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Home | White Varieties | Pinot Blanc - The forgotten Pinot

Pinot Blanc - The forgotten Pinot

Surely you've heard of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, and maybe even Pinot Meunier, but as common as the name Pinot Blanc might sound, it is the most understated and some would say underappreciated member of the Pinot family.  Pinot Blanc is a white wine grape, and a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir, a grape variety that is notoriously famous for being unstable when it comes to procreation.

Pinot Blanc was originally planted extensively in the Burgundy region of France however in the early 1900s Chardonnay became the grape of choice, and Pinot Blanc plantings where reduced, and it is now relegated to making cameo appearances in Champagne and in a very few Burgundy wines.  Today, Pinot Blanc is most widely planted in the Alsace regions of France, Pfalz and Baden regions of Germany, the Styria region of Austria, and the Alto Adige and Lombardy regions in northern Italy.

Pinot Blanc also has a bit of an identity crisis as the list of country specific names below shows.

Austria - Weissburgunder or Klevner (when blended with Auxerrois)
Germany – Weissburgunder
Hungary - Fehér Burgundi
Italy - Pinot Bianco
Czech Republic - Rulandské Bilé
Slovakia - Rulandské Biele

Where does Pinot Blanc Grow?

France – Considered by some to be the spiritual home of Pinot Blanc, the Alsace region in northeastern France boasts over 3,000 acres of Pinot Blanc vineyards.  Although lagging behind Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat and Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc is the table wine of choice among locals.  Pinot Blanc is also a key ingredient in many of the sparkling wines labeled as Cremant d'Alsace.

Producers to look for: Domaine Schoffit, Marcel Deiss, Meyer Fonne, Leon Beyer.

Germany – With plantings of just under 9,000 acres and growing, Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder) comprises 4% of German vineyards.  Most plantings are in the wine regions of Baden, Pfalz and Rheinhessen although the grape is planted throughout the country.  There is no one German style. Wines from the southern regions of Baden and the Pfalz are fuller and richer while the more northerly Nahe and Mosel regions produce more delicate wines, with an element of minerality.

Producers to look for: Rebholz (Pfalz), Weingut Dr. Heger (Baden), Ruppertsberger (Pfalz), Weingut Heitlinger (Baden).

Italy – Italian Pinot Blanc (Pinot Bianco) is produced with a lighter bodied, more freshly acidic style than its neighbors to the north and west.  Vinification of Pinot Blanc is uniformly done in stainless steel and the wine seldom includes any time in barrels.  The result is a very light, acidic, fruity, and youthful wine reminiscent of the Pinot Grigios from the same regions.  Pinot Blanc vineyards are located in Lombardy, Alto Adige, and more recently in Tuscany.

Producers to look for: Schioppetto (Lombardy), Querciabella Batàr (Tuscany), Jermann (Lombardy), Felluga (Lombardy), Cantina Tramin (Alto Adige)

British Columbia – Pinot Blanc production in the Okanagan valley has decreased in recent years as Pinot Gris has developed a greater market cachet.  Nonetheless, there are quality Pinot Blancs produced in the region and the climate of the northern reaches of the valley support the development of rich fruit flavors, and noticeable acidity.

Producers to look for:  Mission Hill, Magnotta, Kraze Legz Vineyard and Winery, Lake Breeze, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, Stoneboat Vineyards.

Pinot Blanc Styles

Pinot Blanc is a subtle understated wine, whose descriptors rarely contain the words strong, bold, noticeable or much more than “notes” of anything.  This description from a label of Alsatian Pinot Blanc is typical, “Soft and delicate, fresh and supple, is the ideal all-purpose Alsace wine”. Even the official site of Vins d'Alsace promotes its “versatile and goes with everything” reputation.   

Many consider the softness of the aromas, manageable acidity and lower alcohol to be bland, but others would argue that Pinot Blanc is the ultimate in understated wine, with as wide a range of aromas and mouth feel as any of its market competitors.  Pinot Blanc is most often compared to Chardonnay and its lack of conviction makes it the perfect accompaniment to a wide variety of foods.  Regional differences are minimal, Alsatian Pinot Blanc may acquire a bit of smokiness and more body acquired in blending, German and Austrian renditions tend to be fuller and drier, and the Pinot Blancs from the cooler regions of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia even bring out greater fruit aromas of lemon, nectarine and peach.  Regardless of subtlety, Pinot is not without flavors, the most common being apple, pear, floral, and minerality.  If you enjoy a lighter styled Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc should be on your must try list.

Lastly, don't allocate space in your wine cellar, Pinot Blanc wines are usually made for immediate consumption.

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·  Pinot Gris - What's in a Name?
·  Gewürztraminer -- Perfume in a Wine Bottle
·  Semillon - Easy come, easy go
·  Riesling- The Misunderstood Noble
·  Chenin Blanc- Versatility sheathed in grape skin
·  Chardonnay


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