Pinot blanc is a white wine grape used to make a dry French wine by the same name, pinot bianco in Italy, and Weissburgunder (VICE-bur-gund-er) in Germany and Austria. The grape is a white mutation of pinot gris (itself a mutation of pinot noir) and originates in Burgundy, France. Pinot blanc grapes can be used to make still, sparkling, and sweet dessert wines, and is often compared to chardonnay owing to its high acidity. Depending on the treatment of the grapes, pinot blanc can be light and refreshing, or oaked and full-bodied. Pinot blanc wine exhibits a strong fragrance with notes of apple and almond, and is medium to high in alcohol content.
- Regions: Alsace, Alto Adige, Friuli, Burgundy, California, Leithaberg, Mosel
- Origin: Burgundy, France
- Sweetness: sweet to dry
- Color: Pale to golden yellow
- ABV: 12-14%
Pinot Blanc vs Chardonnay
Pinot blanc is frequently mistaken for chardonnay, which has a similar coloring and acidity. Pinot blanc is often treated similarly to chardonnay during the winemaking process, as both take well to oak maturation. The resulting wine is medium to full-bodied with good acidity, similar to chardonnay. Pinot blanc grapes are used in a number of ways to produce different styles of wine, though the variety is not as popular as that of the dominant white wine, chardonnay.
Taste and Flavor Profile
Pinot blanc is very similar to chardonnay in that it is dry, has a medium to full body, and bright flavor. It is characteristically high in acidity, which can lend it a sour to tart profile depending on how the wine is made. Especially when oak-aged, the wine can take on a creamy, textured mouthfeel. Pinot blanc often exhibits notes of citrus, pear, apple, and occasional smoke or mineral undertones. The nose is almond, light spice, and sometimes fruitiness. Unoaked pinot blanc is low in tannins.
How to Taste Wine
Follow a few steps when tasting wine to ensure you have the best experience:
- Look: Take a good look at the wine, examining the color and opacity through the glass.
- Smell: Swirl your glass for 10 seconds and take a quick whiff. Then stick your nose into the wine glass for a deep inhale, taking in your first impressions of the wine.
- Taste: Take a small sip and let it roll around your mouth. Note the acidity, sugar, tannins, and alcohol content when first tasting, then move on to tasting notes (berries, spice, wood) and finally the finish.
Grapes and Wine Regions
Pinot blanc originated in the Burgundy region of France, and while it is still grown there, it is more commonly found in Alsace, northern Italy, and Austria. Some pinot blanc grows in Germany, California, and Oregon as well. Pinot blanc thrives in high elevations with cool temperatures during the growing season, and minimal exposure to direct sun and heat. Limestone soil with some clay is the ideal composition for growing these grapes, with a summertime growing season and fall harvest in the Northern hemisphere.
Pinot blanc is the name of a white grape varietal and also the name of a French white wine made using said grapes. Pinot blanc grapes can also be used to make wines like pinot bianco, Weissburgunder, and others with varied characteristics.
- Pinot Blanc: Often oaked, pinot blanc wine from Alsace tends to be creamy with almond and a hint of apple and spice. It can also be used for the sparkling Cremant d'Alsace wines of the region.
- Pinot Bianco: Grown and made in Italy, pinot bianco is known to be very crisp and light. Cheaper varieties tend to be sour. At times, it is used in blended wines and can be used to make spumante (Italian sparkling wine).
- Weissburgunder: The German and Austrian wines made with pinot blanc are refreshingly light. In Austria, it is used to make trockenbeerenauslese (TBA for short), a sweet wine made from late harvest grapes.
Pinot blanc's softer characteristics make it a good match for foods of a similar profile. The wine will be lost in a meal made with strongly flavorful or spicy foods, so keep the food flavors complementary. Unoaked pinot blanc should be served in a white wine glass with a narrow aperture, accentuating the nose of the fragrant wine. Oaked varieties should be served in a wine glass with a wide aperture to help the wine open up. Sparkling wine should be served chilled in a coup, flute, or tulip redux.
Pinot blancs pair well with light meats like roast chicken, salad with a citrusy dressing, mild cheeses, and seafood and pasta with acidic or creamy sauce, like shrimp with fresh pesto.
Key Producers, Brands, and Buying Tips
Pinot blanc is not as easy to find as chardonnay, but is still widely available. Ask your local wine stores which pinot blancs they offer, or shop online. Pinot bianco and Weissburgunder often appear in quality wine shops and on fine wine lists. All kinds of pinot blanc wines can be ordered from a quality purveyor. Below are some high quality wines to get you started.
- J. Hofstätter Pinot Blanc
- Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés
- Prieler Ried Seeberg Pinot Blanc
- Winebach Pinot Blanc
- Chalone Vineyard Estate Pinot Blanc
- Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco
- Erste Neue Pinot Bianco
- Villa Russiz Pinot Bianco
- Netzl Ried Altenberg Weissburgunder
- Schauer Ried Höchtemmel Weissburgunder