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