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Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Pinot is the first word of many a French vine variety name and is thought to refer to the shape of Pinot grape bunches, in the form of a pine (pin) cone. Pinot is considered one of the most important and ancient grape varieties, possibly a selection from wild vines. The variety may well have existed for as long as two millennia. There is some evidence that Pinot existed in Burgundy in the 4th century ad. Although Morillon Noir was the common name for early Pinot, a vine called Pinot was already described in records of Burgundy in the 14th century and its fortunes were inextricably linked with those of the powerful medieval monasteries of eastern France and Germany (see burgundy and german history). So long has Pinot existed an unusual number of clones have emerged, more than 1,000 according to Galet, of which pinot blanc, pinot gris, pinot meunier, and pinot noir are just some of the better known. chardonnay is still occasionally called Pinot Chardonnay. The father of modern vine identification galet maintained that Chardonnay was not a member of the Pinot family, but dna profiling analysis in 1999 dropped the bombshell that at least 21 distinct varieties are the progenies of Pinot and the obscure and rather ordinary variety gouais blanc including aligoté, Aubin Vert, auxerrois, bachet Noir, beaunoir, chardonnay, franc noir de la haute-saône, gamay blanc gloriod, gamay Noir, knipperlé, melon, Peurion, romorantin, roublot, and sacy. Furthermore, independent DNA analysis in Austria revealed a parent–offspring relationship between Pinot and savagnin. Other instances of DNA profiling have shown that Pinot is probably a grandparent of Terodego, Marzemino, Lagrein, and Dureza, parent of Syrah. A family tree in Wine Grapes, with Pinot, Gouais Blanc, and Savagnin at the top (and many blanks for unknown relatives) includes 156 Western European vine varieties, most of them well known. So much for Pinot’s genetic importance. As for nomenclature, there are no fewer than 30 entries beginning ‘Pinot’ in the index of Wine Grapes, although they are by no means all distinct.