What is a great Pinot? Is Pinot a type of wine? Or, is this too casual a reference?
Imagine “Pinot” as a type of surname that has been given to a variety of grapes. In 14th century France, the tightly shaped grape clusters were referenced as looking like pine cones. Because the grape clusters, of what is now known as Pinot Noir grapes, are so tight, its name was coined that translates as black pine cone. "Pinot" does not refer to red or white grapes rather, both types are part of this family.
In the middle ages, when the quality-crazed Cistercian Monks were making their sacramental wine from Pinot Noir, a high-standard was set which ignited the varietal’s popularity and established it as the dominant red. There are plenty of variations as a result of cloning, either by the cross-pollination of two-parent plants or intentional cloning to create a new variety. Mapping out the family vine, if you will, would be a great feat as the Pinot DNA shows up in thousands of grape clones. Pinot Noir producers are determined to bring out the best qualities the finicky grape offers, to their wine. Because of the tight clusters and its penchant for cool temperatures, getting the grapes to have just the right amount of sunshine to ripen is a delicate balance for winemakers to find.
Pinot Meunier, a lighter red, is mostly known for being blended into Champagne, lately it's been gaining momentum on its own. Where Pinot Noir brings a depth of color, structure and rich flavors, Pinot Meunier brings more floral fruit aromas and flavors. Champagne Montaudon Grande Rose is a wonderful blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay – considered the three noble Champagne grape varietals and all from the same family.
The great white Chardonnay is also part of this family. Not only does it thrive in the same growing conditions as Pinot Noir, the wines have been labeled Pinot Chardonnay to acknowledge its affiliation. "Pinot" was dropped from the name so it stands alone as Chardonnay. Other whites in this lineage still apply their parentage in their name. Pinot Gris, also known as the Italian Pinot Grigio, is a good example of this.
As a family grows, new members emerge.
The American clone, Marquette is lesser-known at this point but will gain popularity as acquaintance is made. Here’s a good place to start Shelburne Vineyards Marquette 2017.
The most important take-away is that “Pinot” is not one grape variety, rather a great family of interesting varietals!