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California as a wine producing region has grown in size and importance considerably over the past couple of centuries, and today is the proud producer of more than ninety percent of the United States' wines. Indeed, if California was a country, it would be the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, with a vast range of vineyards covering almost half a million acres. The secret to California's success as a wine region has a lot to do with the high quality of its soils, and the fact that it has an extensive Pacific coastline which perfectly tempers the blazing sunshine it experiences all year round. The winds coming off the ocean cool the vines, and the natural valleys and mountainsides which make up most of the state's wine regions make for ideal areas in which to cultivate a variety of high quality grapes.
Pinot Blanc is a popular white grape varietal most commonly associated with the beautiful French region of Alsace, but which is also grown across Central Europe and Italy. In Germany and Austria it is known as Weisseburgunder, in Italy it is called Pinot Bianco, and is one of the key varietals in the alpine regions of Alto Adige. Pinot Blanc is the main white grape varietal in Alsace, where it is prized for its ability to beautifully express the fine terroir on which it is grown, and it is used to produce exceptional single varietal wines, as well as blended wine such as Edelzwicker. Pinot Blanc is also a key component in this part of France’s signature sparkling wine, Cremant d’Alsace.
The wines made from Pinot Blanc are typically medium to light bodied, but they possess a remarkable freshness and clean character, which reminds us of the cool, green hillsides of their homeland. Apple, honey and biscuity, yeasty flavors are typical in fine Pinot Blanc wines, as well as a good level of minerality, making it a popular choice for those looking to pair a fine white wine with a wide range of foods. Although it is almost never oaked in Alsace, Italian vintners have a tendency to age Pinot Bianco in oak barrels, adding an extra dimension to this wonderful varietal.