By the Glass: Explore another shade of pinot
Wines based on the pinot noir grape are among the most popular in today’s wine world. But here’s a curve ball in your search for what is good in wine: Think about pinot in connection with white wines.
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Wines based on the pinot noir grape are among the most popular in today’s wine world.
What is it about this grape that has caught the fancy of so many? Some simply say it’s a matter of deliciousness, others say the finished red wine has a wonderful affinity with food.
While all that is true, I thought I’d throw you a curve ball in your search for what is good in wine: Think about pinot in connection with white wines.
Grape vines like to mutate. Under the category of the pinot vine, many, many such mutations have evolved over the years. For instance: From pinot noir (literally, black pinot) there mutated pinot blanc, an albino, or white, grape. What’s in between black and white? Pinot gris, or gray pinot.
I have recently discovered a growing number of interesting renditions produced from these white and gray pinot vines. I love uncovering these distinctive wines, all reasonably priced, which over- deliver for the dollar. Here are four:
>> 2016 Au Bon Climat Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc (roughly $19 a bottle): Owner/winemaker Jim Clendenen has earned a world-class reputation over the years for his chardonnays and pinot noir-based wines from the Santa Barbara, Calif., appellation. Many would say his wines are made with Old World sensibilities — elegance, refinement and nuance — more along the lines of the white wines of Burgundy than what his peers are producing in the various nooks and crannies of California’s winemaking regions.
Clendenen is also one of those who believes the great white Burgundies of old weren’t solely produced from chardonnay, as many are today. He says those wines included mutations of pinot noir — such as pinot gris and pinot blanc.
Upon first smell and first taste, this wine is like a very elegant, mesmerizing, classy chardonnay, which is both compelling and something special. Well, the label says pinot gris/pinot blanc, and it sells for about half the cost of one of Clendenen’s single-vineyard chardonnay bottlings.
I suggest you jump on this bandwagon, before the wine becomes widely known and prices escalate.
>> 2017 Cantina Terlan Pinot Blanc (roughly $22 a bottle): When we opened Vino Italian Tapas & Wine Bar, I just had to have this Italian winery and this wine in particular on our list. It is one of the truly remarkable values of the world.
The wine has a strong, mesmerizing minerality drawn from the soils the vines grow in, and a surprising lightness on the palate, which makes it such a wise choice for the dinner table. It sheds a different light on what Italian white wine can be.
>> 2015 Bastianich Pinot Grigio (roughly $17 a bottle): Italian pinot grigio is one of the top white wine imports into the United States. But a lot of so-so versions are out there, under-delivering in quality at too high of a price. The Basitanich is a tasty, invigorating, stellar example of what pinot grigio can be — well worth seeking out.
>> 2014 Guillemot Savigny-les-Beaune “Dessus les Gollardes” ($46 a bottle): This wine is from Burgundy in France, specifically from the village of Savigny les Beaune. The 2014 is a blend of 30% chardonnay and 70% pinot blanc. Somewhere along the line, the 60- to 70-year old pinot blanc vines in this vineyard mutated from the pinot noir vine. The wine tastes like a top white Burgundy in all its glory, yet at a reasonable price.
Chuck Furuya is a master sommelier and a partner in the DK Restaurants group. Follow his blog at chuckfuruya.com.