What Does "Pinot" Mean?

You may associate the word “Pinot” with some of your favorite wines, but do you know what it means?

To understand everything Pinot, let’s define it, recount the history of this legendary grape and analyze some of the delicious vino it yields.

Pinot 101

The word Pinot comes from the French term for “pine cone,” but what does that have to do with grapes?

Well, if you take a close look at a cluster of a sumptuous and juicy Pinot variety on the vine, you will quickly see that its grapes bunch together in a tight, pine cone-like shape.

Diving further into vino linguistics, you will also notice that each Pinot wine comes with a descriptor: Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, etc.

Each of these descriptors refers to the color of a specific type of Pinot, as this variety can vary widely in hue.

In French, Pinot Noir means “black pine cone,” Pinot Blanc means “white pine cone” and Pinot Gris means “gray pine cone” — though this grape’s color actually falls somewhere between gray, blue, and purple.

In Italian, Pinot Grigio also roughly translates to “gray pine cone,” keeping the French prefix and substituting in the Italian word for “gray.” Similarly, Pinot Bianco is the Italian version of Pinot Blanc.

While it may be more challenging to pronounce, it is also worth noting “Grauburgunder,” the German word for Pinot Gris/Grigio, “Spätburgunder,” the German word for Pinot Noir and “​​Weissburgunder,” the German word for Pinot Blanc.

History of Pinot Wines

If you find the linguistic intricacies of Pinot-based wines fascinating, the history of these wines is even more intriguing.

While the most prevalent variation, Pinot Noir, originated in the Gaul regions, which would become modern-day France, widespread production of Pinot Noir wine began later in the 1st century.

At this time, the Ancient Romans controlled Gaul. They took inspiration from native Pinot Noir grapes to create a version of the wine with a distinct personality and flavor that became wildly popular as it spread throughout the world.

While Pinot Gris originated in France, its popularity came about many centuries later in the Middle Ages.

After centuries as a mostly French delicacy, this vino spread to other parts of Europe, such as Switzerland, in the 1300s. This migration introduced the wine to a larger audience and eventually led to the development of Italy’s take: Pinot Grigio.

Lastly, Pinot Blanc, another wine of French origin, has an unknown date of birth but first rose to prominence in 1896 when leaders of the French wine industry deemed it a grape suitable for mass production and blending.

Though Pinot Blanc was primarily a blending wine for years, recent decades saw the white grow in popularity outside its native France as an affordable, high-quality alternative to Chardonnay.

What to know more about vino history? Check out our French Wine Guide and Italian Wine Guide for detailed explorations of the ancient cultures and legendary regions that developed the world’s most prominent Pinot.

Different Types of Pinot Wines to Try

Let’s dive into the most popular Pinot wines to help you find the best varietal for your next meal or special occasion.

Pinot Noir

Wine lovers worldwide cherish Pinot Noir as an easy-to-drink red with an approachable structure and an excellent flavor profile that pairs well with various meals.

This dry vino is famous for its relatively low tannin levels, prominent acidity, and light-to-medium body, subverting some potentially abrasive qualities of red wine for a smooth drinking experience.

This charming structure may seem simple, but it belies a wonderful medley of diverse, delicious flavors:

A bottle of exquisite Pinot Noir tastes excellent, offering juicy, red fruit flavors, sweet hints of licorice, vanilla, and caramel, prominent earthy notes of mushroom, clove, and leaves, and floral accents of hibiscus

Notable Regions:

  • California, United States
  • Burgundy, France
  • Central Otago, New Zealand

Food Pairings to Try:

  • Rack of Lamb
  • Pork Tenderloin
  • Portobello Mushrooms


Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio

Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio both come from the same grape, but each offers a slightly divergent personality that separates it from the other.

Pinot Gris originated in modern-day Burgundy, France, but is now primarily produced in the country’s Alsace region.

This cherished, dry white wine is relatively medium-bodied with medium-to-high acidity and features a lovely medley of tropical, stone, and citrus fruit flavors that harmonize with nuttiness and hints of sweet spice.

Pinot Grigio originally hails from Italy, and its personality and flavor profile serves as a lovely, albeit similar, alternative to its French counterpart.

This crisp white is drier and lighter than the Gris, with a light, refreshing body and prominent acidity highlighting its stone, tropical, and citrus fruitiness, gentle spiciness, minerality, and floral notes of honeysuckle.

Notable Regions:

  • Alsace, France
  • Lombardy, Italy
  • Gisborne, New Zealand

Food Pairings to Try:

  • White Pizza
  • Shrimp Cocktail
  • Roasted Chicken


Pinot Blanc

Pinot Blanc is another originally French white making a name for itself on the global wine stage.

Often unfairly compared to Chardonnay, this vino maintains a distinct personality that mixes the desirable qualities of other French whites with a distinct personality.

In a delicious bottle of Pinot Blanc or Pinot Bianco, as it is known in Italy, you will find a somewhat dry vino with a light body and medium acidity that are approachable for wine lovers of all backgrounds.

You will also discover a fresh, lovely balance of creamy stone fruit flavors, subtle spice, floral undertones, gentle hints of nuttiness, and earthy notes of stone.

Though this wine may not be as quintessential as its iconic French counterparts, it is certainly worth a try at its typically affordable price point.

Notable Regions:

  • Alsace, France
  • Alto Adige, Italy
  • California, United States

Food Pairings to Try:

  • Soft-Shell Crab
  • Grilled Salmon
  • Fettuccine Alfredo


Dive into the World of Pinot

Now that you better understand the wonderful world of Pinot, it’s time to explore Wine Insiders’ diverse range of world-class varietals and blends.

From France’s Pinot Noir to Italy’s Chianti, California’s Cabernet Sauvignon, and New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc, our vino collection spans the globe and brings you high-quality bottles at unbeatable prices.

Whether you are new to wine or a bonafide expert, we tailor our selection to meet all your vino needs through a quick, simple, enjoyable shopping experience.