White Pinot Noir sounds like an oxymoron – a white wine made from red grapes – but with a bit of skilled winemaking slight of hand, the result is rich white wine with a different flavor profile than its more common red counterpart.
Think of it as the base that red Pinot Noir is built on.
How is White Pinot Noir Made?
Red wine is made from red grapes, and it is the skin that provides the color, not the juice. The vast majority of wine grapes have white flesh. The color is imparted by allowing the skins to soak in the juice.
White wine is made from red grapes by loading the grapes directly into the press without crushing them. While there are many ways to press grapes, a very, very broad generalization is to think of a perforated can with a deflated balloon inside. The grapes are placed into the can, and the balloon is inflated. The grapes are pressed against the can, and the juice flows out of the perforated can with only minimal contact with the skins. Ta Da! White juice from red grapes!
Pinot Noir is well suited to this process because the grapes have especially thin skin.
In vintages with abundant wildfires (such as 2020 in Oregon, 2021 in British Columbia), winemakers may opt to make white pinot noir rather than let the wine absorb smoke taint from the skins.
White Pinot Noir juice is often used to make white sparkling wine. Champagne uses Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and another red grape, Pinot Meunier.
Once separated from the grape skins, the juice is then fermented, usually in a temperature controlled environment. It might be fermented in new oak barrels to impart some flavors from the oak, it might be fermented in a neutral barrel to impart a fuller mouthfeel, or it might be fermented in a stainless steel tank to showcase the crisp flavors of the fruit. A winemaker might even ferment some juice in a variety of vessels and then blend the wines after fermentation is complete.
White Pinot Noir Characteristics
Since the skins do not factor into the production of White Pinot Noir, the flavors will be different than the more familiar red counterpart – think of some of your favorite rich white wines.
Pinot Noir grapes have higher acidity than many white grapes, and the acidity in the wine will make your mouth water. Since the skins do not factor into the production of White Pinot Noir, the wine will have low tannins.
The wine will have dominant white wine flavors of apple & pears (baked, not crisp & fresh) with some citrus (think lemon and orange) accents. It’s a great picnic wine – rich, but not heavy.
You might say it has the acidity of Albarino with the fuller body of Verdejo, if you’ve ever had those wines.
Where is White Pinot Noir Produced?
Since White Pinot Noir is made from Pinot Noir grapes, it can be made anywhere those grapes are grown. In the New World, Oregon and California, Australia and New Zealand, and also Chile. In Europe, Pinot Noir grows in France’s Burgundy, Loire Valley, Champagne and Alsace regions, with additional plantings in Italy and Germany.
In France, it might be called Pinot Noir Blanc or Pinot d’Alsace, but the latter is often a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Auxerrois.
Don’t get lazy and refer to it as “Pinot Blanc,” because that’s another grape entirely!
In Italy, it might be called “Pinot Nero Bianco”, in Germany it might be called Blanc de Noir Spätburgunder.
Food Pairings with White Pinot Noir
White Pinot Noir pairs well with lighter dishes that have a rich, round character. Think fish, pâtés, or lightly seasoned poultry or pork. It works well with creamy or buttery sauces as well.
If you are looking for plant-based pairings, try something earthy with a sweet, nutty undertone. Think roasted corn, sunchokes, butternut squash, parsnips, or burdock root.
Mushrooms, dijon mustard, and roasted onions are some good ingredients to incorporate to create a dish that pairs well with White Pinot Noir.
You could also try almonds or a dash of honey. Or both!
White Pinot Noir Serving Temperature
As with many white wines, White Pinot Noir shines when slightly chilled, but not extremely cold. Aim for 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit by putting the bottle in your refrigerator and taking it out half an hour before serving.
White Pinot Noir might be difficult to wrap your head around, and may not be easy to find, but is more than a curiosity. It’s a way to get wine out of a tricky to grow grape in difficult vintages, but more importantly, it’s a rich, food-friendly wine that rewards your search with delicious flavors, great acidity, and an interesting story.
And if you find some White Pinot Noir, it’s a good excuse to have a picnic!
Is White Pinot Noir Dry?
White Pinot Noir can have a range of flavors, and sweetness levels can vary depending on the winemaking process. However, generally speaking, White Pinot Noir is not typically a sweet wine. It tends to be more crisp and dry, with a complex flavor profile that includes notes of citrus, apple, and sometimes floral or herbal aromas. That being said, there may be some White Pinot Noir wines that have a slightly sweet taste, but this would be unusual.
How long can white Pinot Noir be aged?
White Pinot Noirs are meant to be consumed within a few years of its vintage date, although some can be aged for up to five years.
Can white Pinot Noir be blended with other wines?
White Pinot Noir can be blended with other white wines, such as Chardonnay, to create a unique flavor profile.
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