White, Blanc, Bianco, Blanco
With the weather finally turning the corner towards summer it seemed appropriate to focus on wines that pair with warm weather food, so puts your hands up for White Wine! To reveal the exciting diversity of white grapes I’ve selected four mono-varietal bottlings. Mono-varietal sounds boring, I know, but I promise it’s not! In fact, if you’re looking for a worthy summer study project, single variety wines can teach you how the soil, climate and a winemaker influence what’s in your glass. It will also enhance your understanding of blended wines.
Let’s get to work!
Is white wine white? Not really. White wine ranges in color from the palest of yellows to slightly greenish to delicately pink to rich gold to deep amber. Elements that impact the color of your wine are the color of the grape skin, whether the winemaker chooses to allow for a period of skin contact*, the vessel in which fermentation and élévage** take place, oxidation and age. A quick glance at the color of your wine will provide some clues about the grape variety, the age of the wine and the style of wine making. Observing and noting the relationship between the color, flavor and texture will help you identify the character of a wine and determine with what meal it could work.
- The lighter the color, the lighter the wine. Fermentation and élévage likely done in stainless steel, concrete or clay.
- Richly colored wines have bolder, richer flavors. Fermentation and élévage likely done in barrel.
- Amber to brownish hues indicate oxidation and can be a sign of an older white, sherry or a wine that’s dead.
- Orange wine has had extended skin contact. Fermentation and élévage likely done in clay, concrete or large format wood
*Skin Contact= A period of time that the crushed grape juice and the skins of the grapes are left in contact with each other.
**Elévage = The time a wine spends in a tank/barrel/foudre etc. after fermentation and before bottling.
2016 Alta Alella Tallarol, Alella, SP $20
Grape – Pansa Blanca. Pansa Blanca is the local Catalan name for Xarel-lo. This grape is typically blended with Parellada and Macabeo to make Cava. A still version is a rarity so enjoy being someone who gets to experience this wine.
Fun Fact – The wine is fermented in Amphora made from clay from the Alta Alella Vineyards
2014 La Viarte Friulano, Fruili, IT $20
Grape – Friulano. The folks of Friuli didn’t warm to the name Sauvignonasse because they renamed their local version Friulano. I guess that would be like us calling Merlot, WallaWallano. As you continue to taste and explore you’ll find that lots of grapes have regionally specific names.
Fun Fact - Sauvignonasse sounds like Sauvignon Blanc but they are unique varieties the first being both less acidic and aromatic.
Drink with Focus Club
2014 Domaine Henny Les Blancais, Pellé Menetou-Salon, FR $35
Grape – Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc is the most well-known grape in our lineup this month. It is the offspring of Savignan (found in the Jura) and the parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s grown all over the world. You’ll find bottles from France, Italy, Slovenia, Autstria, Australia, New Zealand the U.S. and beyond. If you choose a grape to study you will find no shortage of SB but the true homeland of this variety is the Loire Valley where soil and grape are perfect companions.
BTW – Menetou-Salon is a tiny region west of Sancerre in the Loire Valley.
2014 Domaine Yves Leccia Patrimonio Blanc, Corsica, FR $35
Grape – Vermentinu or Vermentino is an aromatic variety that is represented in lovely bottles like this from Corsica. It’s a.k.a. Pigato in Liguria and Favorita in Piedmont and Rolle in Southern France. Though not as widely planted as Sauvignon Blanc you’ll find much to taste if you pursue a course in Vermentino. You might find bottles from Malta, Lebanon, California, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina and Australia.
Fun Fact – Sandrine Leccia was at Vif earlier this month!