All about... Pinot grapes
Because of their different colours, people tend to assume that Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio/Gris and Pinot Blanc grapes are all separate varieties. In fact they are all the same variety - just genetic mutations of the original, Pinot Noir.
 
The first Pinot Noir vine appeared about a thousand years ago, probably in Burgundy, as a chance crossing of now-lost varieties.  Following Burgundy would be Champagne as Pinot Noir’s 2nd home, and of course this grape is often used in Champagne.
 
All Pinot vines since the first one have been propagated by taking cuttings from existing Pinot vines. This means that all the Pinot vines in the world should be genetically identical to that original, but DNA replication is not perfect and mistakes creep in as cells divide, giving rise to different clones.  If the mutation (error in the DNA replication) is desirable, these are propagated further in vineyards.
 
Pinot Noir seems especially prone to a mutation that causes skins to become paler (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 Grigio!
 
As its name suggests, Pinot Grigio berries are not completely pale: they’re grayish-blue or grayish-pink, because the mutation has affected only one of the two coloured layers in the grape’s skin.  A mutation 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.
 
All these grapes originated in France but are now planted all over the world, particularly the new world where they are able to ripen much more easily.

Paul


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