The World of Pinot Blancs

Staff Writer
Exploring the complex flavors (and semantics) of Alsatian pinot blanc

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Wine is so confusing! I love a good pinot blanc, or pinot bianco. But what do I love when it's not necessarily a pinot blanc?

Let me explain. Alsace is unique in France, having created its appellation system by varietal instead of region. Except when they haven't. Alsace pinot gris is pinot gris, Alsace riesling is riesling. But when it comes to pinot blanc, we run into semantic difficulty. You see, pinot blanc in French can be roughly translated as the white varieties of the pinot family of grapes. So, while there is a pinot blanc grape, there are also pinot gris, pinot noir (when vinified as a white wine) and auxerrois in the blanc pinot family.

Yeah, it’s a bit confusing. But what’s even more confusing is that the wine labelled as "Alsace pinot blanc" can be a blend of all four of these grapes, though typically one finds the variety pinot blanc blended with auxerrois. (The auxerrois adds spice and richness, also helping to buffer the natural high acidity of pinot blanc.) This lineup of wines showed like classic Alsatian pinot blancs, expressing the variety’s floral and spice-accented apple fruits with firm acidity. While they may not be 100 percent pinot blanc, these wines certainly are delicious, perfect for sipping on their own, and fabulous with food. This spring, add pinot blanc to your seasonal menus. It’s a great way to add some snap to the table, and these wines really do pair very well with the light fresh flavors of the season.

Click here for pinot blanc recommendations for spring.

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— Gregory Del Piaz, Snooth