Pinot Blanc are two grapes that are not related to each other. However, the reason why they are treated together is that legally, Pinot Blanc is a term that includes Auxerrois (but not the opposite..). As a consequence, many wines sold as Pinot Blanc are made entirely from Auxerrois. Confusing? Then you really need to read this!
All in all, Pinot Blanc is grown on 2000 ha in Alsace, while Auxerrois covers 1100. In the official statistics, these numbers are lumped together.
Pinot blanc has either appeared as a mutant of Pinot Noir, or as a mutant of Pinot Gris, which in turn is a mutant of the notoriously genetically instable black pride of Bourgogne. In Germany, Pinot Blanc is known as Weissburgunder, quite logically. Pinot Blanc is also common in northern Italy, where it is called Pinot Bianco and give light, fresh everyday wines. It also grown in eastern Europe and the USA.
In Alsace, Pinot Blanc is not considered a "e;grand cépage"e;. Its main use is in Edelzwicker and Crémant. The main growing area is on the Plain d´Alsace.
It is important to understand that in Alsace, Pinot Blanc is the common term for white wine produced from Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir in any proportions. In fact, one is most sure to get a pure Pinot Blanc if the label states Clevner.
Exemples of non-Pinot Blanc Pinot Blanc are abundant, as many Pinot Blanc are 100% Auxerrois. Furthermore Marcel Deiss of Bergheim markets a Pinot Blanc that is made out of Auxerrois, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, boosted by some surmaturation and without a trace of Pinot Blanc itself.
All in all, tasting is the only way to figure out what kind of wine that is hidden behind the Pinot Blanc label.
The origin of Auxerrois is unknown. It shares the spelling with the town Auxerrois in Chablis, but the pronunciation of the name of the grape variety should include a sharp X-sound, as in "extra".
Auxerrois has more body than Pinot Blanc. At worst it is heavy-wight and flabby. It is said that Auxerrois takes on a more restrained and crisp character in the slightly cooler climate north of Bergheim, which makes sense.
Pure Auxerrois typically has an aroma of cabbage, not exactly what you look for in a white wine.
It is not uncommon that you see Auxerrois on the label although it is not legal. It can be seen as a good example of how pragmatic INAO can act, or not act.
At least two renowned producers market Auxerrois with disguised Grand Crus deignation. The most famous is Josmeyers Auxerrois "e;H"e; from Hengst. According to the same principle, André Kientzler just outside Ribeauvillé has a Auxerrois "K" from Kirchberg. The price tag of these wines are in the range of €10-14 (2006).
Almost always, Pinot Blanc wines are mixtures of Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois. In the mélange, the freshness of Pinot Blanc is combined with the spicy, full-bodied character of Auxerrois. The final product can have splendid balance, a good backbone and a broad taste. Although the aroma will not rival that of a grand cepage, it will often show a mix of fresh fruits, honey and a hint of spicyness.
Since a good Pinot Blanc has a fresh acidity as well as body, it works well with all kinds of food. It is perfect on the buffé table, and goes well with everything from cured salmon (gravlax), to Thai style chicken and Italian prosciutti.
With a Pinot Blanc/Auxerrois blend you will never run the risk of a serving a wine that is to lean (as Riesling may be) or two sweet (as a Pinot Gris may be). Cellering up to 4 years does the wine good.
In Sweden it is said that you can judge the skill of a cook by tasting his onion-based cured heering. I would state that the same is true about the Pinot Blanc. The Pinot Balnc is often the first wine poured at a tasting. If the Pinot Blanc is well balanced and serious, so will the rest of the range be. If the Pinot Blanc is sloppy, one should expect a mixed bag of wines to follow.
The quality is shown by the middle palate. If the middle is lacking, the yield has been to high, resulting in a lack of concentration. Pinot Blanc is not capable of hiding any of the winemakers shortcomings in the vineyard and/or in the cellar.
At a time when many consumers think ABC − Anything But Chardonnay − an interesting market segment is wide open for Pinot Blanc. If the average quality could be improved one notch, Alsace Pinot Blanc could come out as a winner.
You will serious Pinot Blanc at a low (€4 − 10) price at growers such as Spielmann (Bergheim), Mittnacht Frères and Mader (Hunawihr), Barth René (Bennwihr), Bernhard (Katzenthal), Boxler and Weinzorn (Niedermorschwihr) and, of course, Bruno Sorg (Eguisheim). And probably 100 more.
Must weight g/liter
Potential alcohol %