Christmas is almost here, New Years will follow shortly thereafter. With all this in mind it seems appropriate to drink the sparkling drink of celebrations. Tonight I tried a bubbly from the Loire Valley in France. The grape used to produce this wine is Chenin Blanc, a grape that is generally considered to be on the lighter side of flavour. Even though the grape itself may not have all that much flavour the bubbly I am currently sipping on has quite a bit of flavour.
Grapes that are low in flavour can be quite useful for making distinct wine. Most grapes will, once turned into wine, show predominantly fruit flavours, the beauty of a rather neutral flavoured grape is that the techniques employed during vinification can have a huge impact on the resulting wine. The sparkler tonight was made in the traditional method which has a large impact on flavour especially if there is little flavour to begin with. While the grape may lack flavour if fermented in a bland and drab way, it is full of complex bready flavours if the proper techniques are employed. This wine is a good example of the results from proper vinification...
Wine: Cuvee J.M. (Blanc de Blancs)
Region: Touraine AOC, Loire, France
Grape: Chenin Blanc
Notes: Drink this slightly warmer than you otherwise might. The flavours are delicious but they are soft and if drunk too cold you won't taste much of anything. The aromas and flavours are the exact same: bread, biscuits, red apple, citrus, stoney/salty minerality. Very savoury in character with more body than you would typically expect from a sparkling wine, high acid. Quite a treat this wine is Very Nice!
Blanc de Blancs: White of Whites
No this doesn't have anything to do with laundry detergent. Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs are both types of sparkling wine. In Champagne there are 3 grapes that are allowed for the production of wine: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (often shortened to Meunier). Pinot Noir, as the name suggests, and Meunier are both black grapes. Shockingly Champagne and other sparkers are often made from these three grape varieties despite the fact that most sparkling wine is white.
Even though a grape is black it doesn't mean it will produce a red wine or even a pink wine. The juice from any grape is pretty much the same colour; some hue of yellow. Red wines get their colour from contact with the grape skins, really any grape variety can be made into a white wine. Blanc de Blancs means that the white sparkling wine has been made from white grapes, conversely Blanc de Noirs means the bubbly has been made from black grapes. If there is no mention of either of these terms it's anyones game, the wine may have been made from white grapes, black grapes or a mix of the two. Certain regions are more likely to indicate what grapes were used in the wine production, like Champagne*.
The grape or grapes used in the production of a wine will have a large impact on the characteristics of a wine. There is no superior combination of grapes they can all be good when done properly. If you do see Blanc de Blancs or Blanc de Noirs on a label you will be able to impress your friends, or alienate them depending on how you show off your knowledge, with the little tidbits of information you have just learned. Remember wine has a pretentious vibe to it, be careful how you show off your knowledge. Most of all remember to enjoy.
*Champagnes are not going to actually tell you which grapes were used but there are only three that can be used: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier. If a Champagne says Blanc de Blancs only Chardonnay has been used, Blanc de Noirs mean either Pinot Noir, Meunier or both. No indication means that probably all three were used. This does not apply to other sparkling wines.