There are many hypotheses about the origin of the Pinot vine. It is not possible to verify the origin of the Pinot grape variety Allobrogica mentioned by Columella (1st half of the 1st century) and Pliny the Elder (23-79). There is no genetic or botanical evidence for the assumption that it came from Egypt via Greece to France. That Emperor Charlemagne (742-814) brought it to the Rhine and had Ingelheim(Rheinhessen) planted on his palatinate is not provable (but not impossible). There is no evidence that his great-grandson Charles III called the Fat One (839-888) had the variety planted in his "Königsweingarten" near Lake Constance in the year 884, as no variety names are mentioned in the document in question. And last but not least, the assumed origin Italy, based on the synonym Clevner, is also unlikely.
The area between Lake Geneva (Switzerland) and the Rhône Valley (France) is assumed to be the original home of the Pinot vine. The Cistercian order brought it to the Rheingau in the Middle Ages and from here it spread throughout Europe. According to the most probable variant, the French term "Pinot" is derived from the elongated shape of the Pinot grapes, which are quite similar to the cone of a pine tree (French "pin"). However, the Pinot varieties are by no means a family, as this incorrectly associates different kinships. Rather, they are the result of mutations of a Pinot original variety. Clone mutants are also included, which are only "slightly" different from mutants. In any case, in the Middle Ages they were considered to be among the "nobler" Franconian varieties:
The age of the Pinot vine is estimated at around 2,000 years. This explains not only the innumerable synonyms, but also the numerous mutations (varieties) and clones that have emerged over this long period of time. It is therefore not a particularly "mutation-happy" variety, as one can often read. Today there are around a thousand clones registered in the official lists of grape varieties in countries all over the world. Although they differ in morphology (berries, leaves, shoots), yield, flowering/ripening time and sensory characteristics of the wine, they are (almost) identical genetically. These clones have been selected on the basis of special characteristics, often particularly optimal for certain climatic or local conditions. Among the most successful of their kind worldwide are the Dijon clones named after the famous Burgundian city.
From Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, as well as later other varieties mutated. However, due to the identical DNA profiles of natural crosses, it cannot be determined whether Noir, Blanc, Gris, Meunier or Précoce was involved, which is why only "Pinot" is given as the parent. More than 150 European grape varieties are derived by natural crossing from the three leading varieties Gouais Blanc (White Heunisch), Pinot or Traminer (Savagnin Blanc). In the 1990s, 352 grape varieties were subjected to DNA analysis in collaboration between the University of California in Davis (Carole Meredith) and the University of Montpellier (Jean-Michel Boursiquot). Parenthood Pinot x Gouais Blanc (or vice versa) was found in over 30 varieties. Natural crosses and mutations thereof are (the new varieties with Pinot Blanc, Gris or Noir are listed there; unlike natural crosses, the variety is known in these):
But the parentage is still not 100% clear. For a descent from wild vines suspected by the ampelographer Louis Levadoux in 1956, no genetic relationship could be proven so far. In 2000, DNA analyses carried out at the Klosterneuburger Weinbauinstitut (Lower Austria) by Dr. Ferdinand Regner revealed a parent-offspring relationship between Pinot and Traminer (Savagnin Blanc). Specifically, Traminer is assumed to be a descendant of Pinot, although the reverse relationship cannot be ruled out. However, the black Riesling (Pinot Meunier), which is defined as the second parent in this analysis, is doubted by other biologists because it is considered a Pinot Noir mutation.
The oldest names for the Pinot vine, some of which are still in use today, were Auvernat, Morillon and Noirien in different spellings, but confusingly they were also used for other grape varieties. It was first mentioned as Moreillon in 1283 as a variety in the municipality of Beauvais near Paris. The name Pinot first appeared in 1375 in an edict of the Duke of Burgundy Philip II the Bold (1342-1404), in which he decided in favour of Pinot Vermeil against the widespread high-yielding but qualitatively weak variety Gamay. A 1394 mention of Pinoz (Mz. of Pinot) indirectly indicates that there are several Pinot varieties. Up to that time no/chewed species/colours were mentioned. From the 15th century on, different spellings like Pignotz, Pinot, Pynos, Pinotz, Pineau and the like were used. Only in 1896, at a congress in Chalon-sur-Saône (Burgundy), the uniform name Pinot was decided upon.
Source: Wine Grapes / J. Robinson, J. Harding, J. Vouillamoz / Penguin Books Ltd. 2012
Pictures: Ursula Brühl, Doris Schneider, Julius Kühn Institute (JKI)