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Kramer Vineyards

Kramer Vineyards
July 13, 2023 | Kramer Vineyards

The Science behind Pinot Noir's Lighter Color and Body

Understanding Pinot Noir's Lighter Color and Body, from Vineyard to Cellar

Pinot Noir's Thin Skins and Anthocyanin Levels

Pinot Noir grapes have thinner skins than other red wine grape varieties, resulting in a lighter color. Additionally, Pinot Noir grapes naturally have a lower level of anthocyanins, the pigments responsible for the red color in wine.

The Influence of Cool Climate and Terroir

The cool climates of the Willamette Valley, where Pinot Noir grapes thrive, play a crucial role in the wine's lighter body. The slower ripening process in these cool temperatures leads to grapes with amazing flavor, lower sugar content, and a more lightweight body. The unique combination of soil composition, drainage, and other terroir elements also contribute to Pinot Noir's character, adding further nuances to its flavor profile.

Winemaking Techniques: Enhancing the Expression of Terroir and Color Manipulation

Whole Cluster Fermentation

At Kramer Vineyards, we have been exploring whole cluster fermentation since 2012. Through extensive trials conducted in 2014, 2015, and 2017, we gained valuable insights into this winemaking technique and its impact on the color, body, and flavor profile of our Pinot Noir—whole cluster fermentation results in wines with less color intensity but greater depth and complex, layered flavors. The wines may be tight initially, but they fill out and develop a more rounded body after bottle conditioning.

Gentle Pumpovers, Punchdowns, and Delestage

We utilize gentle pump-overs, punch-downs, and délestage during the fermentation process. These techniques help extract optimal flavors and tannins from the grape skins while maintaining the desired elegance and balance of our Pinot Noir. By carefully managing the maceration process, we can achieve the ideal level of color extraction without compromising the wine's finesse. These methods can also be applied more aggressively to increase skin contact and facilitate color extraction.

Cold Soaks and Extended Maceration

Some winemakers employ cold soaking, which involves macerating the grape must at lower temperatures before fermentation. This technique allows for gentle color extraction and flavor development. Extended maceration, where the grape skins remain in contact with the fermenting juice for an extended period, can also enhance color and flavor extraction, resulting in deeper hues and more intense characteristics.


Blending darker wines into Pinot Noir can enhance color stability and create desired color profiles. This practice varies widely based on region and labeling laws. While blending is not part of our winemaking process for Pinot Noir at Kramer Vineyards, it is a technique some winemakers use to achieve specific color outcomes.


In some cases, winemakers may use grape concentrates to adjust the color of the wine. These concentrates intensify color and can be added in small quantities to achieve the desired hue. The use of concentrates is a subject of debate in the winemaking community, with varying opinions on their impact on the overall wine quality.

Oak Aging and Terroir Reflection

The choice of oak barrels and aging duration also enhance the expression of terroir and color in our Pinot Noir. We age our wines in French oak barrels of various ages, with a maximum of 25% new barrels in the mix. This approach allows the subtle integration of oak-derived flavors while ensuring the fruit and terroir characteristics remain at the forefront.

Additional Factors Influencing Color

Winemakers have various tools and techniques at their disposal to manipulate the color of their wines. These include fermenting at higher temperatures, aggressive cap management techniques, harvesting riper fruit, and the use of extended maceration, cold soaks, blending, and concentrates. Each technique offers opportunities for color manipulation, and winemakers choose the methods that align with their winemaking philosophy and desired outcomes.

Pairing Pinot Noir with Quintessential Northwest Flavors

When pairing Oregon Pinot Noir, many Northwest foods beautifully complement the wine's flavors and nuances. Consider these delectable options:

Northwest Salmon

The rich and buttery flavors of salmon harmonize perfectly with Oregon Pinot Noir. Whether grilled, roasted, or smoked, the salmon's luscious texture and subtle sweetness complement the wine's fruit-forward character. Pinot Noir Blanc also accentuates the natural flavors of the fish.

Wild Mushrooms

The abundance of wild mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest pairs wonderfully with Oregon Pinot Noir. Earthy and savory, mushrooms like morels, chanterelles, and porcini enhance the wine's earthy undertones and add complexity. Try a truly harmonious combination of mushroom risotto, flatbread, or a mushroom tart with a glass of Pinot Noir.


Succulent elk dishes are a delightful pairing with the structure and elegance of Oregon Pinot Noir. The lean yet flavorful meat of elk resonates with the wine's characteristics, creating a harmonious balance of flavors. Whether prepared as a roast, steak, or in stew, elk complements the wine's nuanced profile.

Duck and Quail

Roasted duck or quail offer a delightful pairing with Oregon Pinot Noir. The richness and juiciness of the meat, along with its slightly gamey flavors, complement the wine's medium body and red fruit notes. The wine's acidity helps cut through the meat's richness, creating a harmonious balance of flavors.

Hazelnuts, Marionberries, Tillamook Cheese, and Truffles

These Northwest ingredients showcase the region's bounty and perfectly complement the flavors of Oregon Pinot Noir. Hazelnuts' nuttiness and buttery texture complement the wine's earthy and fruit-forward profile. With their sweet-tart burst of flavor, Marionberries harmonize perfectly with Pinot Noir's fruitiness. Thanks to its rich and tangy flavors, Tillamook cheese, renowned in Oregon and beyond, pairs exceptionally well with Pinot Noir. And finally, with their earthy and aromatic qualities, Oregon truffles create a luxurious pairing, adding depth and complexity to the tasting experience.

Join Us on the Pinot Noir Journey

We invite you to join us on a journey through the science and artistry of Pinot Noir. Experience the beauty of our vineyards, taste the exceptional wines we craft, and discover the nuances of color, body, and flavor. Whether through our wine club, guided vineyard tours, or private tastings, you'll gain a deeper appreciation for the science behind Pinot Noir's lighter color and body and the influence of the Willamette Valley's cool climate and terroir. Indulge in the exquisite world of Kramer Vineyards and savor the beauty of our terroir.


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