Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, Sangiovese. The names of these grapes inspire images of red hues ranging from autumn auburn to vibrant vermilion; tastes of smoke, berries, cherries, and chocolate; textures ranging from tongue gripping to smooth satin. Yet we owe these sensory impressions largely to the skin of these grapes, and the time the juice of each grape spends fermenting in contact with its skin.
We are familiar with the practice of making a white wine from a traditionally red-wine grape when it comes to Champagne, which frequently is made at least in part from Pinot Noir. Outside of this, though, the idea of a white wine with any of the names above seems counter intuitive, or just plain odd.
We have on our shelves, however, two exceptional examples of the white vinification of red wine grapes that may convince you to become color-blind.
Rainoldi’s Zapel is mostly Nebbiolo with a bit of Sauvignon Blanc. Fermented at low temperatures – to enhance the aromatic, fresh characteristics that the grapes naturally lend to the wine – and aged for a few months in stainless steel tanks, this wine is lightly yeasty and lemony on the nose. In your mouth, it feels like biting into a ripe Granny Smith apple – both crisp and full with a good acidity. Just a little basil and sage on the finish make this a wonderful wine to enjoy with meal of simple, delicate flavors.
The 100% Pinot Noir grapes for Hexamer’s Spätburgunder Weißherbst (Spätburgunder is the German name for Pinot Noir) are hand-picked and vinified at very cold temperatures using only natural yeasts. Just a blush of peach in color, with gentle aromas of almonds, this wine is slightly frizzante, bittersweet orange in flavor, and finishes with a tingly bite. While this would be a perfect aperitif, it also would also stunningly compliment some richer desserts – think custards and buttercream-filled pastries.
For a fun experiment – pair one of these head-to-head with its red vinified counterpart and see if you can tease out components of flavor, properties of texture, or other characteristics that are indicative of the juice of the grape and transcend its skin and the winemaking process.
Rainoldi Zapel and Hexamer Spätburgunder Weissherbst 2013 are both available at Formaggio Kitchen South End, or for pick-up at Formaggio Kitchen Camrbidge with one day’s notice.