Wine Culture Magazine

A family of flavours from a single ancestor

Ripened Pinot Noir grapes. Getty Images photo

The Pinot grape family tree is as extensive and wide-reaching as the royal House of Windsor. With over 1,000 Pinot clones officially registered, understanding the connections between the grapes is a bit like doing detective work.

Pinot Noir is a red wine grape and is one of the oldest grape varieties in the world. Named for the shape of the grape cluster, “pinot” is the French word for “pine cone.” Pinot Noir is a finicky variety that produces elegant wines with flavours such as cherry and raspberry, mushroom, earth, hibiscus and clove. The wines are dry, light to medium-bodied and have cult status worldwide.

Food pairings: duck, mushroom dishes and chicken.

But is this temperamental grape the parent of all the other delicious Pinot varieties? The short answer is: no. However, all Pinot grapes are clonal offsprings of the Pinot vine. 

Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc are both mutations of Pinot Noir. Mutations happen in the vineyard when a grape variety reacts to changes in its environment, usually to protect itself from rot, frost or other environmental factors. 

Pinot Gris is a white wine grape. Pinot Gris wines tend to be medium to full-bodied expressions, whereas Pinot Grigio (Italian) styles are often light-bodied. Pinot Gris wines have ripe peach, citrus and cantaloupe flavours alongside ginger or clove spice notes. Pinot Gris is the most planted white wine grape variety in British Columbia.

Food pairings: seared scallops, roast chicken and sushi.

Pinot Blanc is a white wine grape sometimes mistaken for Chardonnay. Wines are often creamy on the palate with apple, pear, and almond flavours and hints of baking spice. The Okanagan Valley has developed an excellent reputation for Pinot Blanc wines. 

Food pairings: quiche Lorraine, chicken salad and seafood pasta.

Pinotage is a red wine grape and is South Africa’s signature variety. Pinotage was cultivated there in the 1920s and is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Wines crafted with Pinotage typically produce deep red wines with smoky, bramble and earthy flavours, alongside tropical fruit and banana.

Food pairings: grilled pork chops, lamb and roasted eggplant.  

Four variations on B.C. Pinot

Blasted Church Vineyards Pinot Noir 2020
Okanagan Falls, B.C., $32) Raspberry, cherry and chewing tobacco.

Hester Creek Estate Winery Old Vine Pinot Blanc 2021
Golden Mile Bench, B.C., $17.99) Sunshine in a glass, bright orchard fruit.

Poplar Grove Pinot Gris 2021
(Okanagan Valley, B.C., $19.91) Honeydew melon, citrus notes and fresh peach.

Stoneboat Pinot House Pinotage 2018
Okanagan Valley, B.C., $24.99) Full bodied with black fruit and vanilla spice notes.

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