If you are looking to learn more about wine or just what you like, varietal wine tastings are a great tool. Like the Pinot Blanc tasting we recently attended, these varietal tastings feature a grape or specific blend and include bottles from different regions. It is a great way to get a sensory memory for the smell and taste of a varietal and see how it differs by climate, soil, etc. Just like they say you can’t form an opinion on eggplant until you have tasted it five different ways, the same is true for wine.
When deciding whether to go to the Pinot Blanc tasting, we could not recall the last time we tasted a Pinot Blanc. Why was this not a standard in our repertoire, a “go to” in our cellar? It was time to get reacquainted.
Six wines were tasted. Two from Alsace, one from Alto Adige in Italy, one from Marsannay in France, and two from Oregon. The one from Marsanny was the outlier so we will get to that in a minute.
All of the others had the typical Pinot Blanc characteristics in common: 1. Very aromatic – markers for us are tangerine and pineapple (juicy fruit gum), floral and honey. 2. Lots of body. 3. No wood influence. 4. Not dessert wines but very much on the sweeter side. Other flavors commonly found in these wines would include apricot and stone fruit plus varying citrus.
When we think of Pinot Blanc, we think first of Alsace. In this dry, sunny climate the easy to grow Pinot Blanc gets fat and ripe with sugar. We found the 2011 Domaine Weinbach from Alsace to be the most representative. Very fruit forward and fresh, it also had the most pleasant finish and more acidity for a better balance.
We found the one from Marsannay to be least representative. Made in Burgundy, the grapes were treated like Chardonnay. There was wood influence so flavors of vanilla and oak masked the fruit. In fact the attack (immediate impression on sipping) had the most oak flavors, the mid palate (time in mouth before swallowing) had a medicinal taste, and the finish (after swallowing) was unremarkable. There had also been malolactic fermentation ( a process where “green apple-like” acids are converted to “dairy-like” acids). This gave the wine a buttery taste. We would have rather just had a Chardonnay
We also remembered why we don’t have Pinot Blanc in our cellar. It is not our favorite wine. While we are likely to find some we feel differently about, we have not found them yet. We prefer wines with this much body, fruit, and sweetness to have more acidity. Pinot Blanc could certainly be paired with spicy Asian dishes but we would pick a Riesling instead. However, we think these wines would be great for those who enjoy sweeter wines. It seems sweet wine drinkers want to branch out and try new things but are limited by their dislike for dry wines. So for you sweet Riesling, Moscato, and White Zinfandel drinkers we would say add Pinot Blanc to your list.