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Merlot - Pinot Blanc

Merlot - Pinot Blanc

Pinot Blanc, Weißburgunder, Fehér Burgundi, Pinot Branco, Pinot Bianco – many names for the same grape depending on where you find it.

Merlot, although often used as a grape for blending (often with Cabernet Sauvignon), is a grape that produces some excellent single variety wine. It can be glorious on its own as seen in some of the wines from Pomerol and St. Emillion and this glory can be found in other expressions of the grape throughout the world.

A few places in Italy grow Merlot for this purpose and there are also excellent Merlots created in Valais and Thermenregion in Switzerland, but in that country it is to Ticino that we turn to find some wonderful single variety Merlot wines.

Ticino is of course right next to Italy and that is the language predominantly spoken there. Here they make Merlot into both red and white wine. Unlike the majority of ‘White Merlot’ this really is a white wine and not a rosé.

There seems no doubt that Merlot originated in France but it has spread throughout the world and can be found in most winemaking countries.

Following much DNA analysis and some archaeological searching worthy of a Dan Brown novel, it has now been established that Merlot is the offspring of Cabernet Franc and Magdeleine Noire des Charentes. It has other well-known siblings – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cot and the grape that was so often confused with Merlot, Carmenère.

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Pinot Blanc is a mutation of Pinot Gris, itself a mutation of Pinot Noir. On the vine it looks remarkably similar to Chardonnay. It is usually made into dry or sparkling wines but especially in Austria can make some excellent early Trockenbeernauslese. On the nose it can be floral or perfumed with hints of apple and sometimes tropical fruits. The fruit remains on the palate and there is a much longer finish than you might expect from a white wine. Of course the sweeter wines incorporate qualities that you might expect from that style.

I have asked winemakers a few times why they chose "Pinot Blanc" or "Weissburgunder" and whether they were for marketing or cultural reasons. Usually the answer has been "It looked better on the label that way".

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