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 Shutterstock2010 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
2010 Lucien Albrecht Pinot Blanc Cuvee Balthazar 13% $13
This has rather impressive and fresh sweet apple, mango and mint aromas on the nose with top notes of honeycomb and sweet flowers. In the mouth, this tends to the soft and broad style, with plenty of ripe apple fruit underlain with some mineral notes. A touch of treacle on the back end adds a slight sweetness to the modest mineral and lime finish. Lovely nose but the palate doesn’t rise to the occasion. 87pts
2010 Brooks Runaway White Pinot Blanc 13.5% $15
Pear on the nose is accented by a bit of soil, faint melon rind and citrus pith in a subtle and elegant style. Lean and racy with mouth-cleansing acidity and a gentle succulence to the dry, vividly fruited palate. Full of crystal clear apple and small pear fruit. This shows a touch of mineral on the back end followed by dry, crisp apple fruit on the finish. A super summer sipper. 87pts
2010 Caldaro Pinot Bianco Alto Adige 13.5% $18
Fruity on the nose with very fragrant floral aromas over sweet fruit. Shows a strawberry edge to the core of apple fruit, dusted with gravel. Bright and tense on entry, this is very focused in the mouth with salty citrus fruit and a hint of minerality on the back end. A bit on the simple side and a touch short but very satisfying for its vibrancy and freshness. 87pts
2010 Spindrift Cellars Pinot Blanc Willamette Valley 12.2% $15
Sweet and a touch cheesy on the nose with notes of kettle corn and lime pith. This is small and tight in the mouth with nice clarity to the gentle fruit. It’s finely balanced and easy to drink but it lacks a little depth and punch. An aperitif wine. 83pts