- The grape can trace its history in French winemaking to the 9th century. In its early days in France, the grape was mainly used to make sweet sparkling and dessert wines.
- Now the grape is best-known for Southern African wines. Its history on that continent goes back to 1655, when it was first planted by the father of the South African nation—Jan Van Riebeeck.
- Like in France, the grape was originally used to make a different beverage than what it is now known for. Chenin Blanc grapes were used in South Africa’s booming brandy production.
- When the South African wine industry truly began to grow and gain acclaim, the country was looking for a signature varietal. Enter Chenin Blanc.
- With some experimentation, South African winemakers were able to create a wine very different from sweet dessert wines or brandy. The Chenin Blanc you most often drink is a result of this South African experimentation. Similar to Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc is zesty, crisp, and dry.
Looking to try a South African Chenin Blanc? We have recommendations for you.
MAN Family Wines Chenin Blanc- a crisp, expressive, medium-bodied wine with vibrant aromas of quince and tropical fruit. ON the palate, fresh stone fruit and apple flavors are backed by refreshing acidity and mineralogy. Pairs well with poultry, shellfish, and vegetable dishes.
ESSAY Chenin Blanc- a medium-bodied white blend with fruit salad, guava, and melon aromas and a refreshing mineral-acidity. Pairs well with a wide range of foods, especially sushi, oysters, Asian curries, sweet-and-sour dishes, and summer salads.
Reyneke Chenin Blanc - a bright straw hue with a lovely bouquet of fresh limes and citrus peel followed through by fruit sorbet floral undertones.
Tormentoso Chenin Blanc- intense aromas of apricots and canned white peaches with touches of coconut milk and vanilla from the oak. The palate is packed with ripe yellow fruit, apple core and quince flavors, with blanched refreshing acidity and tangy finish.
We also have two great French Chenin Blanc recommendations for you.
Pichot Le Peu de la Moriette Vouvray- well-balanced and crisp with distinct notes of pear, lemon, pineapple and honey (Restaurant Wine). Creamed pear, ginger and quince flavors...refreshing and focused (Wine Spectator).
Pichot Coteau de la Biche Vouvray Sec- dry and racy with a fresh quinine streak, but there's a succulent edge too, as fig and pear fruit fill out through the finish, where a lovely green almond note hangs on (Wine Spectator).
Warmer weather and longer days call for picnics, late nights on the porch, and time spent with friends. International Sauvignon Blanc Day was last week and we were inspired to pair some snacks and sauv blancs perfect for slow afternoons and breezy nights.
Wine and cheese go together like peanut butter and jelly. For our first snack and sauv blanc pairing, Sauvignon Blancs pair brilliantly withsofter cheeses—goat’s milk, yogurt, crème fraiche. Beloved Green's Radish and Crème Fraîche crostini are a simple, light snack that look lovely on a plate.
Sauvignon Blancs are often described as “herbaceous” or “vegetal” so it makes sense that they would pair nicely with vegetarian dishes. Try pairing the Sauv Blanc with dishes that allow a little more of the wine’s acidity to shine through. This green goddess hummus from Cookie and Kate is a flavorful twist on the classic snack.
Like we mentioned, Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with vegetables and pairs well with cheeses. No surprise, it pairs well with vegetable AND cheese dishes. These Asparagus and Goat Cheese Mini Quiches from Southern Living are wonderful for brunch (who says bloody marys and mimosas are the only brunch beverages?) and store well.
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most versatile white wines available. Perfect for the warmer weather, the variety of Sauvignon Blancs on the market-- Old World and New World-- mean you have plenty of options.
- Sauvignon Blanc is the world’s 8th most planted wine grape.
- No surprise, the grape hails from France. There the wine often takes its name from the region, not the varietal. Sancerre—not Sauvignon Blanc. So when you’re drinking a Sancerre, know it is from the same grape as a Sauvignon Blanc.
- Originally the grape was used in other blends, usually to make sweeter desert wines. In the 20th century Sancerre found popularity in Parisian bars and bistros and the success spread around the globe.
- New Zealand is now one of the most well-known and well-loved producers of Sauvignon Blanc. 90% of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are from Marlborough, the wine region on the northernmost end of the island.
- If you read our blog on Malbec World Day, you’ll remember a nasty little bug called phylloxera that destroyed most of the French Malbec vines. The Sauvignon Blanc vines in New Zealand are all planted phylloxera-resistant rootstock. So take heart, your favorite Sauv Blanc most likely won’t suffer the fate of French Malbecs of old.
- France and New Zealand aren’t the only two countries providing the world with the easy-drinking wine. Italy, Chile, and South Africa are also major producers. (L to R: MAN, South Africa; Reyneke, South Africa; Gradis'ciutta, Italy; Cono Sur Chile)
- French Sancerre (also known as Pouilly Fumé and occasionally Sauvignon Blanc) are typically full of mineral and citrus flavors. ⬇️
- South African Sauvignon Blancs have balanced flavors with a light-medium body and acidity, in between mineral and herbaceous. ⬇️
- Chilean Sauvignon Blancs are marked by their citrus and green flavors and juicy high acidity. ⬇️
- New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs have intense tropical green flavors, a nice mix of fruity and herbaceous. ⬇️
- Italian Sauvignon Blancs, also “Old World” like French Sancerres, have a medium body with stone fruit, floral fragrances. ⬇️
- Whatever your preference, you can find just the Sauvignon Blanc for your taste. This is a wine easily enjoyed with or without food.
Like we've written about before, rosé has become a staple in wine racks and on wine lists across the world. One of the reasons it is so popular is its versatility. Rosé finds itself somewhere in the middle between red wine and white wine.
Mark Oldman said it best:
"To achieve rosé nirvana, follow my 'Rosé Rule of P': serve it with anyting pink–lobster, shrimp, ham, pork–or anything Provençal–such as bouillabaisse, salade Nicoise, or grilled sardines"
We've rounded up a few recipes for you- both pink and Provençal- and a few of our favorite rosés- also pink and (mostly) Provençal.
Since Monday was Malbec World Day, keep the celebration going and try one of these tasty recipes with your favorite Malbec.
One simple technique for pairing food and wine is to practice regional pairing. Having Italian food? Try an Italian wine. This certainly isn’t the only way to pair food and it’s not foolproof, but it’s a good template.
Since Malbec has really flourished in Argentina and become the signature varietal for the country, what better recipe to start with than steak—an Argentinian staple. At peak beef consumption in 1956, Argentinians consumed 222 pounds of beef for every man, woman, and child. Now Argentina hovers around roughly 120 pounds of beef per capita (compare that to US consumption rate of 79.3 lbs per capita and the fact only ten countries in the entire world consume 50+ lbs per capita).
SKIRT STEAK WITH CHIMICHURRI SAUCE
Continuing in our homage to beef-fanatic Argentina, GRIDDLED GAUCHO STEAK WITH BREAD-AND-BASIL SALAD is another excellent pairing with Malbec.
Moving away a little bit from the idea of regional pairing (but sticking with the carnivore theme), try a quintessential American cheeseburger. The lush Malbec will really bring out the flavors of this FAKE SHACK BURGER.
While instinctually Malbec and meat go hand-in-hand, don’t be afraid to try a vegetable dish, like this SWEET POTATO, BLACK BEAN, SPINACH QUESADILLA
Finally, one more veggie recipe for those not so Argentinian in their meat consumption habits. This AUBERGINE STEW from Jamie Oliver is a great meat alternative.
- April 17 is officially Malbec World Day!
- Why April 17? On that day in 1853, with the support of Mendoza’s governor Pedro Pascual Segura, a bill was submitted to the Provincial Legislature for the foundation of a Quinta Normal and a School of Agriculture. The bill was enacted as law by the House of Representatives on September 6th, 1853.
- Malbec has a history dating back hundreds of years. It was served at the wedding of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henri II. Happen to have forgotten their anniversary? We have you covered. 1152 (over 800 years ago).
- Was once known as "black wine"...for fairly obvious reasons. Malbec is one of the darkest wines you can find. TintoNegro literally means Black Wine.
- While you might associate Malbec most closely with South America (and Argentina in particular), Malbec traces its origins back to France and was once the most widely planted grape in the country and found in many Bordeaux blends.
- In 1870, phylloxera destroyed vineyards in France and ruined the Malbec vines in Bordeaux. This same pest has never taken hold in Argentina.
- By the end of the 19th century, viticulture had boomed in Argentina (in part thanks to Italian and French immigrants) and so did Malbec, which adapted quickly to the varied terroirs of Argentina.
- Now Malbec only accounts for about 10,000 acres in Cahors and about 100,000 acres in Argentina. Malbec can also be found in countries throughout the world including the US and New Zealand, but Argentina has nearly 70% of all acres of Malbec in the world.
- Malbec vines are very sensitive to weather and pests (like phylloxera). They've thrived in high-altitude Argentina.
- Argentina is now the 5th largest wine producer in the world.
- Argentinian Malbecs are fruit-forward, plummy, and velvety with prominent new oak.
- French Malbecs have more structure, firmer tannins, an inky dark quality, and are earthier.
- BOTH have essential Malbec flavors of blueberry, cherry, and plum.
Every season is rosé season, but as the weather warms (well...we hope it's warming up wherever you are!) and flowers bloom we find ourselves craving the pink libation a little more than usual. We've collected some of our favorite rosé recipes for you to try. If you want more inspiration, head over to our Pinterest page!
Rosé Lemonade with La Vieille Ferme Rosé
Raspberry Rosé Sorbet with Marqués de Cáceres Rosé
Sparkling Rosé Blueberry Floats with Cono Sur Sparkling Rosé
It’s hard to walk into your local wine shop or supermarket and not notice the stunning rows of jewel-hued rosés. And considering the boom in popularity that rosé has enjoyed the past several years, there’s a strong chance that these beauties ranging in color from the palest of pinks to outrageous magentas will be featured prominently. As we explored in a recent blog post, rosé has gone from being just another wine to a cultural phenomenon in a few short years. However, most people, even the most ardent fans, have little idea of rosé’s fascinating journey from grape to glass.
While researching this article, I was fortunate to speak with two winemakers very knowledgeable about rosé production, Chelsea Franchi of Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, CA and Simon Batarseh of August Kesseler in the Rheingau region of Germany.
It is a common misconception that rosé is made by simply combining red and white wines together. While this technically can occur, it is quite rare when making quality rosé. Franchi, who oversees much of the rosé production at Tablas Creek, started our conversation speaking about the two most common methods of producing rosé: saignée and direct press.
The saignée method involves bleeding off juice from red wine tanks before it has had a chance to take on too much color from the red wine skins (this process is called maceration). This labor-intensive method is interesting and controversial because it is often used as a way to enhance and concentrate the remaining red wine. Many rosé advocates consider it an affront to rosé because it is the by-product of red wine production. However, both Franchi and Batarseh praised this method for contributing intensity of flavors and for the amount of input they have while utilizing it. At Tablas Creek, the juice sits on the skins for approximately 24-72 hours before about 20% is bled off and subjected to a cold fermention. Most of this wine then becomes their serious, darker colored rosé called Dianthus (named for the flowers commonly known as “pinks”). Dianthus is generally Mourvèdre-based, a nod to the rosés of Southern France, specifically the Bandol area. Franchi attributes this wine’s watermelon essence to the Mourvèdre used in the blend. At Kesseler about 20% of the juice from wonderful up to 80-year-old Pinot Noir vines is bled off then fermented. Batarseh leans on this wine to contribute color and tannins to the final blend.
The other common method of making rosé involves direct pressing of the grapes. This method is the most common and generally is considered the benchmark for crafting quality rosé. Both Franchi and Batarseh praised the fact that crop levels, sugar levels, acidities, and harvest dates can all be controlled in the vineyard and tailored to make the absolute best rosé. They both also press the juice off the grape skins without any maceration time resulting in a stunning pale pink color. Often you will see this wine labeled as vin gris. At Tablas Creek, this limpid direct press juice is destined to become their acclaimed Patelin de Tablas Rosé. Franchi said that they prefer to co-ferment their Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise, and Syrah juice for this wine. This wine is definitely styled in the tradition of the great Provençal rosés with its dominant bright strawberry notes coming from the majority Grenache. At Kesseler the direct press juice is blended with the saignée juice for the final wine. Batarseh likes the interplay of qualities produced by using both methods, noting that the direct press juice brings a light, bright, acid-driven quality to the final wine.
I asked Franchi what her favorite grape is to work with in the production of rosé. After some thought she answered, “Grenache,” and referenced the absolutely heavenly, heady aroma released by the vats of fermenting Grenache in the cellar. Indeed, when studying many of the great rosé-producing areas of the world, Grenache often seems to pop up. It makes sense when considering that Grenache is a very thin-skinned grape and overall has less color-lending phenolic compounds than other red grapes. Franchi also referenced the little-known Rhone Valley grape Counoise as contributing a nice softness and darker red fruit flavors to their rosés as well as those produced in Southern France. Often Syrah is also added also its wonderful spicy character.
At Kesseler, Batarseh works exclusively with Pinot Noir for rosé production. Once again we find a grape with thin skin and low levels of phenolic compounds. It’s no surprise that in most of the world’s great Pinot Noir regions there is also usually concurrent rosé production (think Marsannay in Burgundy, Oregon, Germany, and the Loire Valley). Producers in these regions get the dual benefits of producing a gorgeous berry-scented rosé and intensifying the often light juice destined for their Pinot Noir bottlings. At Kesseler, considered one of Germany’s premier Pinot Noir specialists, their rosé shows beautiful berry and cherry notes while maintaining an elegant and exciting tension. It’s definitely refreshing but has the stuffing for year-round drinking.
Next time you’re buying a bottle of rosé for the lunch table, pool, or just a summer evening with friends, talk with the wine specialist or turn that bottle over and read the back label. Besides the important visual clues from the color, you’ll gain some great perspective on what’s in a bottle by simply knowing how it’s made. And don’t be embarrassed for buying it!
As Franchi told me, “The stigma is over. Rosé is one of the most delicious, versatile, and food friendly wines out there.” Think pink!!