Excuse me sir – but are you noble? Part 3

Excuse me sir – but are you noble? Part 3

2nd Apr 2010

Thewineremedy team gives us an overview of the “noble” white grape varieties.





Not exactly the flavour of the month at the moment – its global presence has led to a certain amount of Chardonnay weariness, culminating in the commonly heard ‘ABC’ Slogan: Anything but Chardonnay, please!


There is undeniably a lot of poor Chardonnay being produced, alcoholic, syrupy and blowsy wines that lack structure and definition. To be fair however, this white burgundy grape when grown and vinified carefully is capable of producing an astonishing variety of wine styles, we would be forgiven for not recognising Chablis and oaked new world Chardonnay as being from the same grape variety. Unlike Riesling and Sauvignon Banc (see below) Chardonnay does not have a particularly strong flavour of its own, which is one reason why it responds so well to barrel fermentation and/or oak ageing. Chardonnay comes in all guises, minerally, sharp and refreshingly unoaked, rich and buttery or even sweet


Chablis is rightly held up as the paradigm for unoaked, cooler climate Chardonnay, although some producers do use oak in the fermentation and maturation of their wines. Good unoaked Chablis is a delight, pure, clear cut wines with a distinctive apple citrus and mineral character. Chardonnay from the Cote’d or, Côte Chalonnaise and the Macon in Burgundy are broader, softer wines with a distinct butteryness and ripe fruit character in some areas, Puligny Montrachet for example. Warmer climate Chardonnay often lacks sufficient acidity and produces wines with tropical fruit, pineapple and passion fruit. Oak and bottle age leads to a lovely honeyed quality in the wines, with toast and Caramel flavours.




The unsung hero of the wine world – Riesling can produce a massive variety of wines, with great character and substantial ageing potential. While Riesling wines are often light in body they are strong in flavour. The best wines strike an impressive balance between intense concentration and freshness, due to the grapes high levels of acidity. It tends to be aromatically strong and unoaked, reflecting minerals, flowers, lime and petrol depending on its provenance and age. Riesling makes superb sweet wines in its homeland Germany and fine dry whites in the Alsace region of France. Widely planted in Austria, Australia and increasingly New Zealand. Thankfully, Riesling is gradually receiving the recognition it deserves and is becoming more fashionable.


Riesling responds to cooler climates with aromas of green apple, melon and lime, moving towards grapefruit and peach in warmer areas. Riesling can benefit enormously from age – young Riesling, especially if completely dry can taste hard and austere but over time will mellow in texture. An intense bouquet will develop of honey, buttered toast and petrol and sometime raisins and spice. It pays to keep very young wines from a good vintage and producer for a few years in the bottle. It will be worth the wait!


Sauvignon Blanc


Another major favourite amongst thewineremedy community – for this we largely have New Zealand to thank for. Marlborough in New Zealand’s South Island might now lay claim to being Sauvignon’s true homeland – remarkable really as the first vines were planted as recently as 1973! Yet today its wines are held in great esteem and are frequent touchstones for the grape. Piercingly aromatic, most people fall in love with the powerful flavours which emanate from Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Its original home in France is the Loire region, particularly in and around Sancerre and Pouilly –sur – Loire where it varies considerably according to the vintage. Grown in too warm a climate it can lose its aroma and acidity and is too heavy for our taste in much of California and Australia. In Bordeaux it is traditionally blended with the Semillon grape for both dry and sweet wines.


Sauvignon Blanc has a naturally high acidity and in cooler climates produces wines with bracing aromas of gooseberry and blackcurrant leaf – underipe it has an unpleasant vegetal quality. Good Sancerre has a mineral and chalky edge to the wine – warmer climates like New Zealand produce pungent wines with tropical fruit flavours. These are refreshing wines for immediate pleasure rather than ageing and their popularity abounds!


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