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 where excellent examples are made.
We think the best Pinot Blancs in the world might actually be made in Austria where the variety is grown quite widely, but with particular representation in the areas around the Neusiedlersee, Styria, Vienna, and Lower Austria, including the Wachau and Kamptal. The quality of Austrian Pinot Blanc wines is outstanding, with true world-class examples which can stand along anything grown in Alsace. 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, some well in excess of a decade.
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".