What the heck is white Pinot Noir?

Can pinot noir be white? Yes it can – meet white pinot noir. Learn all about this unique white wine made from red wine grapes, including what it tastes like (a bit like a rich chardonnay), where it’s made (4 places, including the USA, France, Germany and Italy) and what food to pair it with (white wine loves white meat).

Some things, when you take a moment to really think about them, don’t seem to make much sense. Like spreading garlic on bread or smushing together cheese and cake. In your mind, that doesn’t sound so great. But in your mouth? Yes. Please. Here’s another: a white pinot noir.

Yep, red pinot noir grapes can be used to make white wine. White pinot noir (also called pinot noir blanc in keeping with its French roots) is richer than your usual white wine, with a fuller taste. Whet your appetite for this rare white wine with our guide.

What is white pinot noir wine?

White pinot noir or pinot noir blanc is a white wine (no surprises there) made from pinot noir grapes (which are normally used for red wine). This makes it a fairly unusual wine. The winemaking techniques (see below) used produce smaller quantities of wine, making white pinot noir rarer still.

Here’s a look at how a white wine is made from red wine grapes:

  • Pressing. The pinot noir grapes are piled up, causing juice to free-run under the pressure. Because the juice isn’t in close contact with the red grape skins, it runs clear and white.
  • Fermentation. Pinot noir white is fermented very slowly at cool temperatures to allow time for the fuller flavour to develop. It can be fermented in steel for a crisp, clean taste or in oak for a creamier, richer, butterier taste. 

If you manage to get your hands on a bottle of pinot noir white wine, you’ll find that it tastes richer than most other white wines. That’s thanks to the red wine grapes. The taste does depend on where your bottle was made though.

Tasting notes:

  • Fruit, especially baked apple and pear with citrus.
  • Spice, especially ginger.
  • Sweet honey with savoury almonds. 

Where is white pinot noir made? 

White pinot noir isn’t as widely produced as other wines. Producers are mainly found in the following 4 countries:

  1. The USA

Mainly made in California and Oregon, American pinot noir white wine producers use both winemaking techniques. This means a white pinot noir Oregon might taste unoaked and light-bodied with high acidity. Or it might have the buttery and rich flavour of a chardonnay. 

  1. France

Where the name pinot noir blanc comes from (‘blanc’ meaning white in French), the Alsace wine region is home to France’s white pinot noir. It’s normally a blend of pinot noir grapes with pinot gris and pinot blanc, giving it a more crisp, tart taste.

  1. Germany

Expect German white pinot to taste fresh, floral and light-bodied. If you’re browsing German shelves for it, also expect it to be called Blanc de Noir Spätburgunder which translates to Blanc de Noir Pinot Noir.

  1. Italy

A different country, a different name. This time it’s called Pinot Nero Bianco. A mineral-tasting wine with bright acidity, it has flavours of honey. 

White pinot noir food pairings

If you’re thinking you need some rare culinary delights fitting for your rare drop, think again – white pinot noir pairs beautifully with fish and chips. As a white wine, it’s best served slightly chilled (aim for 45-50℉) and works well with:

  • White meats, especially chicken and pork.
  • Delicate seafood, especially crab, lobster and shrimp.
  • Cream-based soups and dishes to bring out the rich, butteriness of the wine.

Mushrooms are the top food pairing for pinot noir, in all its forms.

Sarah Perez
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