Not all in wine is black and white

Today's tasting features two white wines made with red grapes, and a white wine made from a white grape descended from a red grape. Confused? You needn't be.

The vast majority of grapes - whether they be white, red or anything in between - have white flesh. The colour that you see in red wines comes from pigments called anthocyanins that are found in the skins of red grapes.

The grape juice (must) is fermented with the skins and seeds and, depending on the winemaker, possibly the stalks. The skin pigments slowly leach into the fermenting wine from the skins and the pips and stalks add tannins.

There are a tiny handful of red grape varieties collectively known as teinturier grapes that have red flesh, but these are very rarely seen here.

To make a white wine with red grapes is as simple as crushing the grapes to release their juice and then removing the grape skins (seeds and stalks), which leaves white grape must ready to ferment.

You may not have been aware of it, but you have been drinking wines made this way when you enjoy Champagne, or methode traditionelle wines.

These are generally a combination of chardonnay and pinot noir grapes (sometimes along with another red grape, pinot meunier).

As an aside, wines labelled Blanc de Blancs (literally white of whites) are purely from chardonnay, while Blanc de Noirs (white of blacks) are made using one or both of the two red grapes.

White grapes descended from reds are also more common than you might think, as grapevines are notorious for mutating in this way, sometimes creating a grey (gris) version or a white one (blanc).

The most famous versions of these in New Zealand are pinot gris and pinot blanc, which are ancient mutations from pinot noir.


2017 Wooing Tree The Blondie
Price: $28
Rating: Excellent

Bold nose with fresh summer fruits, gum, melon and honeyed perfume leaping out of the glass. Textural, supple and mouthfilling yet with freshness and lift coming from the nicely judged acidity, showing deft balance; fruit sweet yet finishing dry.

An inventive wine style that belies its pinot noir origins: exuberant, playful and ready to enjoy now.




2017 Te Kano Blanc de Noir
Rating: Very good 

Subtle yet attractive nose that grows in the glass, offering white flowers, dusty stones and hints of gum. The palate leads with a lanolin character backed by red delicious apples and spice: a little fruit-pith chewiness to the mid palate before finishing quite dry. 

This rounds up and softens with time: great with a cheese platter on a summer’s day.





2016 Tohu Single Vineyard Marlborough Pinot Blanc
Price: $25
Rating: Excellent to outstanding 

Smoky toasty nose with nuances of quince, stonefruit and flinty schist. Richly textural palate, really mouthfilling, filled with apricot and stonefruit, a citrusy twist on the close. A whisper left field yet fascinating and complex, the fruit sweetness finishing dry on the long, long close that hangs in the mouth.

Utterly delicious.

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