How Do I Identify a Pinot Noir?

Question:
I can often recognise Cabernet, Shiraz, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc quite easily, but I find Pinot Noir difficult to identify. Am I simply being uneducated, or does this grape produce all kinds of wines?


Answer:
Several of the Cape’s top Pinot Noir producers have said the cultivar is a tricky one that actually has very little ‘varietal character’ of its own.

The delight of this grape is that it reflects the terroir in which it is grown. In other words, each different example of Pinot Noir will reveal the characteristics of the vineyard in which the grapes were grown. Every vineyard has its own unique soil, micro-climate, rainfall, degree of slope and orientation. So you’re probably right about the difficulty of identifying the cultivar. One guideline is to recognise the wine’s generally light-bodied character and silkiness, but the best advice is to taste all the Pinot Noirs you can so that you can begin to recognise the styles that emerge from individual cellars. Now there’s a challenge!