Austrian wine has rapidly gained in international stature in the past decade, mostly on the strength of Austria's dry white wines produced within a 20-mile radius of the small city of Krems on the Danube, less than 50 miles west of Vienna. The steep, terraced, riverside vineyards of the Wachau, immediately west of Krems, as well as geologically diverse sites on the edges of the city and to the north in the Kamptal, yield Austria's most brilliant and distinctive wines. Differences among Austrian wines within close proximity to one another are often dramatic. Nearly as dramatic, is the sight of such geological formations as crumbling volcanic slopes, sandstone buttes, and huge wavelike mounds of ancient glacial dust called loess.
Burgenland, a long, narrow swath of land running the length of Austria's border with Hungary, is home to the majority of Austria's red wines and botrytis-influenced sweet wines. Northern Burgenland is subdivided into two viticultural regions, the Neusiedlersee and Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, both named for the long, shallow lake that runs between them. To the south two red Austrian wine regions are appropriately known as Mittelburgenland and Südburgenland.
Pinot Blanc Facts
Rich and medium bodied, with hints of honey, tropical fruit, and smoke
Poultry, seafood and pork
Pinot Blanc may not receive the same respect given to noble varieties like Chardonnay and Riesling, or even other Alsatian whites like Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. But at its best, with grapes from low-yielding vines, Pinot Blanc can produce exciting values: creamy, medium bodied wines, with honey-like aromas and flavors.
A relative of both Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc is grown in a number of countries under a variety of names. In Germany, it is Weisseburgunder, while in Italy, it is called Pinot Bianco.
Still, the fact that we are most familiar with the grape as Pinot Blanc is a dead tip-off that the best examples of the grape come from France. In France, Pinot Blanc is most notably grown in Alsace, where it is either bottled on its own, used as a major component in the sparkling wine Cremant D'Alsace, or blended with other varieties in the region's traditional wine, Edelzwicker. We don't see much Edelzwicker, since the export market for this wine is virtually non-existent. But we're happy that we can get a decent amount of single-varietal Pinot Blanc from Alsace; the wine is made in some form by almost every Alsatian winery. These can be rich, sometimes tropical, smoky wines that are low in acidity. Look for offerings from Domaine Marcel Deiss and Domaine Schoffit.
In the U.S., some California vintners are producing Pinot Blanc with the same techniques used to make expensive Chardonnay, including new oak and malolactic fermentation. We're not convinced that this is the best way to showcase the grape, and lean more towards the wines being made in Oregon. Here, vinification techniques more closely follow the model established in Alsace, with fermentation in stainless steel or older oak leading to wines that are rich and smoky. Consider wines from Amity Vineyards and Elk Cove.
Pair Pinot Blanc with poultry, seafood, and pork.