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 Filed as : Wine TipsWine TypesSparkling

Champagne's Fourth Grape

Apr 12, 2011
Champagne's Fourth Grape
There's more to the famous French wine than you thought.

champagne-popYou probably know that for a sparkling wine to be called Champagne, it has to be made in the French region of the same name. You might also know that Champagne is made with any one--or combination--of three different grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Actually, make that four.

Though there isn't much of it left in the Champagne region--less than one tenth of a percent of all the vineyards--producers there can use Pinot Blanc on its own or in combination with the above three grapes. There are even a few 100% Pinot Blanc Champagnes produced--but they're tough to find and can be expensive.

Stick with still Pinot Blanc, however, and you'll still be plenty impressed. It's an easy-drinking, full-bodied, apple-tasting white that's somewhat reminiscent of Chardonnay. Pinot Blanc gets plenty of attention outside of Champagne, particularly throughout Eastern Europe, but gets the most respect in Austria (where it's called Weissburgunder), Germany and France's Alsace region. It's an affordable, tasty wine that's great for warm-weather evenings after work.

Two brands we like that are widely available and affordable are Willm and Pierre Sparr--both from Alsace and both under $10.

If you're feeling especially adventurous, seek out Pinot Blancs from other countries to see how the grape expresses itself in those places. With a little effort you should be able find some inexpensive yet tasty examples from Hungary, or perhaps try Pyramid Valley's Pinot Blanc ($24) from Marlborough, New Zealand. (The grapes for this wine are grown at Kerner Estate, which we introduced you to a few months ago.)

What's your favorite white wine to drink on an average weeknight? Tell us below.

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