Pinot blanc, a genetic mutation of pinot noir and pinot gris—a grape you may know by its Italian moniker pinot grigio—is one of the world’s most versatile grapes. It can also be a bit low on character and intrigue.
It tends to have high acidity and somewhat neutral aroma profiles and, depending on where it’s grown and the individual winemaker’s approach, wines made with pinot blanc can range in style from simple to oaky to everything in between. In the wrong hands, either in the vineyard or in the cellar, pinot blanc can even be neutral and nearly flavorless.
It is most famously grown in the Alsace region of France where the best samples have the richness and body most often associated with chardonnay – with plenty of acidity for balance and without the flavors of new oak. These are some of the best values in the wine world.
A resemblance to chardonnay can be seen in the vineyard as well. Pinot blanc’s leaf structure, clusters and berries so resemble chardonnay that there are many vineyards in Europe where plantings of the two grapes are intermingled.
You won’t find a lot of pinot blanc here on Long Island but the best-known producer is Lieb Cellars where, legend has it, it was once thought to be chardonnay. Thankfully it’s not treated like most chardonnay in the cellar.
My “Wine of the Week” is Lieb Cellars 2014 Reserve Pinot Blanc ($22). It is bright and citrusy with aromas of lemon zest and pulp, red grapefruit, lemon verbena and sea breeze.
Juicy and even more saline and minerally on the palate, it’s crisp, dry and needs food to sing. Focused citrus flavors turn a bit more floral as the wine warms – so make sure you don’t drink it too cold.
Enjoying local bay scallops, perhaps with nothing more complicated than butter and a little lemon? Here’s your wine pairing.