*A Grape By Any Other Name posts are about exploring different grape varieties known by other names or nicknames, both inside and outside of Italy.
Pinot Bianco (say it “Pea-noe Bee-ank-oh”), a white mutation of the famed black grape Pinot Noir (Pinot Nero in Italy) is primarily grown and used in the northern regions of Italy like Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, and Alto Adige. It can be found both in single varietal wines or as a part of blends, like in the very popular Soave wine from the Veneto region. Pinot Bianco is sometimes used in small portions in production of sparkling wines such as Franciacorta, a highly celebrated traditional method bubbly comparable to France’s Champagne. Wines made primarily or entirely of the Pinot Bianco grape can be crisp, steely, minerally, and floral in character. Commonly used descriptors include green apple, white blossom, melon, and beeswax. Pinot Bianco can also be used for Vin Santo (a dessert wine from Tuscany) production.
In Italy, also known as:Weissburgunder in the (primarily German-speaking) region of Alto Adige, sometimes called Sudtirol.
Internationally, also known as: Pinot Blanc (France, USA, Canada), Wiessburgander (Germany, Austria), Klevner (Austria, sometimes France), Fehér Burgundi (Hungary), Rulandské Bilé (Czech Republic), Rulandské Biele (Slovakia), Pinot bijeli (Croatia).
- Pinot Blanc is most associated with France, especially when it comes to the region of Alsace and to a lesser degree in Burgundy. Pinot Blanc, unlike the Italian wines containing the same grape, often see oak.
- Wiessburgander, literally meaning “White Burgundian”, is mostly labeled as such in Germany and Austria, where it accounts for 19% of Pinot Blanc/Bianco world growth and is used in dry as well as dessert wines.
- In the USA Pinot Blanc is used often for sparkling wine production, and usually labeled as “Pinot Blanc” on any bottle containing it.
- Canada uses Pinot Blanc for their widely acclaimed icewine (=a sweet wine made from frozen grapes) production.
Same name, different country: Spain also refers to this grape as Pinot Bianco.
Bottom Line: Though Pinot Bianco is grown and vinified in Italy, it’s not the Belle of the Ball domestically, in that its relative Pinot Grigio gets more of the attention. It also tends to make up a smaller percentage of the blends it finds itself in. There are some really nice wines made of Pinot Bianco, as it does extremely well in the northern regions, but there are also many mediocre examples that haunt the shelves too, so drinkers should be adventurous and willing to try more than one bottle!