Science shocker: pinot grapes are an army of clones.
According to DNA, pinot noir/nero, pinot gris/grigio, pinot blanc/bianco and many more pinots are mutations of the exact same grape.
Members of the pinot parade share the same trait—berries grow tightly together and form a pine cone (“pinot”) shape. After that it gets complicated.
Ampelography (botany field concerned with study of grape vines) reveals through DNA testing there are four main clonal variations of pinot, plus a bunch more. Here’s pinot profile (French/Italian names):
• Pinot noir/nero. Hard-to-grow black grape which has several clonal variants. Black skin (that generates the noir/nero name) and green flesh.
• Pinot meunier. Black-skin grape similar to pinot noir, but it matures earlier. It is the third blend in some Champagnes.
• Pinot gris/grigio. Grayish-pink skin grape that produces white and rosé wines.
• Pinot blanc/bianco. Green-skin white grape often confused with chardonnay; mostly grown to make white wines in Italian Veneto/Prosecco region and French Alsace region. Genetic instability means sometimes vines produce black grapes except for one cane of white.
• Pinot liébault, pinot teinturier, pinot noir précoce, pinot gouges. Obscure, still part of pinot family.
Pinot obviously is prone to mutation, and since it has been cultivated for 1,000 years, there has been plenty of time for evolution. France recognizes more than 50 clonal mutations—which means grapes may have same name, usually pinot noir, but then they have clonal number. Major pinot noir clones include Dijon Clones 113, 115, and 777 and Pommard Clone 5. Burgundians often include several clones in plots to add complexity. Wine seldom is simple.
• Pike Road Pinot Gris 2015: Full body, nails profile of fruit-forward
Willamette Valley pinot gris. $15
• Rotari Brut Rosé Trento DOC 2013: Tasty, everyday sparkling luxury; 75% pinot noir. $16-20
• Kettmeir Pinot Bianco Alto Adige–Südtirol DOC 2014: Very pleasing in the mouth. $20
• J Vineyards & Winery Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2014: Excellent example of full-body Russian River Valley pinot noir. $37-40
Last round: I drink wine to make people appear more interesting. They likely drink wine for the same reason. Which is why wine drinkers are such interesting people.