Our Love Affair With Pinot Noir: It’s All About Flavor

Critics who praise the “complexity” of red Burgundy and Champagne are absolutely, 100-pinotnoirpercent on target.

A few years ago, a team of French and Italian researchers mapped the genome of the Pinot Noir grape, used to make bubbly and many red wines from France’s Burgundy region and around the world, and their work scientifically confirmed what our taste buds have understood for a long time.

The Pinot Noir grape has about 30,000 genes in its DNA, which is more than the human genome, which contains some 20,000 to 25,000 genes.

The team published its findings in the journal Nature, saying it identified nearly half a billion chemical building blocks of the grape’s DNA. Certain sequences of these building blocks form genes, like letters spelling words.

Pinot Noir is the first grape — and first fruit — ever genetically mapped, and it will take years to apply this new knowledge to today’s vines. Down the line, it could possibly lead to grape varieties that are more resistant to bugs and disease.

But back to Pinot Noir

The team said its research had confirmed that the grape has an unusually high number of genes whose job it is to create flavor. More than 100 of its genes are dedicated to producing tannins and terpenes (compared to about 50 for other plants).

But flavor also depends on external factors such as weather, microclimate, soil, size of the crop, age of the vines and the winemaker’s art. So, no matter how scientific grape production becomes, Mother Nature will never surrender her critical role.

And Pinot Noir will remain a distinct, alluring variety, one that continues to make some of the world’s finest table and sparkling wines — including this delightful Champagne.

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Posted in Wine Buzz, Wine in the Glass
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