A Grape Michigan and France Have in Common

Alsace — one of the coldest regions in France — is known for its Riesling, but the appellation there is also well known for its Pinot Blanc production.

This particular fruit also thrives in the Great Lakes region. Two Michigan winemakers told Vintner Magazine they’ve been having good luck with the grape, which is the focus of The DREAM Wine — a white blend wine they are making for the Michigan Wine Collaborative that will raise money for scholarships designed to make the wine industry’s workforce more inclusive.

Peter King, winemaker for Drew Ryan Wines, which produced the wine in collaboration with Chateau Chantal and three area businesses, said the Great Lakes’ warming effect makes the region optimal for the cold hardy varietal, and is one that the state’s vintners are actively trying to highlight.

“One of our goals is to get this varietal out in front of people and let them see what our state has to offer,” King said. “There are a handful of sommeliers out there who know about Michigan wines and the potential this state has to produce whites, sparkling and rosés. I truly believe that our climate can compete with other cold climates like the Alsaces, Champagnes, Loire Valleys and Burgundys of the world.”

A desire to showcase the grape’s capabilities is among the reasons it was chosen for The DREAM Wine.

“It has such a delicate aroma that can easily be cooked out and not maintain its acid backbone.” said Chateau Chantal winemaker Brian Hosmer. “The 2021 Pinot Blanc that was used in the blend has a ripe pear aroma and a body that added a juicy fore-mouth note that wraps up the acidity. 

“Here it can also retain a very faint floral note like there is a bouquet of flowers in the room, but not right under your nose. Some years it can be more angular and punchy with an austere nose.”

Its popularity with wine drinkers has been a slow rise due to a simple lack of presence in many regions, Hosmer said.

“Its lack of presence in many regions makes selling more difficult due to lack of consumer experience with it,” Hosmer said. “It is kind of one of our pearls here that expresses itself vividly and unlike anywhere else, we would love more people to try it because then we could make more of it.

Hosmer said the grape often takes a back seat to Pinot Grigio, another varietal that grows well in the Great Lakes.

“They are quite different in their expression and both have a soft-spoken nature that will pull you in for another smell and sip,” Hosmer said. “The analogy I use for the way they feel on the palate to me is that Pinot Grigio can be more of an incandescent light bulb whereas Pinot Blanc is more of a laser beam focused right in the middle.”

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