Perhaps more popularly known as Pinot Noir, Pinot Nero is one of the most popular red wine grapes in the world. Wherever there is a wine industry, there’s a high chance that this grape will be grown. From its origins in France, the grape has spread to all corners of the world and it has become an ever-present on wine lists all over.
And yet, there are still myths about the grape.
In other words, there are still certain “truths” that people believe about Pinot Nero that are simply not true!
In this article, we aim to shatter some of the myths of Pinot Nero. In doing so, we hope to teach you a little more about this wonderful grape and help you to gain more appreciation for a type of wine that we’re sure you’re already very familiar with.
This starts with…
Myth #1 – It is the Only Legal Grape for Making Red Wine in Burgundy
As we mentioned, Pinot Nero finds its roots in the French territory of Burgundy. You likely don’t need us to tell you that Burgundy is one of the most renowned wine regions in the world. It has spawned so many classic vintages that it’s almost impossible to count. And for decades, the name of the region has been a byword for quality wines.
Now, there’s no disputing that Pinot Nero is the main red wine grape of the region. It’s also true that any wine that carries the label “Red Burgundy” can be made with no other grape but Pinot Nero.
This is where the myth comes from.
However, Red Burgundy is not the only type of red wine that Burgundy’s producers create.
The second is called Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains. Literally translated, this means “pass all the grapes”, which indicates what this wine is.
Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains is essentially a mish-mash of all of the grapes that a winemaker has left over. While it will often contain Pinot Nero, it also tends to include Gamay, which lends the wine some balance. Some producers even go so far as to blend their white grapes with their reds, with Chardonnay being a popular feature of such wines.
Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains is not considered a high-quality wine. In fact, it is a wine that carries little ageing potential and is instead intended for everyday consumption. In other words, it’s a simple table wine made to satiate the drinker’s appetite for wine without them having to break out a bottle of Red Burgundy every time they want a taste of the region. Still, the presence of Gamay proves that Pinot Nero is not the only red wine grape you can legally grow in Burgundy.
It’s simply the best and most popular.
Myth #2 – Young Means Light
The common myth here is that any Pinot Nero you drink before allowing it to age will always be light. And again, it’s easy to see where this myth comes from as many young Pinot Nero’s are quite light, especially when compared to their aged equivalent.
However, the youth of the wine isn’t the main factor at play here.
Far more important is the maturity of the grape.
As a general rule, grapes picked early in the harvesting season will tend to have a lighter body than those picked later, regardless of how long those grapes are aged once they’re picked. Allowing the grapes to sit on the vine a little longer imbues them with the qualities need to make a “heavier” or more complex version of the wine.
For example, you can compare a Pinot Nero for which the grapes were picked early in the harvesting season to one where the grapes were picked later. Find wines from the same year and open them upon buying, with no additional ageing. You will usually find that the wine containing grapes picked later in the season has a fuller body and more complexity.
Of course, ageing enhances this heaviness in both types of Pinot Nero. However, it is the one with the more mature grapes that will always be heavier when you compared to a wine with less mature grapes.
Myth #3 – Pinot Nero Doesn’t Complement Chocolate
Again, this is a myth that has a seed of truth behind it.
It is true that trying to pair Pinot Nero with milk chocolate, or even white chocolate, will lead to a less pleasant tasting experience. The richness of these types of chocolate will typically clash with the fruity notes of the wine, creating an odd mishmash of flavours in your mouth.
However, there are certain types of chocolate that do pair well with Pinot Nero.
As a general rule, any chocolate that contains a hint of bitterness will make for an excellent complement. Good examples include chocolates from Belize, Jamaica, and Madagascar. The extra bitter note helps to temper the richness of the chocolate while also combining well with the fruity notes of the wine. This makes for a much more pleasant tasting experience.
So, we see hear that it is not chocolate, in general, that doesn’t pair. You need to simply be aware of the type of chocolate that works best.
Myth #4 – Italy is One of the Top Three Producers of Pinot Nero
As much as Italian winemakers would like to make this claim, it simply isn’t true.
Naturally, France heads the pack as the leading Pinot Nero producer. It is the grape’s country of origin and it is used to make one of its most famous wines. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the United States lands in second place. Pinot Nero is one of the country’s most beloved wines and the conditions in the Californian wine territory make it perfect for American producers to cultivate the grape.
But the third-placed country may be a little more surprising…
The grape is known as Spätburgunder in this country and it is used in wines from several regions.
Italy isn’t far behind Germany in terms of its Pinot Nero use, of course. However, with so many stunning Italian red wine grapes available, it is perhaps not as surprising as it seems to be that Pinot Nero isn’t quite as popular in Italy as you might imagine.
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