Warm Weather Whites – Part 2
As warmer weather and summertime approaches, many feel a strong attraction to the lovely white wines produced by Texas vintners. There are many to choose from. Part 1 focused on Viognier, Vermentino, and Roussanne. This Part 2 edition will focus on Marsanne, Picquepoul Blanc, and Grenache Blanc, the other three of the so-called Rhône white varieties that tend to grow well and make delicious wines in the Lone Star State. The owner-partners at 4.0 Cellars – Brennan Vineyards, Lost Oak Winery, and McPherson Cellars – produce wines from these grape varieties, or use them in blends. So many delicious warm weather white wines are available for purchase from 4.0 Cellars (shipping or curbside pickup during these crazy COVID-19 times).
Marsanne originated in the Rhône Valley of southern France in the warm Mediterranean climate. Marsanne produces full-bodied wines with good weight and structure, but with more limited fragrant aromatics than either Roussanne or Viognier. Subtle melon and honeysuckle aromas and flavors are often noted. Commonly there are notes of waxy honeycomb along with nutty and soft mineral flavors. Marsanne is often blended with Roussanne and Viognier, and is used up to 15% in red wine blends (with Syrah) from the famous Hermitage region of the northern Rhône Valley.
Marsanne vines tend to work well in poorer quality soil, but also give relatively low yields of fruit. There are several examples of good Marsanne from Texas, including a bottling by McPherson Cellars in Lubbock, and sold at 4.0 Cellars. Marsanne wines are typically best drunk young within 1-3 years of the vintage.
Picquepoul Blanc (peek-pool blawnk) probably originated in the Rhône Valley of France. There are actually three color mutations of Picquepoul – Blanc, Noir and Gris. The red (noir) version is rarely seen, and is primarily used for blending or in the production of rose’ wines. The gris (grey-pink) version is near non-existent, planted primarily in special vineyards designed to preserve the variety for historical perspective.
Picquepoul Blanc produces lighter-bodied wines with ample acidity. They tend to be crisp and refreshing, especially popular for warm weather sipping (patio or pool “pounders”). Aromas and flavors that are most often found in Picquepoul Blanc include lemon, lime, peach, apricot, and white flower blossoms, all delivered in a package structured with lip-smacking acidity and hints of minerality (think chalk dust or limestone). This natural acidity and mineral-laced finish, accompanied by generally lower alcohol levels in the finished wines, help Picquepoul Blanc to pair extremely well most foods.
Picquepoul Blanc has experienced a recent upsurge in Texas, primarily due to McPherson Cellars winning the prestigious prizes for Best White Rhone Varietal and Best in Show White Wine at the 2016 San Francisco International Wine Competition. The grapes were grown on Timmons Ranch near Brownfield, and both McPherson and Lost Draw Cellars released a Piquepoul Blanc from the 2015 vintage. The 2016, 2017, and 2108 vintages of Piquepoul Blanc from Timmons Ranch have been released by both producers. The 2018 McPherson Cellars Piquepoul Blanc is available now at 4.0 Cellars - a delicious, crisp, refreshing white wine, perfect for warm summer and early fall meals and events.
Grenache Blanc is the result of a natural mutation of the better-known Grenache Noir or Garnacha grape that is believed native to the southern Rhône Valley. Grenache blanc is not nearly so well-known in Texas, and there seem to be a limited number of acres of this grape planted in the Lone Star State. When produced as a varietal wine, it can provide more rounded peach and pineapple fruit aromas and flavors with good acidity and limestone mineral notes. Grenache blanc is most often blended, both in France and Texas, with other Rhône white varieties to produce delicious warm weather whites.
Grenache Blanc vines, like many of the Rhône varieties grown in the U.S., were originally sourced from NovaVine nursery in Paso Robles, CA, the partner of Tablas Creek Winery owned by the Perrin family, proprietors of the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape estate, Ch Beaucastel. The Perrins brought these grapes to the U.S. believing they would thrive in the warm, rocky limestone soils of Paso Robles. They are doing pretty well in Texas, too.
White grapes indigenous to the Rhône Valley in France were the subject of previous Carl’s Corner editions: May-2017 and Sept-2019. And, the following references provided helpful information for these postings.
“The Little Three” by Patrick J. Comiskey, Wine & Spirits, June, 2017, p28-31.
Piquepoul: A Stinger or a Spider, a Beak or a Peak, a blog post by Jane Nickles, The Bubbly Professor, 9-Dec-2016