Pinot Blanc wine grape

Pinot Blanc
A pale-skinned mutation of Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc is not really a separate variety at all.  Neither is Pinot Gris.  The first Pinot Noir vine appeared about a thousand years ago, probably in Burgundy, as a chance crossing of now-lost varieties.  All Pinot vines since then have been propagated by taking cuttings from existing Pinot vines.
 
In theory they should all be genetically identical, but DNA replication is not perfect and mistakes creep in as cells divide, giving rise to different clones.  Pinot Noir seems especially prone to a mutation that causes pale skins (the grape’s colour is all in the skin).  Sometimes a particular cane on an otherwise black-berried Pinot Noir vine will produce pale-skinned grapes.  If a cutting is taken from that cane, the resulting vine will produce only pale grapes.  Hey presto – Pinot Blanc!
 
Or more likely, Pinot Gris.  Grape skins have two coloured layers.  A pale-skin mutation in just one layer produces Pinot Gris, whose grapes are grayish-blue or grayish-pink.  Pale-skinned mutations in both layers produces the properly green-skinned Pinot Blanc.  Pinot Blanc could have arisen directly from Pinot Noir, but it is more likely to be a mutation of Pinot Gris.
 
Although almost certainly arising in France, and probably in Burgundy, Pinot Blanc has travelled far.  Its main stronghold in France is Alsace, though much Alsace ‘Pinot Blanc’ is partly or entirely the very similar Auxerrois (one of the many offspring of Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc).
 
From Alsace it spread to Germany and Austria, where it is called Weissburgunder, and to northern Italy (as Pinot Bianco).  Probably the best varietal examples come from Austria and Italy’s Alto Adige/Südtirol on the Austrian border.
 
It has some similarities to Chardonnay, being not very aromatic but quite full-bodied, though it ripens earlier and doesn’t take so well to oak treatment.  Like Chardonnay it can produce excellent sparkling wine when picked young; Crémant d’Alsace is based on it.
 
When made as a still dry wine it has subtle citrus and floral aromas, and quite mouthfilling citrus and apple flavours.  Most examples have quite high acidity but this is largely the result of the cool climates in which it is grown; in warmer climates it tends to low acidity.
 
That tendency to overripen is used to good effect in Austria to produce botrytised sweet wines, and in Italy in the production of Vin Santo.
 

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