Is pinot noir dry or sweet?

Aug 24, 2022
Is pinot noir dry or sweet?
Sarah Idle
Sarah Idle
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Is pinot noir dry or sweet? The short answer is: it’s dry. The long answer is: this is thanks to the low amounts of residual sugar in pinot noir.

There are some big questions in life. Like whether the chicken or egg came first, or why it’s called jelly in the States and jam everywhere else. Is pinot noir dry or sweet shouldn’t be one of them. That’s why we’ve pulled together this quick guide to why pinot noir is considered a dry red wine.

Is pinot noir sweet or dry?

The short answer is: pinot noir is a dry red wine. 

If you’ve got more time or are a wannabe wine nerd, here’s some more info. Red wine has a sweetness scale, which all wines fall somewhere on. This scale runs from dry to off-dry / semi-sweet, and sweet.

Dry red wines include cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, syrah, merlot and malbec. Off-dry / semi-sweet red wines include sherry, madeira and zinfandel. Sweet red wines include port. 

What makes wine sweet or dry?

Bear with us as we take you back to chemistry class… how much residual sugar wine contains influences whether it’s a sweet or dry wine. And how much residual sugar there is in a bottle of wine comes back to the fermentation process.

Think of fermentation as the following equation: sugar + yeast = CO2 + alcohol.

Residual sugar is the sugar that remains after the yeast has converted the grape juice into alcohol. How much residual sugar there is determines how sweet or dry the wine is:

  • Less than 3% sweetness: wines are considered dry.
  • More than 3% sweetness: wines are considered off-dry or semi-sweet.
  • Wines above 5% sweetness: wines are noticeably sweet, with dessert wines coming in around 7–9% sweetness.
  • Oh and 1% sweetness is equal to 10g/L residual sugar (RS).

So, is pinot noir considered dry? Yes, because a bottle of pinot noir on average contains less than 3% residual sugar.

What influences the sweetness of pinot noir?

As you open up a bottle of pinot noir and get hit in the face with light, fruity smells of sweet cherry and strawberry, you might wonder ‘hang about, is pinot noir sweet?’. The answer, even with those deliciously sweet smells, is still no. The aroma of pinot noir doesn’t affect the taste of it. 

Like we’ve discussed, it’s the residual sugar that affects the sweetness of wine. But there are 2 other things that can too:

  1. The region the pinot noir grapes are grown in. Growing regions that are cooler and foggier, like the Russian River Valley, tend to produce richer, more savoury tasting pinot noir. While warmer and drier growing regions, like those found in Australia, produce a sweet tasting pinot noir, with notes of sweet blueberry and blackberry. 
  2. What food you pair it with. Serve pinot noir alongside something tart and acidic and it’ll taste even sweeter. Try a dish of briny olives or anything that’s heavy on the vinegar or lemon. Salty soy sauce and anchovies can also enhance the sweetness of pinot noir.

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