Grasping the Grape: Pinot Blanc

Get the low down on the white mutation of Pinot Noir, a neutral wine that pairs well with lightly sauced white fish and roasted chicken.


Say It Right: Pee-no Blonk

Other Known Aliases: Weissburgunder (Vice-burg-under), Pinot Bianco (Pee-no Bee-ahn-ko)

Think of Pinot Blanc as the mini-van of varietals: the safe bet you pick for its utility and affordability.

A white mutation of Pinot Noir, the grape is often described in very middle-of-the-road terms. It’s light to medium-bodied, dry, with a mellow acidity and round, soft flavours of apple, pear and white peach. More often than not, it’s presented as a kind of basic, less ambitious option for fans of unoaked Chardonnay. Even its best-known wines rarely get more than a modest applause. In Alsace, it makes a lot of easy, still whites and is an important component in the blend for the region’s Champagne-method sparkling wine (aka Crémant d’Alsace). But it hardly competes in the same league as wines made from Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris. You can also find significant amounts of it in the northeastern Italian regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia and Alto Adige, where it is known as Pinot Bianco. Here again, it is made in a light, Chardonnay style, or blended with Chardonnay to make sparkling wine.

In Germany, Weissburgunder is treated with a little more respect. In addition to being made in the dry, tart style, it is also being produced as a riper expression with light oak aging to add complexity. And in Austria, beyond making crisp whites, the susceptible-to-botrytis varietal is also behind some exceptional sweet wines.



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