Pinot Noir, or Pinot Nero in Italy
Updated: May 10, 2020
Some Pinot Noir facts
· The meaning of Pinot in French is Pine, referring perhaps to the cone shape of the grape.
· Pinot Noir's birthplace is Bourgogne where its finest examples allegedly are to be found.
· Pinot Noir is particularly prone to mutation and there are more than 50 different registered clones (within France).
· It's considered one of the finest grape varieties in the World, yet being a cooler climate grape limits its reach in terms of vineyards.
· Pinot Noir (international name) in Italy becomes Pinot Nero (as Pinot Blanc becomes Pinot Bianco, and Pinot Gris becomes Pinot Grigio).
Pinot Nero in Italy
Even though Italy has its own 500+ native grapes, Pinot Noir hasn't failed to become rather popular especially in Northern Italy where temperatures are more moderate. In these areas, Pinot Nero has by now become a traditional grape (not native, but cultivated for centuries). So much so that the name was translated partly to Italian. The variety tends to germinate early and that raises the risk of spring frost. It also suffers from the attacks of downy mildew, rot (some clones have a thin skin), so humidity is an issue. All the different variables have led it to find a natural habitat in just a few places.
The traditional style (bottle-fermented) sparkling wine regions in Italy have most often planted some or all Champagne grape varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier). Of such, there are 3 distinctive sparkling wine regions in Italy worth knowing:
Trento DOC is the name of Italy's oldest sparkling wine produced in Trentino in northern Italy. The grapes grow on the slopes of the foothills of the alps, and the wines are considered some of the finest bubbles of Italy.
Go through the Trento Doc official website: https://www.trentodoc.com/en/
Franciacorta DOCG is a region close to Lake Iseo in Lombardia that has gotten hugely popular when it comes to high-quality bubbles in Italy. Here Pinot Nero plays a complementary role to Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco.
See a list of wineries here: https://www.franciacorta.net/en/wineries/cellars-list/
Oltrepo Pavese Metodo Classico DOCG is a region in the southern part of Lombardia where Pinot Nero is the protagonist. It can even carry the grape name Pinot Nero if it makes up at least 85% of the wine.
See some more info here: http://www.vinoltrepo.org/it/eng/
Red still wines made of Pinot Noir are not uncommon either although there are less official well-known regions.
You'll find wineries that make monovarietal Pinot Noir reds throughout the regions of Alto Adige and Trentino and Veneto and also in Collio Goriziano Friulia Venezia Giulia and again in Oltrepo' Pavese Lombardia. And last but not least, as far south as in Mugello in northern Toscana!
Pinot Nero in Tuscany
Seemingly Pinot Nero made it into Tuscany already centuries ago in the area of Pomino where, in fact, today it's still grown and used in the Pomino Rosso DOC blend. Since then both large wineries (Fontodi, Frescobaldi, Tenute del Cabreo) and now a series of smaller wineries are experimenting with the variety in various places around Tuscany, without big success. It's particularly the region in the northern Tuscany, in the cooler Appennine mountains where Pinot Nero has found its ideal Tuscan terroir. In Mugello there are around 10 small wineries for a total of 15 ha of Pinot Nero grapes (approx 40 acres).
See our visit to the pioneer of Pinot Nero in Mugello Tuscany, producer IL RIO with Paolo & Manuela who grow 2 ha of Pinot Nero (with some Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc). You can purchase the Pinot Nero "ventisei" here.