At first blush, the phrase White Pinot Noir sounds like an oxymoron. A white wine from one of the most planted red wine grapes in the world? That is exactly what it is! The result is a wonderfully rich white wine with quite a different flavor profile than traditional Pinot Noir.
How is White Pinot Noir Made?
Wine color does not come from the flesh of the grape. It comes from the skins and seeds, which contain pigments like anthocyanidins and tannins. By crushing the grapes and allowing fermentation to happen in the presence the skins and other grape solids, the pigments color the juice. This means that white wine can be made from a red wine grapes if the juice is separated from the skins before fermentation.
This is how White Pinot Noir is made. Winemakers press the grapes and limit juice contact with the skins to keep it from turning red. They then ferment the juices in stainless steel tanks, treating them like traditional white wines. Some are even barrel fermented like Chardonnays. White Pinot Noirs may also be barrel aged, which adds another interesting layer of complexity. When Oaked, they’re very reminiscent of buttery Chardonnays.
Areas of Production
It’s mainly made in France (specifically Champagne and Alsace), the US (California and Oregon), Italy, and Germany.
These wines go by slightly different names depending on where and how they are made. Pinot Noir Blanc and Pinot d’Alsace are common French labels, and the latter is often a blend that includes Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Auxerrois.
In California, look for labels that say Pinot Noir Blanc or Blanc de Noir. From Germany, look for Spatburgunder Blanc De Noir and from Italy, you’ll see Pinot Nero Bianco or Vino Bianco Ottenuta Da Uva Nera.
Another variation you might find is Vin Gris. Also known as Pinot Noir Rosé, this wine is allowed some skin contact which turns it a very pale shade of pink.
How to Serve White Pinot Noir
Serve White Pinot Noir just as you would any white wine. It will be best when consumed between 49°-55°F, and likely better toward the warmer end of that spectrum. As it warms, it will release even more aromas and flavors. (Definitely try oaked White Pinot Noirs closer to 55°F!) If you’re planning to enjoy the whole bottle over the course of an evening, invest in a single bottle wine chiller to keep it cool for you.
You should also serve White Pinot Noir from a white wine glass. This will help hold the cooler temperature and deliver all those subtle aromas right to your nose.
Flavor Profiles and Pairings
Whereas traditional Pinot Noir is known for its berry flavors, White Pinot Noir gives a sense of baked apples and pears. It may also have the sweetness of honey, the spiciness of ginger, and hints of lemon and lime zest. It sometimes has nutty, almond notes, and may be oaked or unoaked. While it has nowhere near the body of its traditional cousin, it’s heavier compared to most white wines.
It pairs well with rich, creamy sauces and mushrooms, so would be perfect with a wild mushroom pasta dish or white pizza with truffles. It’s also wonderful with steamed crab or shrimp, seafood salads, and roasted lobster. Roasted chicken or pork chops with late summer vegetables like corn, butternut squash, and red peppers would also be delectable.
You can generally pair it much the same way you would Chardonnays, matching Oaked versions with even richer dishes.
Ready for a Taste?
White Pinot Noirs can be a bit difficult to find, but fortunately the internet can help! Our go-to for hard-to-find wines is Wine Searcher, which will give you a list of possibilities that are local to you or available for order. Here are some specific suggestions likely to be readily available in the US:
Look for the iconic sketch of the wasp on the label to find wines from J. K. Carriere, a Willamette Valley winery. They’ll ship you cases of their wine at a generous discount and if you love Pinot Noir, you won’t want to miss their wine club.
Amity Vineyards is another denizen of Willamette Valley that produces delicious Pinot Noirs of all sorts. According to their notes, the white tastes of intense lemon custard, pineapple, and melon. They have a handy search page to help you find their wines locally.
Intrigued by Vin Gris? Check out this offering from Robert Sinskey Vineyards, which are 100% certified organic. If you’re in Napa, be sure to stop by for a visit to check out their wonderful tasting room and restaurant. Their website also features a lot of great recipes and suggestions for pairings.
Saintsbury is another gorgeous Napa Valley vineyard. If you’re able to visit, they host tastings of single vineyard Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, as well as in-depth looks at vintages from their vineyard through the years.