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Pinot Bianco – A Bit of Fruili in Oregon

While the cuisines of both North Italy and Alsace are extremely popular in the U.S., it is a bit of a paradox that some of the most important white wines from these regions are barely known here. Among these would be counted Pinot Blanc (Pinot Bianco).

One reason for Pinot Blanc’s lack of following is that until recently, it was not planted in the United States and thus no domestic renditions were known. But another and perhaps more compelling reason is that the American fine wine scene has long been dominated by Chardonnay to the point of excluding even consideration of other varieties by the American consumers. While Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc have made inroads into the American white wine fetish, marked enthusiasm for these varietals has been lacking, particularly among more sophisticated wine afficionados. Interestingly, it has been another grape of Alsace and Northern Italy, Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) which has ignited enthusiastic response. First introduced to the American wine scene barely more than 10 years ago, Pinot gris has made a meteoric rise in popularity far outstripping its supply. It therefore seems quite natural to unleash Pinot blanc onto the same scene,

American Pinot Blanc made its debut fewer than three years ago when Cameron Winery released a whopping 25 cases from its 1988 vintage. This wine has been immensely popular from the outset as well-the question is why? Neither Pinot Gris nor Pinot Blanc can match Chardonnay as “aperitif wines” since they tend to be leaner and far more subtle in flavor and aroma. However, these restrained flavors blossom in the context of food, without. overwhelming or leaving an insipid aftertaste (a problem commonly encountered with Chardonnay). The delicate aromas/flavors of pippin apples or pears associated with Pinot Blanc actually intensify with food.

The wine has an ability to pick up and amplify dominant flavors for the respective food as well. The overall experience of matching these wines with food can be quite gratifying – I have witnessed beautiful synergistic effects with items ranging from oysters to prawns to grilled salmon to smoked chicken. So the next time that you’re in a restaurant ordering wine to go with your fish or fowl, don’t say “Chardonnay;” say “Pinot Blanc” or “Pinot Gris!”

-John Paul

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