Malbec has found Argentina, Chenin Blanc loves South Africa, and Pinot Noir now nearly splits time between Burgundy and Oregon. But not all more-than-worthy grape varieties become successful “International” varieties like these three have over the last century or so. One such vine is Pinot Blanc.
The three Pinots are originally from Burgundy, and plainly Pinot Noir is the undisputed queen of that region. Pinot Gris is also still occasionally found in Burgundy, usually under the name Pinot Beurot, but Pinot Blanc, though still allowed into Bourgogne Blanc and non-village Macon wines, precious little still is blended in, and indeed is even grown very much at all any longer in Burgundy.
At some point (or points) in history, the Pinots all migrated northeast to Alsace where Pinot Noir wound up on the shelf to some extent (it’s quite a bit chillier here), and Pinot Gris becoming the “It” grape where it is used in making dry, off-dry, and sweet wines as well as in some blends. And though it’s here in Alsace that Pinot Blanc reaches its pinnacle, she still unquestionably plays second fiddle to her bigger, swarthier sister Pinot Gris (A.K.A. Pinot Grigio).
But despite all of this talk about Pinot Blanc’s always-a-bridesmaid-never-a-bride lot in life, I love Pinot Blanc. Typically, it is very femminine, pale in color, with a delicately sweet nose and smooth and svelte body. This one, made by one of the region’s great producers and aged masterfully in barriques like a great White Burgundy (most Pinot Blanc made anywhere is vinified and held in stainless steel, and drunk quite young – this one is 4+ years old, and still belting it out), which takes the usually charmingly demure Pinot Blanc and deepens its color, adds some muscle, and the ability to sing with a somewhat deeper, darker, and more powerful voice.
I served this very athletic Pinot Blanc with a pureed light cream of potato and leek soup, and then a mushroom, cheese, and scallion omelette with some slices of good baguette.
Domaine Ostertag Vin d’Alsace Pinot Blanc “Barriques” 2008
Greenish, medium burnished gold color. Intense and fresh aromas of pear, apple sauce, and tangerine fruit, supported by deep notes of crushed pine nuts, honey, and perfumed white flowers. The palate has a statuesque and cohesive solidity, with a richly pulpy texture, that is perfectly balanced by a very lively and clean acidity that deftly reveals big flavors of apricot, baked quince, sultanas, cinnamon, creme brulee`, sweet mustard, and rosemary. Long and strong finish full of lime and quinine.