Since white varieties are the main thing being harvested at this early point in the annual crush, it’s a good time to talk about whole-cluster pressing. You’ll see references to it in the wine maker notes for high-end white wines.
Tag Archives: white wine
Photo courtesy of tomylees, Flickr Creative Commons
Question from Pete: I heard that Sauvignon Blanc and Fumé Blanc are the same grape. Is that true? What’s the difference?Reply: This comes up all the time. The grape variety is called Sauvignon Blanc. The name Fumé Blanc was dreamed up by Robert Mondavi to help him sell Sauvignon Blanc at a time when it was unpopular. You have to go back to the 1960s, the when the groundwork was being laid for the second wine boom in California – the first was in the 1880s. In the sixties, very little Sauvignon Blanc was made. And what there was, was usually sweet and mediocre at best. Robert Mondavi spent significant time in Bordeaux, Burgundy and other famous winegrowing regions in France to observe growing and winemaking techniques. While there, he was quite taken by the dry Sauvignon Blanc wines made in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. He was sure he could sell a similar style at home if he wasn’t encumbered by the unpopular name, Sauvignon Blanc, and all the negative baggage that went with it. In the Loire Valley, dry Sauvignon Blanc is sold under a variety of names such as Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé and Blanc Fumé. So, he took the name Blanc Fumé and flipped it around to come up with Fumé Blanc. Sales took off. Never underestimate the power of marketing! He didn’t trademark the name and a number of other wineries adopted it. It’s not as commonly used these days, but you can still buy wine called Fumé Blanc from Grgich Hills, Chateau St. Jean, Ferrari-Carrano, Dry Creek, Hogue Cellars and others. As it happens, most wineries that have adopted the name oak age their Fumé Blanc, just as Robert Mondavi Winery does. But there’s no regulation in that regard. The best thing to do if you’re shopping is to ask whether the wine is oaked or not so you know what you’re getting. So, while Fumé Blanc isn’t a grape, it certainly is a wine – and a delicious one!
I always place aroma and flavor waaay ahead of appearance as a priority, but the color can communicate quite a lot to you the second the wine goes into the glass.
The first thing to know is that wine isn’t like a bottle of Scotch. It continues to change in the bottle and the color is a good indicator of where it is in its evolution. Some wines improve with bottle age, but most don’t. It’s always smart to ask questions when you buy wine because each wine ages at its own rate.
To get a good look at what’s going on it helps to have a white background like a white tablecloth or a white piece of paper (I use legal-sized copy paper for place mats when I host a tasting at home).
Hold the glass at a 45-degree angle against the white background and take a look. The wine should be brilliantly clear, and free of UFOs (unidentified floating objects – a little cork won’t hurt you!). Ideally, the wine should be physically beautiful! If it’s cloudy, it’s possible that the wine is past its prime or spoiled, but never let this put you off of tasting it to make sure. If it’s spoiled it can’t hurt you – just offend you! So, if it tastes okay, it is okay, and down the hatch! But, clarity is the ideal. Continue reading
Reply: Hopefully this reply will open up a whole, new and delicious world of wine! If you’re accustomed to drinking California or New-world wines, I’d say reach for the Pinot Noir! The French Pinot Noir is called red Burgundy.
Because it’s a thin-skinned grape the wine’s not too dark, heavy, bitter or tannic – a perfect transitional red! If you’re not familiar with tannin, many people who don’t like red wine eventually discover that they don’t like tannin. It’s the thing that dries out your mouth and makes your teeth feel furry. Continue reading