The World’s Most Wanted Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is the jewel in the red wine crown, but things are changing.

Move over, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir is the new king of red wine.

Well, not quite, but it is getting there. While Cabernet’s attraction for wine lovers is to a large extent treading water, Pinot goes from strength to strength, steadily increasing its share of searches on our database over the past five years. It’s still quite a way behind Cabernet and its related blends, but its search numbers are increasing more rapidly.

Pinot’s popularity has spread across the world, but it seems particularly strong in the US, where searches for Pinot Noir are at an all-time high.

Mostly, interest in Pinot globally has been driven by Burgundy and those ever-increasing prices to be found at the top end. When you have single bottles fetching $22,000 it’s not surprising that people want to check out the prices and see if they are really that crazy (hint – they are).

However, while Burgundy searches are peaking, the actual number of click-throughs hasn’t kept pace. Click-throughs are when a Wine-Searcher user clicks through from our search result page to a merchant, and measures an intention to buy. These have slowed down in the past six months as prices for Burgundy have stubbornly remained in the unrealistic bracket, suggesting there is a ceiling for how much consumers are willing to spend.

Certainly the top producers command ludicrous prices – DRC’s Romanée-Conti Grand Cru currently sits at almost $22,000 a bottle – and they can distort pricing across all levels. Take the humble Bourgogne Rouge appellation, for example – the global average price of a bottle of basic Burgundy Pinot Noir is $29; for Domaine Leroy’s version it’s $157; for Coche-Dury it’s $191; and for Roumier, it’s $250.

Burgundy prices are a discussion for another day, however. Today, we are concentrating on non-Burgundy wines (Burgundy will get its own article shortly), but even here the effect of Burgundy pricing is clear – because many of these wines are made in emulation of the wines of Burgundy, they also attract high prices. It’s like the halo effect.

Despite the crazy prices, however, Pinot retains a worldwide appeal, which is interesting given the difficulty in growing it in the first place. Notoriously finicky, it can produce thin, acidic rotgut or it can produce silky, voluptuous wines that drive people wild with enthusiasm. That worldwide appeal is also reflected in the geographical spread of our top 10 wines.

The World’s Most Wanted Pinot Noir on Wine-Searcher:

It’s a very different list this year than the last time we ran it, back in 2019. Since then, four wines have fallen out of the top 10, and there are two big names conspicuous by their omission: Meiomi and Oregon.

In 2019, Meiomi was in fourth place on this list, its popularity driven by relentless promotion and seemingly ubiquitous in the marketplace. This year, it falls outside the top 10 to sit 12th among the non-Burgundy Pinots, a victim of its own success, most likely, as consumers didn’t need to search for it – it was already everywhere.

Oregon’s absence is harder to explain. It has always had a name for its Pinots, attracting international attention, acclaim and also drawing Burgundy producers to the state to grow their own grapes there. In 2019 there were two Oregon Pinots on the list, but this year there are none. That has to be slightly worrying for a state that based its reputation on Pinot Noir.

For the wines that do make this year’s list, there are a few surprises, too. The top wine of 2019 now languishes in eighth spot and there is an Argentinian wine in the mix to break up the contenders from Sta Rita Hills and Sonoma, but it is at the top and tail of this year’s list where there is a real surprise.

New Zealand produces just 3 percent of the Pinot Noirs listed on Wine-Searcher, but it manages to get two wines onto this list, including the top wine, Martinborough’s outstanding Ata Rangi, which has been nudging the top end of this list for a while now. Felton Road also makes the top 10, rich reward for Central Otago’s Pinot Noir generally and the winery’s in particular.

What’s most satisfying, though, is the sheer diversity on the list. The wines cross the spectrum of geographical origin, style and price, but they all share a base level of quality that sets a high bar for others.

It’s good to be the king.

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