Pinot Blanc, It Ain’t all Gris.

What's the difference between Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris? Find out here.


Pinot Blanc is the lost sibling of the Pinot family.

We’re all familiar with Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, two varieties of wine that get more than their fair share of attention, but what about Pinot Blanc? In theory, though this often tends not to be the case, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are closely related siblings. The primary difference is that Pinot Gris is a gray grape and Pinot Blanc is a white one. In a world where extra Dry actually means a sweet wine, it should come as no surprise that the “white” grapes are actually golden to green and the “gray” grapes can be rosy red or even darker.

While the color is the main difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, the story is not quite so simple. The wines are somewhat different, with Pinot Gris capable of producing richer, spicier and more intense wines and Pinot Blanc tending toward a more mineral, firm and savory style. In general, I tend to prefer Pinot Blanc over Pinot Gris, which likely runs counter to the marketplace as witnessed by the pricing differential between the two varieties.

Pinot Blanc tends to be very fairly priced today because there is such a small market for it, which is a shame since Pinot Blanc is so fresh, crisp and friendly. It’s a wine that tends to be fun to drink, yet that can please people looking for either fruit or structure, since it has them both. It’s a great wine to move on to from Pinot Grigio, with which it shares similar flavor profiles. It can also serve as an introduction to leaner, more mineral wines such as Riesling and Grüner Veltliner. Try one or a few this week and see if you agree!

Let me know what you think about Pinot Blanc by commenting below.

Grapes image via Shutterstock
2010 WillaKenzie Estate Pinot Blanc Willamette Valley 13.5% $22

Tight pear and apple fruit greet the nose, followed by a dusty floral note and a suggestion of green herb. On the palate, this is broad and fresh with slightly citric acidity lending freshness and brightening the fruit, which picks up lemon pith, golden raspberry and tart apple flavors across the palate. The finish is fairly rich and fruity with more suggestions of herb and a green plum skin note on the moderately long finale. This finishes rather firmly and is very attractive for its combination of fruit and tension. 90pts

2010 Weingut Niklas Weissburgunder Alto Adige 13% $25

Tight on the nose with polleny notes and an undercurrent of honeycomb accenting dry heirloom apple fruit. Small and finely balanced with mouthwatering succulence on the palate. This turns zesty and salty on the mid-palate, packed with mineral notes and small apple fruits that drive across the finish and end with a pop of sweet fruit on the finale. A touch savory and earthy, this is a nice, nervous and tense example of the variety. 89pts

2010 Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Blanc 13.5% $18

This is savory and earthy on the nose with fine sandy, mineral-tinged fruit that recalls pear skins and almond skin. Very finely balanced in the mouth with an elegant gossamer texture and more mineral-flecked pear fruit. Turns a touch light on the finish, but with the lovely tense and mineral fruit that reveals an enduring sweetness, it’s easy to forgive. The savory, mineral length is really deceptive. 89pts

2010 Tenuta Costa Lahnhof Pinot Bianco Alto Adige 13% $19

Fairly fruity on the nose but in a lightly tropical, floral way, with fine underlying pear fruit flecked with mineral and salt accents. This is really attractive in the mouth, delivering rich white peach, pear and lime fruit. Bright, almost steely acidity drives the long finish, which is aromatic and full of pear blossoms. Fruity and fairly intense, this is a powerful Pinot Bianco. 88pts

2009 Paul Blanck Pinot Blanc d’Alsace 12.5% $14

Deep and earthy on the nose with complex aromas of dried apple fruit, dried herbs, a hint of petrol and buckwheat honey. On the palate, this surprises with its really fine focus and piercing acidity. The flavors are fresh though a bit simple, featuring notes of quince and apple flecked with a suggestion of herb and hints of river stones on the back end. The apple fruit becomes more pronounced with air, though the moderately long finish remains suitably lean and dry. River stone minerality and a white pepper finale. 88pts

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Top 5 Pinot Blanc

Willakenzie Estate Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Estate Cuvée (2010)
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Weingut Niklas Weissburgunder Sudtiroler (2010)
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Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Blanc Willamette Valley (2010)
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Tenuta Costa Lahnhof Pinot Bianco Alto Adige (2010)
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Paul Blanck Pinot Blanc (2009)
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Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: El Pepe
    923511 19

    Graff Family Vineyards carries on the production of Pinot Blanc started by Graff at Chalone dating back before 1990. The Graff Pinot Blanc comes from the same vineyards, and compares very closely with the Reserve version which Chalone produced for many years. A really elegant Blanc. I kept a vertical collection of the Reserve until they discontinued it in 2002. I just consumed the last three bottles all from 1993 - 4. All but one were good as new.

    Aug 30, 2012 at 3:38 PM

  • Graff are fantastic wines. Always been a fan. I just fell in love with Gustave Lorentz Pinot Blanc from Alsace, perfect summer wine. So much more flavor than Pinot Grigio and not as racy as Sauvignon Blanc.

    Aug 30, 2012 at 3:42 PM

  • I had the pleasure to visit Paul Blanck in Kientzheim - Alsace this summer and I enjoyed the pinot blanc a lot. Actually I enjoyed all of his wine, Grand Crus, Leux Dits and regular wines.
    The best Pinot Blanc I tasted this summer was from Marc Tempé from Zellenberg Alsace. A small biodynamic vineyard which produces 40000 bottles a year. The pinot blanc from Marc Tempé was outstanding!

    Aug 30, 2012 at 6:19 PM

  • I am a big fan of Bott-Guyl and would highly recommend their pinot blancs.

    Aug 30, 2012 at 6:52 PM

  • I would encourage you to look to the Traverse City, MI, and Leelanau peninsula for excellent Pinot Blanc. If you think its counter-intuitive, you need to discover the terroir. The long, cool ripening of fruit brings out the best in Pinot Blanc, giving the wines full expression of fruit without sacrificing the balance of crisp acidity. I would encourage you to look for the Chateau Chantal Pinot Blanc to see what the terroir can do in that region. This is a region that will eventually become well-known for cool climate vinifera wines. Its a lovely region to visit as well.

    Aug 30, 2012 at 8:56 PM

  • Pinot Blanc is the unsung hero of Alsace! Too many great producers to name them all, but Domaine Bruno Sorg stands out for me as great quality and even greater value - EUR 5.00 for a bottle from the winery!

    Aug 31, 2012 at 4:31 AM

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