Thursday, March 23, 2006

Pinot Blanc, not always a poor man's Chardonnay

What is Pinot blanc? It is thought to be a white mutation of Pinot Gris, which is itself a lighter colored mutation of Pinot Noir. Originated in Burgundy, most of the Pinot Blanc that is grown in France nowadays is found in Alsace where it is one of the most widely planted varietals. For a long time, the grape has been confused with Chardonnay as the two varietals look similar. Often referred as poor's man Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc has the reputation to be rather neutral in flavor with a high acidity, but at its best, it can produce full-bodied wines with distinctive flavors.

Take for example the 2004 Meyer-Fonné Pinot Blanc Vieilles Vignes. It is produced by the Domaine Meyer-Fonné of Katzenthal, a small wine village just 6 miles west of the main city of Colmar, on the Route des Vins d'Alsace. The wine was made from old Pinot Blanc vines, planted on a small lot of less than 3 hectares. It shows a pale yellow color and a floral nose with mineral aromas. On the palate, it is dry with a generous mouthfeel, honeyed apple flavors, notes of spices, followed by a clean, lively finish.

I like to serve this wine as a aperitif, and last night, it was delicious as usual. It went particularly well with my sweet onion tart, an adaptation of the Alsatian onion tart where I substitute bacon with carrots and mushrooms.

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