The white grape variety comes from France. Around 100 synonyms testify to its great age and its distribution in many wine-growing countries. The most important of these, grouped alphabetically by country, are Kleinedel, Pinot Blanc, Weißer Arbst(Germany); Bon Blanc, Arnaison Blanc, Auvernat Blanc, Chardonnet Pinot Blanc, Clevner, Epinette Blanche, Gentil Blanc, Klävner, Moréote Blanche, Morillon Blanc, Noirien Blanc, Pino Blanc, Pinot Blanc Chardonnet, Pinot Blanc Vrai(France); Pinot Bijeli(Croatia); Pinot Bianco(Italy); Burgundy Veisser, Pino Belîi(Moldavia); Pinot Blanc, White Burgundy(Austria); Pinot Branco(Portugal); Burgundské Biele, Rulandské Biele(Slovakia); Beli Pinot(Slovenia); Rulandské Bílé(Czech Republic); Burgundi Fehér, Fehér Burgundi(Hungary).
It is a colour mutation of the Pinot Gris (or vice versa), which is mutated from the Pinot Noir. Pinot Blanc thus belongs to the Pinot varieties (see there in detail). It must not be confused with the varieties Auxerrois, Chardonnay, Knipperlé, Melon de Bourgogne, Pignoletto or Traminer (Savagnin Blanc), in spite of apparently indicative synonyms or morphological similarities. Until the end of the 19th century, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc were often confused. The ampelograph Victor Pulliat (1827-1896) had already assumed two different varieties in 1868 and this was officially recognized in France in 1872. In other countries they had problems much longer and the two were considered identical. In Austria they were recorded and identified together until 1999. Only in 1999 DNA-analyses were carried out to confirm their independence: Chardonnay is a natural cross between Pinot x Gouais Blanc.
The three varieties Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris have passed on their genes through natural crossbreeding (often with the crossing partner Gouais Blanc). However, these three varieties have an almost identical DNA profile, which is why DNA analyses of natural crosses cannot determine which one this was. Therefore only Pinot is given as parent (see there a list of all direct Pinot descendants). Pinot Blanc is rarely used (compared to Gris and Noir) as a crossing partner in new breedings due to lack of quality, for example in the varieties Jutrzenka and Manzoni Bianco.
The early sprouting and also early ripening vine with a stable yield is resistant to frost, but susceptible to fungal diseases. Compared to Pinot Gris, there is greater yield security. The advantage is that it can achieve high must weights even with higher yields. The vine produces greenish-yellow, fruity white wines with moderate acidity and restrained aromas of lime blossom, melons, pears and yellow fruits. These are also frequently used in the production of sparkling wines. Although it is not one of the great(Cépages nobles), it is one of the classic grape varieties grown internationally.
In France, the variety was first described in Burgundy in 1895, but German ampelographers described it in the early 19th century. The total area under cultivation in France is 1,292 hectares, with a slight downward trend. Most of it is in Alsace, where the variety is mostly blended with Auxerrois, the rest in Burgundy. In Italy, it is particularly widespread in the north-east in the regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, South Tyrol and Veneto and is often grown together with Chardonnay. The total Italian area is 3,086 hectares, also with a slight downward trend.
Other areas under cultivation in Europe are in Germany (3,941 ha), England (23 ha), Georgia (219 ha), Croatia (188 ha), Luxembourg (162 ha), Moldavia (350 ha), Austria (1,995 ha), Portugal (22 ha), Russia (695 ha), Switzerland (105 ha), Slovakia (523 ha), Slovenia (525 ha), Czech Republic (732 ha), Ukraine (338 ha), Hungary (237 ha). Overseas stocks are found in Argentina (6 ha), Brazil (1 ha), China (2 ha), Japan, Canada (125 ha), New Zealand (16 ha), South Africa (14 ha), Uruguay (9 ha) and the USA (269 ha). The variety occupied a total of 14,724 hectares of vineyards in 2010. Compared to 1990 with 16,990 hectares, there was a reduction (often replaced by Chardonnay) of about 15%. This put it in 52nd place in the worldwide grape variety ranking.
Source: Wine Grapes / J. Robinson, J. Harding, J. Vouillamoz / Penguin Books Ltd. 2012
Pictures: Ursula Brühl, Doris Schneider, Julius Kühn Institute (JKI)