Why everybody loves pinot blanc, plus five to try

'[Pinot blanc] is a wine you can just drink for enjoyment's sake': Hoddles Creek Estate's Franco D'Anna.
'[Pinot blanc] is a wine you can just drink for enjoyment's sake': Hoddles Creek Estate's Franco D'Anna. Photo: Penny Stephens

We all know someone who can walk into a room full of strangers and emerge as everyone's friend by the end of the night. In the grape variety world, that's pinot blanc.

The white goes by a few different names. Here in Australia and in Alsace, France (where it is common), it is known as pinot blanc. In north-eastern Italy it is pinot bianco, and in Austria and Germany scan shelves for weissburgunder or klevner.

Why so agreeable? Pinot blanc is crisp, fresh, well-structured, mouth-watering and ages well.

Pinot blanc grows well in the Yarra, Margaret River, and the Riverland.
Pinot blanc grows well in the Yarra, Margaret River, and the Riverland. Photo: iStock

"In early 2000s people were chasing aromatic and fruit-driven varieties," says Hoddles Creek Estate winemaker Franco D'Anna. "This is quite a neutral variety but it shows the site it was grown on really well. It's a wine you can just drink for enjoyment's sake, and a wine you can also sit down with and think about the nuance in texture, phenolics and the acid line."

D'Anna has two blocks of pinot blanc on his Yarra Valley property. The original block was planted in 1997 and the second in 2006. While he worked out how to grow and make it, he blended the grapes into other varieties. But in 2008, Hoddles Creek Estate unveiled the first commercial release in Australia.

"I wish we had more of it," he says. "It's so versatile, it's easy to grow and it crops well. You can make a wide range of styles with it."

Pinot blanc is a bit like a savoury chardonnay but you can add a twist to it.

Viticulturist Mark Vella

Drink now or wait a few years. "It ages really well," says D'Anna. "Our 2003 is still looking fresh as a daisy because of the great natural acidity."

There's not a huge amount of pinot blanc grown in Australia but that's likely to change. "It works particularly well in the Yarra, Margaret River, and the Riverland," D'Anna says.

Pockets of it have been popping up in the Adelaide Hills, where Shaw + Smith winemaker Adam Wadewitz has produced a pinot blanc for his Elderslie Wines collaboration since 2016.

Advertisement

"We were initially attracted to the variety because it worked well in Burgundy, Alsace and northern Italy, all places that have varieties that also thrive in the Hills," Wadewitz says. "We really love the great tension and drive it expresses."

Nearby, viticulturist Mark Vella uses pinot blanc in a blend as part of his range of Vella Wines. "I look solely at the viticulture side of things," he says. "I was looking for something different that will grow well here."

He's been pleasantly surprised by the results – and it's catching on. His neighbours, Catlin Wines, Turon Wines, The Lane Vineyard, Sidewood and Paracombe Wines, also work with the variety. "Pinot blanc is a bit like a savoury chardonnay but you can add a twist to it."

Pro tip Serve it with shellfish or fish and you can't go wrong.

Five to try

Hoddles Creek 1ER Pinot Blanc 2021, Yarra Valley, Vic. A wonderful wine that reflects the minerality of this beautiful site. 12.8 per cent alcohol, $34.99, hoddlescreekestate.com.au

Granite Hills 2021 Pinot Blanc, Macedon Ranges, Vic. Lots of character and honeysuckle notes. 13 per cent alcohol, $28, granitehills.com.au

Vella Wines 2019 Trouble Maker Pinot Blanc Blend. A smashing blend of 55 per cent pinot blanc and 35 per cent pinot gris, with gewurztraminer making up the rest. 13 per cent alcohol, $24, vellawines.com.au

2017 Elderslie Hills Blend #1, Adelaide Hills, SA. A stunning example that raises the bar (and minerality) high. 12.5 per cent alcohol, $45, eldersliewines.com.au

Paracombe 2021 Pinot Blanc, Adelaide Hills SA. A pert, fun, zippy little number from a producer devoted to growing the variety. 11 per cent alcohol, $25, paracombewines.com.au