Steve Richardson, London SW19, asks: 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?
Anne Krebiehl MW, a freelance wine writer, consultant and author of The Wines of Germany, 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.jbs-wein.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).