WASHINGTON – Pinot Blanc originally hails from the Burgundy region of France, where it was commonly mistaken as chardonnay. Through modern DNA testing, it was discovered that pinot blanc is actually distantly related to pinot noir.
Today, pinot blanc is very popular in the Alsace region of France where it tends to be more aromatic and floral. However, it has also found a home in Austria, Italy, Spain, Eastern Europe and the United States, predominately in California and Oregon.
Pinot blanc is a remarkably versatile grape that can produce wines with different personas depending on region and winemaking techniques employed. They range from dry and refreshing to almost dessert-like.
Regardless of the country of origin, one common theme is their extraordinary fragrant bouquet and bright acidity, making them one of the most food-friendly white wines around, particularly when paired with seafood, pork and mild cheeses.
Jean Trimbach is from one of the most knowledgeable wine families in the Alsace region of France. He should be, considering that he is the 13th generation of the Trimbach family in the business. With that wealth of generational history, it is no wonder that the 2010 Trimbach Pinot Blanc from Alsace is one of the best values in France. It displays a wonderful bouquet of green melon and orange citrus blossom. Flavors of pear and crisp apple attacked the front of the palate while creamy flavors of apricot, citrus and peach combine with a touch of mineral to provide a long, memorable finish. $16
Oregon’s Willamette Valley is famous for their fruit-driven pinot noir wines, but the 2011 Bethel Heights Pinot Blanc is an excellent example of how brightly pinot blanc can shine in this region. It is a lighter styled version that features a fragrant bouquet of citrus, apple blossom and Asian pear scents. Flavors of green melon, pear and apricot shine through on the core of the palate while notes of smokey undercurrents combined with nice acidity that leaves a lasting impression on the finish. $18
The wine that inspired this column is the 2009 Weinbach Pinot Blanc Reserve from the Alsace region of France. What I really like about this wine is the aromatic nose of fresh melon and ripe stone fruit and the remarkable balance between the refreshing acidity and the luscious flavors of apple, pear and apricot fruit. Tangy minerality on the long, mouth-watering finish keeps the tongue invigorated. $22
The central coast of California has been a hotbed for pinot blanc for several decades. One of the oldest wineries in California to plant pinot blanc is Chalone Vineyards, who began planting the varietal in 1946. Today, the 2009 Chalone Vineyards Pinot Blanc from Monterey County, California is made with newer rootstock but the same dedication, showing off pure flavors of orange blossom, white peach, pineapple and Kadota fig on the front of the palate. Notes of vanilla are enhanced by crisp acidity on the complex finish. $26