Are you partial to a glass of pinot noir? This black-skinned grape, native to France’s Burgundy region, is one of the most popular wines in the world to grow as well as drink. Whilst Italy might not be the first country that comes to mind, Italian pinot noir is found throughout most of the country but especially in the northeast.
Known as pinot nero in Italy, it’s an elegant and refined wine. Pinot noir Italian wine is best grown in cool climates where it unleashes delicious flavors like raspberry, strawberry, and mint, or darker red fruits, forest floor, vanilla, and white pepper. Sound like your cup of wine? Keep reading to find out the best Italian pinot noir in 2023.
Pinot Nero vs Pinot Noir
If you’ve tried the French variety or enjoyed this grape in Australia, Chile, or California, you would have likely seen ‘pinot noir’ written on the bottle. The Italian equivalent of pinot noir is ‘pinot nero’. The pinot comes from the French word for “pine” referencing the tight clusters of grapes that look similar to pinecones and “noir” means black in reference to the color of its dark fruit. In Italian, the difference is that nero, meaning black, is used.
Where is the Italian Pinot Noir Region?
Whilst you can find pinot noir grown throughout most of Italy, the very best comes from Lombardia, Trentino Alto Adige, and Friuli Venezia Giulia. In fact, Lombardia grows the largest amount of Pinot Noir in the entire country, occupying around 13% of the region’s vineyard area! The reason? It’s used in their fantastic Franciacorta!
Moving away from Lombardy, you can find the very best single-varietal Italian Pinot Noir in Alto Adige and Friuli Venezia Giulia. In Alto Adige however, you should look for the German words ‘Blau Burgunder’ or ‘Spätburgunder’ if you’re on a hunt for pinot noir! In the rest of the country, you’ll generally find the grape labeled “Pinot Nero”.
Tuscany Pinot Noir is one of the most searched for online and is really interesting to try as the grape expresses itself in a completely unique way different from its Burgundy-grown version.
The best Italian Pinot Noir Brands
If you’re looking to quickly scan a wine list, here’s a rundown of the best pinot noir Italian red wine brands:
- Cordero San Giorgio
- Cantina Girlan
- Tenuta Mazzolino
- Weingut Abraham
- Castel Juval
- Podere della Civettaja
- Ignaz Niedrist
- Franz Haas
- Conte Vistarino
The Best Italian Pinot Noir Wines to Try in 2023
The best pinot noir in Italy is generally those that come from Alto Adige thanks to the cool climate. The grapes are planted as high as 1000 meters above sea level and combined with the limestone and dolomite soils, it’s a fantastic environment for this typically difficult grape. Ready to try some pinot noir in Italy? Here are our favorites to try in 2023:
1. Tiamat Pinot Nero 2020 from Cordero San Giorgio
Oltrepò Pavese, Lombardy
Winner of the tre bicchieri for Gambero Rosso, this is 100% pinot nero grown in the Oltrepo’ Pavese DOC region. The grapes grow 250m above sea level overlooking the Santa Giuletta hill. In the glass, this wine has a vibrant ruby red color, and on the nose delicious small red fruit and a little spice. There’s good acidity and soft tannins on the palette.
2. Pinot Nero Riserva Trattmann 2019 from Cantina Girlan
Another winner of the tre bicchieri awards is this outstanding pinot nero Italian wine from Alto Adige. It’s a delicate and elegant interpretation that matures for 15 months in wooden barrels and another 8 months in the bottle. There’s juicy cherry, cacao, black spices, and tobacco on the nose and a soft structure on the palate with fine tannins.
3. Noir, Pinot Nero Oltrepò Pavese DOC 2019 from Tenuta Mazzolino
Aptly named ‘noir’, Tenuta Mazzolino is a certified organic winery with a winning spot in the Slow Wine 2023 guide for their pinot nero. The grapes grow 180-220m above sea level on chalky clay soil. There is a beautiful nose of raspberries, strawberries, spice, and wood on the nose and a complex bouquet of well-ripened red fruits, balsamic notes, and aromatic woods in the palette.
4. Pinot Nero DOC 2019 from Weingut Abraham
Heading to South Tyrol again, Weingut Abraham produced just 3800 bottles of their delicious 2019 Pinot Nero. It’s aged for 20 months in oak barrels, and the result is a structured and elegant wine with notes of red fruit jam, sweet spices, sour cherries, and forest flavors. There are well-balanced and delicate tannins on the palette.
5. Pinot Nero Riserva 2019 from Castel Juval
Val Venosta, Alto Adige
Just 5500 bottles were produced of this fruity, elegant wine from Castel Juval in Alto Adige. The winery is in the process of transitioning to be officially certified organic. Their grapes are grown between 600-800m above sea level and then aged in oak barrels and large acacia wood barrels. It’s a real classic pinot full of cherry, blackberry, and blackcurrant aromas. There are delicate tannins on the palette and it has a really lovely elegant mouthfeel.
6. Pinot Nero Toscana IGT from Podere della Civettaja
Our pick from Tuscany, the winemaker Vincenzo Tommasi, is crazy in love with Burgundy’s wines and decided to plant pinot nero in the high valleys of Casentino. The area is particularly suited to growing pinot nero at 500m above sea level with a very cool climate and clayey-limestone soils. The wine is left to mature for 12 months in barrique and then in concrete tanks. Super elegant, there are notes of red fruits, licorice, dried flowers, and spices on the nose. There’s a very long aromatic finish we think you’ll love. It’s another organic winery particularly praised in the 2023 Slow Wine guide.
How to serve pinot noir?
This elegant wine is ideal when served in a large bell-shaped glass to properly enjoy its delicious aromas. If your pinot nero has a light structure, it’s ideal to serve at 12-14C/53-57F Whilst medium-structured pinot noir is best slightly warmer at 14-16C/57F-60F. Pinot Noir Italian is a really good food wine. In particular, it pairs perfectly with lighter meats like pork or even game like rabbit or in Italy, cinghiale (wild boar). A very classic food pairing is Beef Bourguignon, given the grape’s native origins.
What’s the Italian pinot noir equivalent?
As mentioned in this article, Italian pinot nero is equivalent to pinot noir in Italy. Instead, if you’re looking for Italian wines similar to pinot noir, you can try one of the following:
- Cesanese: This Lazio native grape bears a little resemblance to Pinot Nero with notes of berries, florals and pepper. If your trip to Italy includes Rome, then you won’t have any trouble finding this on the wine list.
- Grignolino: From Andrea’s native Piedmont, this light and easy-drinking wine has lovely juicy red berries on the nose.
Ready to pour yourself a glass of Italian-style pinot noir? Let us know your favorites in the comments. Looking for more French grapes, Italian-style? Have a read of our article on the best Italian merlot now.