Your Wine IQ

Pinot Blanc

International Varieties: Chardonnay   Gewürztraminer   Muscat   Pinot Gris   Riesling   Sauvignon Blanc

Major Varieties:   Airén    Chenin Blanc    Grüner Veltliner    Müller-Thurgau    Pinot Blanc    Sémillon    Silvaner    Trebbiano    Viognier

Regional Varieties:   Albariño    Aligoté    Amigne    Arneis    Chasselas    Colombard    Cortese    Fiano    Grechetto    Grenache Blanc    Malvasia Istriana    Marsanne    Muscadelle    Muscat of Alexandria    Ortega    Palomino    Parellada    Petite Arvine    Prosecco    Rieslaner    Roussanne    Savagnin    Scheurebe    Seyval Blanc    Tocai Friulano    Torrontés    Vermentino    Welschriesling

Pinot Blanc

Pinot Blanc grapes.
Photo by Themightyquill on Wikipedia.
License: Creative Commons SA 2.5 Generic.

In addition to its other quirks, Pinot Noir is genetically irregular, and as a result it will sometimes produce the white mutation known as Pinot Blanc. This full-bodied grape, almost always made into a powerful, dry white wine, resembles Pinot Noir much more than Pinot Gris. Clear and simple when young, the wine has an appley flavor that can often age into something remarkable. Flavors of nuts and tropical fruit can be noticed in German and Austrian examples. It is only recently that wine producers are utilizing the grape to make good wines; Pinot Blanc long had a downmarket image, but that reputation is now changing swiftly.

Fine Pinot Blanc originated in Alsace, where it makes up a large amount of the white wine made. Although it is still allowed in Burgundy, Pinot Blanc is only occasionally used here and in Champagne. Over 8,000 acres of Pinot Blanc have been planted in Germany; most of the resulting wines are more intense than those of Alsace. Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Slovenia make similar wines. Different flavors are found in the complex and ageable examples of Italy, especially those of the Alto Adige region. These wines are called Pinot Bianco.

It is hardly surprising that the Willamette Valley, the best spot for Pinot Noir in the U.S., is a center of Pinot Blanc plantings too. In California, plantings were showing promise until many plantings turned out to be little-known grape Mélon de Bourgogne--the main ingredient in Muscadet! Elsewhere in North America, particularly British Columbia, plantings are increasing.

Pinot Blanc's reputation as an Old World, workhorse grape is changing. Alsace is no longer a clear leader in good Pinot Blanc, and more interesting styles are being explored by Germany and Italy. The New World may yet surpass all of Europe in their quest for a fine Pinot Blanc. Increased competition is bringing out the best flavors yet in this neglected grape.