1. Pinot noir reminds you of what’s important

Not all things are created equal, a truth as applicable to wine grapes as it is to life. Some wine grapes are born into this world with little more potential than to be a fresh, reliable bistro wine that pairs with seafood and a harbour view; while other varieties’ merits are that they will create the most plush, approachable and reliable red wine, able to endure difficult weather and a range of climates. Worthy roles to fill, and purveyors of joy to many, but pinot noir is not that kind of grape. Pinot noir is a wine of such potential greatness, beauty and complexity that not only does it surpass most others, it reminds us what is possible. When pinot noir is good, the experience is transcendent. Not only is this a thing to behold from a sensory perspective, but in a world where commoditisation, scalability and other generic values are considered worthier pillars of greatness in wine than what is good and beautiful, then great pinot noir will always be there to recalibrate your benchmarks and remind you that not only is greatness possible, it’s also important.

2. Pinot noir will take you places

Follow your nose with pinot noir and you’ll be spun around the globe to some of the most marginal, beautiful, intrepid places on earth, without even leaving your glass. France, America, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Austria, Chile, Italy, Romania, Moldova and beyond. Pinot noir’s winegrowing footprint will take you from the high altitudes of Alto Adige to the low latitudes of Tasmania; it will immerse you in the cool continental regions of Burgundy; and road-trip you along coastal strips of Sonoma. And it won’t just introduce you to adventurous places, but often the most beautiful. I will never forget driving around Burgundy during a crisp autumnal afternoon as the slopes of the Côte de Nuits blazed golden with autumnal foliage. Nor, at the newer end of pinot noir’s timeline, will I ever be anything less than astounded at the landscape of Central Otago, where serrated mountains jab the skyline, wild rivers tear through gorges and the earth rumbles under you. And the most exciting thing about pinot noir’s passport to the world? It’s not done yet. As intrepid winegrowers explore new places and exciting new regions show their suitability for this variety, following pinot noir around the world will the greatest source of sensory adventure.

3. Pinot noir connects you to the wonders of nature

To understand pinot noir is to enter into an exquisite and intimate exchange with nature – how the place was made and how it behaves. One of pinot noir’s greatest virtues is that it expresses the place it is grown in, and not only in a general sense, but down to tiny minutiae of a vineyard such as slight changes in soil, slope, sunlight, swings in weather and other details beyond the human senses or current body of wine science. We vaguely know why a pinot noir made on one site can taste wildly different from one made in exactly the same way a few steps away. But there’s a lot we don’t know. And one tug on this idea and you’ll be pulling on stories of ancient geology and inland seas, gigantic earthquakes and glacial washes. Tiny and gigantic stories and mysteries from nature, all told through a glass of wine. It’s properly wonderful stuff.

4. Pinot noir preserves culture

It’s not just the landscape pinot noir can harbour, nor a range of tastes and aromas, but important cultural values, too. It has been argued that the current culture of wine, of expressing greatness of place in wine, was started around the ninth century by the Benedictine monks in Burgundy, who began the process of differentiating vineyards according to quality, thereby starting the notion of terroir. This wine culture expanded from the Abbey of Saint Vivant to the more disciplined Cistercian order, who advanced the idea further. From the Côte de Nuits it spread to the Côte de Beaune until it created the mosaic of vineyards that eventually covered the whole of the Côte d’Or. From Burgundy, this idea — of expressing greatness of place through wine — has been passed along the great wine timeline ever since. From New World to Old, one continent to the next, enduring fashion and trends, poverty and war, and eventually making it all around the world into new cultures. And a thousand years after those Benedictine monks first ploughed the land, the resultant mosaic of Burgundian vineyards was given official UNESCO protection for being a cultural landscape that is valuable to “the creative genius and spiritual vitality of humanity”. Pinot noir captures important cultural values and shepherds them through time, protecting them from the flippancy of fashions and against the vicissitudes of history. In this sense, pinot noir preserves culture.

5. Pinot noir keeps you humble

Perhaps one of the most important reasons to love pinot noir is that, in an age of shortcuts, immediate gratification and the idea that Mother Nature’s inconveniences can be overridden by technology, pinot noir is here to keep us all humble. There are no shortcuts to anything good about pinot noir, nor any ways of defending against the trials of nature; it is fickle to grow and challenging to make, it is difficult to understand and hard to buy the good stuff. And it is almost impossible to believe that the greatest, most revered vineyards of the greatest domains in the world can be wiped out by frost or hail in a single night, and not for another season will they have another shot at it. In short, knowing, loving and drinking pinot noir is complex, but, just like life, it can also be spectacular.

6. Pinot noir attracts a certain type

Given all of the risk, the struggle, the pressure and the sheer elusiveness of pinot noir — who’d do it? Who’d pursue such a fickle, tempestuous, unreliable grape that may or may not perform when other more reliable wines are possible? Who’d allow their business to be directed by Mother Nature rather than a marketing department? Who’d invest time and money for pleasure over profit? The type who I am sure writer Wilferd Peterson had in mind when he wrote: “Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground.” Making pinot noir is a challenge and, rightly so, attracts those who are after one: take a turn around the world of pinot noir and you’ll find the best mix of people with a range of backgrounds — former rocket scientists, professional skiers, pilots, doctors, actors, sailors, writers and musicians. Who’d risk everything to make beautiful wine? The good, albeit slightly wild, type. That’s who.

7. Pinot noir is beautiful

And here we arrive at the nub of it. No one would risk their life savings, explore marginal climates, endure erratic weather, protect centuries of culture or challenge viticultural boundaries if pinot noir was not one of the most beautiful varieties in the world. If the end result were something simpler, plainer, less spectacular, few would go to these extremes. The beauty of pinot noir is the reason we’re all here. Whether it be the aromatic charms — of strawberries and cherries, mushroom and earth, leather and game. Or the textural ones — velvety tannins and shimmering acidity. Or to pinot noir’s more alluring charms — haunting, enigmatic, ethereal. All this, when connected to culture, place, nature and community, is what makes pinot noir a worthy wine to love; because it is everything that is not just good about wine, but good about life. Which is perhaps the best reason of all.


About Andrea:

Andrea Frost is an award-winning writer, columnist, author and speaker whose work has been described as “more like an evening with a particularly erudite and witty dinner companion than a class at the local wine school”. Andrea is a columnist for and The World of Fine Wine, and has contributed widely to other publications. She has gained international accolades for her unique approach to wine that has as much to do with culture and philosophy as it does to tastings and terroir. A distinctive voice and original thinker in the world of wine, Andrea has presented many popular talks to the wine industry and public alike, including the 2017 Pinot Noir NZ Celebration and the Melbourne Writers Festival.

: @andreajfrost
: @andreajfrost