What is White Pinot Noir?

The Pinot Noir grape is a red grape most famously known for the production of red Burgundy. And today's new world Pinot Noir wines, especially from California and Oregon, are wonderfully delicate light bodied red wines with flavors of cherry, raspberry, strawberry, cranberry and black plum.  But did you know that there is a white Pinot Noir? And what, might you ask, is white Pinot Noir? 

Let's first take one step back. The juice from a red grape and a white grape is nearly clear.  It's the process of making red wine, in which the grape skins are left in contact with the juice as it ferments, that colors it red. So, quite simply, white Pinot Noir is wine made from the juice of the Pinot Noir grape, but the juice is immediately removed from the grape skins before fermentation. So you end up with a white wine.

Now you're probably wondering if it's anything like that other white wine (rosé) made from a red grape, white Zinfandel.  Well, sort of, but not exactly.  White Zinfandel became wildly popular mostly because of its high residual sugar. It's somewhat sweet.  But most of the white Pinot Noir being produced is dry, having little or no residual sugar. And while white Zinfandel is actually pink in color (a rosé), white Pinot Noir ranges in color from pale yellow, similar to Chardonnay, to a deep golden hue.  Typically white Pinot Noir is not aged in oak barrels so you get a lot of the bright crisp fruit flavors of pear, with hints of lemon, orange and honey.  An oaked white Pinot Noir will take on the rich flavors of baked apple or baked pear.

Before you write-off white Pinot Noir as a gimmick or just the latest trend, realize that Pinot Noir is one of the primary grapes used to make Champagne, along with Pinot Muenier (another red grape) and Chardonnay.  So white Pinot Noir has a very long and illustrious history. You might have heard of white Pinot Noir as Blanc de Noir in France or Vin Gris of Pinot Noir.

Bottles of white Pinot Noir are a bit difficult to find but if you happen to see one, or have the opportunity to try a glass, by all means do. Cheers!