Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pinot Blanc Doubled

Tonight, I decided to do a bit of a mini tasting. To try and get a bit more of a feeling for varietal profiles and differences, we opened two bottles of Okanagan Pinot Blanc to drink side-by-side. I think both Boo and I were rather surprised by the result.

Same varietal. Same region. Same vintage. Quite different taste.

398. 2007 Sumac Ridge Black Sage Pinot Blanc (VQA Okanagan Valley)

399. 2008 Tangled Vines Pinot Blanc (VQA Okanagan Valley)

I've written previously (albeit briefly) about Canada's (and British Columbia's) first female Wine Master, Barbara Philip and her interest in Pinot Blanc in BC and about the possibility of working towards and promoting the varietal as a signature grape for the province. In obtaining her MW designation, she wrote her thesis on Pinot Blanc and just such a possibility.

A couple of years back, Barb and her husband, Iain (an expert and fixture in the Vancouver wine scene of his own right), debated the values and detractions of Pinot Blanc being BC's star on the world wine scene. The discussions revolved around how the varietal is well suited to grow in the province and how it can result in a good wine. The big issue may be, however, that the wine-buying public doesn't tend to get excited about Pinot Blanc and, as such, wineries are loathe to stake their business models on the grape when they can just as easily produce a Pinot Gris or more marketable white.

Ironically, that being one of the very reasons that BC winemakers aren't inspired to present Pinot Blanc as a signature grape for the region could be the very reason why the grape just might be able to raise the profile of the province in the world's eyes. If no other region collectively strives to produce high end Pinot Blanc, BC's ability to do so could be the ticket.

If these two wines are indication, the varietal, like Riesling, can be successfully produced in varying styles. I don't know any details about the two wineries' differences in cropping or viticulture; however, there was a big difference in their respective vinifications. Whereas Tangled Vines went with stainless steel fermentation, Sumac Ridge chose to barrel ferment and age their wine.

Boo and I both found that we preferred what we found to be a purer fruit in the Tangled Vines. Compared to the Sumac Ridge, the Tangled Vines had just a touch of sweetness on the finish that we enjoyed over the more austere Sumac Ridge. Paired with the evening's trout, both would have passed the muster if we'd opened them separately. It was interesting though to try them side by side.

Down the road, I may have to try some comparisons of BC Pinot Blanc and the other white varietals that maybe get a bit more attention on the BC wine front. Our thoughts won't carry the weight of a Wine Master, but I wouldn't mind putting some thought towards reaching a personal conclusion on the topic of a BC signature grape.

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