Notes & queries

Each month our ex­perts an­swer read­ers’ wine queries and share their knowl­edge

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Whiter shade of pink

I’ve seen sev­eral still blancs de noir from

Pinot Noir and other grapes like Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon – are they just a wine­mak­ing gim­mick and as bad as white Zin­fan­del? Are there any good ones you can rec­om­mend? Steve Richard­son, London SW19

Anne Kre­biehl MW replies: Red wine grapes such as Tem­pranillo, Mer­lot, Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon and Pinot Noir have white flesh and their wines only get their colour from be­ing fer­mented on their skins. If they are pressed straight af­ter har­vest, with­out any mac­er­a­tion on the skins, they can be turned into a blanc de noir. In the­ory, these wines can be har­vested ear­lier, be­cause they do not re­quire the same skin ripeness as wines fer­mented on skins, there­fore they can po­ten­tially be lighter and fresher and quite in keep­ing with the ever-so-slightly blush style.

As al­ways, qual­ity will de­pend on the care taken when farm­ing and mak­ing the wine. The­o­ret­i­cally, still blancs de noir can be su­perb wines if they are pur­pose-made. Some are made from younger vines that do not have the req­ui­site vine age and con­cen­tra­tion to go into a pre­mium red, while oth­ers are made from less fash­ion­able va­ri­eties – say Dorn­felder in Ger­many – which might be a bit of a hard sell as a red. Vini­fied white and la­belled as blanc de noir, they take on a new, chic per­son­al­ity. The method also pro­vides a bit of flex­i­bil­ity for wine­mak­ers in re­gions where red wines are pre­dom­i­nant.

The best Pinot Noir-based ex­am­ple I’ve ever tasted was Weingut Joh. Bapt. Schäfer’s Blanc de Noir 2015 from Nahe in Ger­many (www.jb­swein.de). An­other very good, crisp wine I’ve re­cently en­joyed is Ak­itu’s Pinot Noir Blanc 2019 from Cen­tral Otago in New Zealand (£32£36 Har­vey Ni­chols, NY Wines of Cam­bridge, The Cham­pagne Co, The Wine Re­serve).

Pink, Span­ish style

What is clarete?

Sasha Thomkins, by email

Darren Smith replies: Not to be con­fused with claret (Bordeaux) or Clairette (the south­ern French grape va­ri­ety), clarete is a wine style sim­i­lar to, but with sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences from, rosé. It has deep roots in Rioja but is a well-recog­nised style across Spain.

While in some re­gions clarete is en­shrined in de­nom­i­nación de ori­gen reg­u­la­tions (in Rioja DOCa, for ex­am­ple, clarete must have a min­i­mum of 25% red grapes), in oth­ers it is not recog­nised as an of­fi­cial style.

Clarete is made by fer­ment­ing red and white grapes to­gether. This pro­duces a wine that may be any­thing from pale pink to deep gar­net in colour, de­pend­ing on mac­er­a­tion time, the grape va­ri­eties used and ra­tio of white grapes to red.

Clarete tends to have more struc­ture, depth and tex­ture than rosé, ow­ing to the longer mac­er­a­tion time and, of­ten, age­ing in wood.

Truf­fle match?

Can you rec­om­mend any wines that will go well with truf­fles?

Han­nah Sut­ton, by email

Piotr Pi­etras MS replies: Truf­fle flavours can dom­i­nate del­i­cate, neu­tral white wines and, the other way round, they can be over­pow­ered by very flo­ral, per­fumed whites or bolder, con­cen­trated and youth­ful reds. So, I would stay away from ex­ces­sive fruiti­ness.

Barossa Shi­raz, Cal­i­for­nia Zin­fan­del or Men­doza Mal­bec will all work very well with many other dishes, but truf­fle-based ones need some­thing more sub­tle and more savoury. One of the main things I would keep

in mind is the de­vel­op­ment of the wine. I’d try to find one with some bot­tle age – the ter­tiary aro­mas such as earthy and mush­room notes will work well with the savoury char­ac­ter of truf­fles. If the recipe in­cludes red meat, try an aged Barolo or Bordeaux. The tan­nins and acid­ity will help to cut through the tex­ture of the meat. With fish, con­sider a ma­ture red Bur­gundy or a dry Ries­ling from Al­sace, or from Rhein­gau or Pfalz in Ger­many.

Many peo­ple ask what to serve with truff­fle risotto. This needs some­thing bolder and creamier, and yet fra­grant enough to bal­ance this savoury dish – a lightly oaked Chardon­nay from Bur­gundy or Cal­i­for­nia, or a Marsan­nebased Her­mitage blanc, for in­stance.

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