Pinot Noir is a black wine grape variety of the species Vitis vinifera. The name may also refer to wines created predominantly from Pinot Noir grapes. The name is derived from the French words for pine and black; the pine alluding to the grape variety having tightly clustered, pine cone-shaped bunches of fruit.
Pinot Noir grapes are grown around the world, mostly in the cooler regions, but the grape is chiefly associated with the Burgundy region of France. It is widely considered to produce some of the finest wines in the world, but is a difficult variety to cultivate and transform into wine.
The leaves of Pinot Noir are generally smaller than those of Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah and the vine is typically less vigorous than either of these varieties. The grape cluster is small and conico-cylindrical, vaguely shaped like a pine cone. Some viticultural historians believe this shape-similarity may have given rise to the name. In the vineyard pinot noir is sensitive to wind and frost, cropping levels (it must be low yielding for production of quality wines), soil types and pruning techniques. In the winery it is sensitive to fermentation methods, yeast strains and is highly reflective of its terroir with different regions producing sometimes very different wines. Its thin skin makes it susceptible to bunch rot and similar fungal diseases of the bunch. The vines themselves are susceptible to powdery mildew, and in Burgundy (and elsewhere) infection by leaf roll and fanleaf viruses causes significant vine health problems. These complications have given the grape a reputation for being difficult to grow.