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Pinot Blanc - Zweigelt

Pinot Blanc - Zweigelt

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

Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Portugal and Italy all grow this grape as do many other countries, but it is particularly well known in Alsace.

We think the best Pinot Blancs in the world might actually be made in Austria. In the last 5 years, possibly even further, my favourite Pinot Blanc every year is Austrian. The variety is grown quite widely, but with particular representation in the areas around the Neusiedlersee, Styria, Vienna, Weinviertel and Kamptal. In Austria, even mid-range Pinot Blancs are stylish, with flavours of almonds and good acidity. The best are concentrated, amazingly complex, and age well in bottle, well in excess of a decade.

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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".

What to Expect

The wines tend to be a lovely deep ruby colour and the nose is almost physically chewable with lingering black fruits, combining with sweet tones of treacle and caramel and a hint of stewed prunes in the background. Absolutely gorgeous.

On tasting, it is a surprise to find that it is typically lighter in the body than the nose suggested. Flavours of black fruits, especially cherry, come through with hints of plum in the background. Some Zweigelt will give a lot of spice, especially cinnamon. The length of this wine can be astonishing.

Lineage

Zweigelt is named after its creator, Dr Zweigelt, who crossed St. Laurent and Blaufränkisch in 1922 at the research centre in Klosterneuburg. Whilst crossing two great grapes does not guarantee a greater, this comes pretty close. Both parents are used to making beautiful wine and the child is too.

It was originally named Rotburger and in places is still known by that synonym today. However that can be very confusing as there is another grape, totally unrelated, called Rotberger.

Knowing the parentage of Zweigelt, it is clear that it is the grandchild of both Gouais Blanc and Pinot, making it part of serious grape royalty. It is also a parent of Roesler, also created in Klosterneuburg, an up-and-coming red grape in Austria.

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