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Do the Stars Shine Bright for Pinot Blanc?

When I think of all the grape variety choices one has when choosing a white wine these days the first thing I ask myself when I am ready to pull the trigger on making a selection is tried and true or something new. There really are some great undiscovered varieties that casual wine drinkers have yet to embrace. First, one that comes to mind is Pinot blanc. I am not sure why Pinot blanc has never been a rising star in the wine world. Maybe it is because of the word Pinot. Sure most folks want to finish the sentence with noir when they hear Pinot and understandably so. Second guessers usually default to Pinot gris and why not—it is a great variety with a plethora of styles and often considered by the uninitiated the white wine version of Pinot noir.

It should be easy; just think Pinot blanc is to Pinot noir as Cabernet Sauvignon is to Sauvignon blanc. No, wait, that’s not right, and that’s a whole different story for another time. The name Pinot blanc on a wine label can mean many different things depending on where it is made. Grown in pristine conditions of the Pacific Northwest’s Willamette Valley it becomes a food friendly star of the dinner table; delicate and light on its feet. At the other end of the tasting spectrum for this variety are the Pinot blanc wines of Alsace that express full bodied fruit flavors combined with a smoky mineral quality. This dichotomy might signal why Pinot Blanc might not garner the limelight of popularity like a lot of other cool climate white wine varieties do. The characteristics from old world to new with this grape vary a considerable amount. Yes, both are tasty and have distinctive culinary applications. When considering food pairings for Pinot blanc it is important to know the difference and accentuate the qualities specific to each region. Fruit vs. minerality or spice vs. smoke expand the type of considerations previously mentioned. The expression, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is certainly apropos when tasting Pinot blanc.

Juliet Tierney, a young wine steward from Boston who works for Legal Seafood at their flagship property located at Chestnut Hill recently described her experiences selling Pinot blanc as, “Pinot blanc is probably something I would save for someone with slightly more wine experience. Some new wine drinkers are put off by the acidity and don’t quite know what it is they’re tasting.” Juliet goes on to recommend pairings, “It’s light but with enough acidity and minerality that it pairs exceptionally with shellfish, such as scallops, white fish such as cod, haddock, but it’s enough of a standalone wine that it could even be paired with a heartier fish such as swordfish.” One of the best white wines I’ve tasted this summer is a Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc from Youngberg Hill, a fantastic producer with great wines and an excellent lodging facility on their property. So if you are coming to Oregon wine country for a visit staying at Youngberg Hill should be your first choice. Here is a review of the 2012 Youngberg Hill Willamette Valley Pinot blanc.

2012 Youngberg Hill Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc

I usually eschew color descriptions in my wine reviews for a variety of reasons, primarily because they have nothing to do with how a wine tastes. Yes, color can be an indicator but really how many times have you poured a glass of wine and then dumped it in the sink without tasting because it did not have the appropriate tint? Star bright clarity portrays the pristine results Wayne Bailey (proprietor and winemaker) achieves with this bottling. As the aromas develop in the glass a medley of white flower, fresh ginger, ripe peach and preserved lemon emanates wafting upwards in a pleasing bouquet. The taste is characteristically correct for Willamette Valley Pinot blanc, delicate, lithe and ethereal. Starting lineup for the flavor parade begins with citrus, peach and an earthy hint of fresh sage. Through the mid-palate, the flavors stay clean and focused. As the final flavors unwind a wisp of citrus pith, stone fruit core and wet river rock minerality join the parade. The sensually soft texture can be attributed to the neutral-oak aging that softens the acidity oh so slightly rounding out the overall package. The finish lingers long enough to remind all your senses how special this wine is. Any delicate seafood dish or linguine with white clam sauce will work well with this wine as would fowl with a citrus sauce. 150 case production.

Rating: Excellent (91) | $18 | 13.5% ABV

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Image credit: Youngberg Hill Vineyards and Inn

This post was written by:

- who has written 382 posts on Enobytes Wine Online.

Marc has over twenty years experience in the food & wine industry and is committed to celebrating hospitality with pride. He is a wine blogger contributor to OregonLive.com (Wine Bytes) and has also appeared on Portland's "Vine Time" on News Radio 750 KXL and on California's Central Coast "From the Growing of the Grape to the Glass" on KUHL-AM 1410. He is also the author of A History of Pacific Northwest Cuisine: Mastodons to Molecular Gastronomy. Follow Marc on twitter @macdaddy_m

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