01/16/08 – White blends of three or more varietals

By Jesse on January 15, 2008

Hello all,

We always seem to taste whites at Leah’s house, for some reason. Maybe it’s because she has such a snazzy fridge? The trend continues this week as we head to Santa Monica for a tasting we’ve never done before: white wines made from at least three varietals. We’ve tasted varietals individually more times than I care to count. This week, we’ll try to find our favorite wacky white blends.

Where to begin? Typically we look to Europe for inspiration, but since European rules regarding what grape types can be used in what regions are generally much stricter than their New World counterparts, we’re a bit limited in our scope. That’s not to say there aren’t excellent blends out there. In France, for example, the Rhone Valley offers some possibilities in regions such as Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Cotes-du-Rhone, where white blends are made using Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, and Bourboulenc, among other unpronounceable varietals. In Italy, the region of Friuli produces some of the top white blends in the entire country, made from Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Tocai, and Sauvignon Blanc. And finally, Spain’s Penedes region produces distinctive whites from three native grapes — Parellada, Macabeo, and Xarel-lo — as well as Chardonnay.

In the rest of the world, where the laws are more lax, expect to find all manner of crazy white cocktails. What better place to look, incidentally, than in that godless land of bizarre blends, Australia. The country that invented blending Chardonnay with Semillon has doubtless mixed other absurd white grapes into the mix… check it out. And here in California, the blending tradition is alive and well. Remember Meritage , the proprietary name given to Bordeaux-style blends made in California? We usually think of the reds, but White Meritage is produced as well. To be labeled such, the wine must contain at least two of the following three white grapes: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Sauvignon Vert (a.k.a. Muscadelle). Make sure that yours contains all three!

At the par-tay this past weekend, a suggestion was made that sparkling wines be incorporated into this week’s meeting. Several French sparklers will fit the bill: Crement de Bourgogne is made up of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Aligote (and also Pinot Noir, a red grape). Not to be outdone, Cremant de Loire and Saumur sparklers, both from the Loire Valley, are made of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc, with the rare inclusion of Sauvignon Blanc. And yes, even Champagne would qualify for this tasting, since it’s a white wine made from three grapes — check the tasting notes to ensure that your bottle contains all three Champagne varietals (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier). Finally, Spain offers us its Cava, a popular and affordable alternative to traditional French sparklers, which is made from the Penedes varietals: Parellada, Macabeo, Xarel-lo, and Chardonnay.

Two more announcements:

–As always, feel free to bring a $10 donation instead of a bottle. Our treasurer Jason informs us that wine club funds are getting low. We don’t want to run a deficit, and with a recession imminent, we need your donations more than ever.

–The following is a very interesting article concerning perceptions regarding price of wine versus quality of wine. Please read it and be prepared to discuss it on Wednesday.

Find and chill a delicious white blend (or a crisp $10 bill), do your homework, and put on your game face! It’s wine club ’08, baby! This is our year! Woo-hooooo!!!!