grape varieties in existence, Pinot Nero – which is known as Pinot Noir in many other countries – has been used in Italian wine for more than a hundred years ad is known to be an essentially ingredient in some of the truly great Italian wines.
Originating in France, where it was named for the pine-like shape that the grapes take when they are hanging from the branches, the grape quickly began to spread through Europe and, eventually the rest of the world. It is perhaps best known as the primary grape produced in the Burgundy region, however, for the purposes of Italian wine it is usually cultivated in South Tyrol. This means that it is often found in the wines that a produced by the many winemakers along the famed South Tyrolean Road.
However, it is also found in regions as varies as Veneto and Trentino and makes an appearance in many wines cultivated in those areas as well. This marks the grape out as being amongst the most versatile of all of the Italian grapes.
It is not just in Italy where the grape has found prestige though. Here we take a look at how the variety has expanded to the rest of the world, starting from its origins in France before examining how it has moved throughout Europe.
In France the grape is the one that helped make the famed Burgundy so delightful to the taste of millions throughout the world, and for that it will always hold a special place in the hearts of French winemakers.
This may also explain its rapid spread throughout the rest of Europe, as the relatively simple growing conditions required allowed many other winemakers to acquire a grape of exceptional quality for a fairly low amount of effort.
Today the grape is used primarily in the production of French red wines and roses, and has spread to a number of winemaking regions in the area.
It is believed by some that Pinot Nero made its first appearance in Italy thanks to the Austrians. This is due to the fact that early Italian records show the grape first appearing in the country under the name Blauburgunder, which is what it is called in Austria. If true, the Italian wine industry owes a lot to its Austrian cousins.
In Austria the grape is usually produced in the lower regions of the country or in Burgenland. Like many others, the grape is used primarily in the production of dry red wines, which bear more than a few of the hallmarks of the reds created in Burgundy.
The United Kingdom
A fairly new addition to the Pinot Nero family, the UK is hardly known for its winemaking tradition but has been jumping on the bandwagon in recent decades, especially as the influence of great Italian wines has become further known.
In the UK the grape is not used for red wines unless the producer has a spectacularly high quality yield. Instead it is used in either Roses or, more commonly, in the production of the sparkling wines that go down so well with the Brits.
This is hardly a new occurrence for the grape either, as it is known to have made its way to the Champagne region of France. Thus, it certainly has form when it comes to use in sparkling wines, even if it is primarily considered to be a red wine variety.
While the grape has enjoyed immense popularity in Europe over the last couple of centuries, it has also recently started to enchant the taste buds of those who are a little further afield.
Following the release of the movie Sideways, in which two men take a wine tasting tour along the famed Santa Barbera County Wine Country, the demand for Pinot Nero grew quite considerably in the United States and other countries, thanks in part to its favourable representation in the film.
This has led to an explosion in popularity that started in 2004 and has seen the wine increasingly grown in the United States and other territories, such as New Zealand and Asia.
Of course, while Pinot Nero’s expansion throughout the world is exceptionally impressive, our main focus is how it is used in Italian wines. There are a number of great producers dotted throughout the country, crafting excellent wines that usually have a slightly earthy taste that is extremely appealing and goes very well with a number of dishes.
Here we take a look at some of the regions where it is produced, so you know where to go if you are looking to find one:
Part of the South Tyrol area, which is extremely well-known for its history when it comes to the production of great Italian wines, Trentino has a long standing tradition of growing grapes, with the first vineyards in the area dating back to the 8th century.
As such, it is the perfect place for Pinot Nero to flourish and it is used to create a number of excellent vintages that hail from the region.
Perhaps best known for being home to the wonderful Italian sparkling white Prosecco, Veneto also has a rich history of creating stunning red wines that often reach the quality of its most famous drink.
While the Pinot Nero produced in the region has yet to reach the levels of its sparkling white brethren, it is slowly but surely building a reputation and wines from the area are starting to become ever-more popular.
There are few more famous winemaking regions in all of Italy than the historic Tuscany, particularly when it comes to the production of great Italian red wines.
Known primarily for Chianti, which is loved throughout the world, the region also gave birth to the Super Tuscan wines that helped to create a boom for the Italian wine industry back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Pinot Nero has played a part in that popularity and is often used as part of a blend in addition to being produced as a standalone wine.