Pinot Blanc: A Perspective from the Yarra Valley

Guest Blog by AAVWS Committee member Franco D’Anna

Picture1Pinot Blanc as it’s known in France or Pinot Bianco in Italy is a white grape planted in regions like Alsace, Alto Adige and parts of Friuli. Quite recently, it has been planted to success in different regions in Australia. Pinot Blanc is now planted in Tasmania, Margaret River W.A., Adelaide Hills, S.A., Riverina, N.S.W. and the Yarra Valley, Victoria.

The variety is quite neutral, so it tends to reflect it site very well. It is well suited to a number of different regions in Australia as it bud burst is relatively late, mid ripening and hold its acidity amazingly well. Compared to Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc generally has more finesse and has a more delicate nose. Normally apple, pear and some white flowers are the key distinguishing feature. For a white variety, it’s also very phenolic.

The first commercial planting of Pinot Blanc in Australia was at Hoddles Creek Estate in the Yarra Valley. The vineyard was planted in 1997, with the help of consultant Mario Marson. Mario planted Pinot Blanc in the Yarra Valley as he was hoping to emulate the Pinot Blanc from Northern Italy.

Fast-forward 11 years, and the fruit from Pinot Blanc were typically blended with Hoddles Creek Chardonnay or Pinot Gris. In 2008, Hoddles Creek decided to release their first straight Pinot Blanc. In the years preceding the first bottling, trying to get a style that reflected where it was grown was the challenge. Different styles of wine were made. In the end, Hoddles decided to pick at relatively low sugar, 90% tank fermented with a portion left on lees in old cask to generate mouth feel and soften phenolics. These wines benefit greatly from aging as acid levels on early release are quite high. Typical analysis would be 11.8% alcohol, 7.5 g/l TA and a pH around 3.00. Wines built for the long haul.

Pinot Blanc could almost be planted anywhere with the exception of areas with high summer rainfall. Large compact bunches with thin skins make it very susceptible to Botrytis. At Hoddles Creek, it’s not unusually for a small degree of bunch rot prior to harvest. Berries are naturally pushed out with cell expansion of berries. Prior to harvest, these bunches are dropped to ensue the fruit is received clean.

From the experience of Pinot Blanc at Hoddles Creek, the variety won’t be the savior of the wine industry or become fashionable like its neighbor Pinot Gris. It will be a variety that will become more popular as winemakers and consumers move away from fruit rich styles of white wine and more towards textural, mineral and terrior driven wines.

Franco D’Anna

 

The 2017 Talk & Taste Vive la France will feature French alternative varieties growing in Australia, like Pinot Blanc, why not come along and learn more about these Gallic grapes and their potential in the Australian wine landscape.  Check out the Events pages for more info and to buy tickets.

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