Spoilt for choice with blended whites
People in the wine business tell me blended white wines are hard to sell. This is puzzling. Yes, it’s easier for most people to comprehend the simple concept of one grape variety per bottle – especially if you’re not a wine nerd.
A couple of recent tastings alerted me to the tremendous choices available in Australian blended whites, especially those employing the Rhône Valley varieties – marsanne, roussanne, viognier. There are also the Alsace-style blends of such grapes as pinot gris, riesling and perhaps chardonnay and/or sauvignon blanc. And then you have the northern Italian blends modelled on those you’d find in Friuli, and Quealy’s Pobblebonk is the classic example.
This Mornington Peninsula dry white is composed – very deliberately – from pinot grigio, tocai friulano, chardonnay and two aromatic varieties, moscato giallo and riesling.
Says winemaker Kathleen Quealy:
“Pinot grigio hits the palate first in a burst of bright-eyed acidity, ably reinforced by the muscular acidity of chardonnay. Friulano, with its penchant for skin-contact, bestows texture and depth. Moscato giallo and riesling are Pobblebonk’s aromatic double-act. Crucially, both can be picked at 9% alcohol, harbouring acidity, fruit character and perfume.”
Picking these two early permits them to arrive in the winery at the same time as the other three, enabling them to be fermented together. Co-fermentation is often said to help the integration of the blend.
The most common blends are those involving Rhône varieties. Some, like Yeringberg, have been doing this for ages, but there’s currently a resurgence of these wines. Rutherglen Estates has two versions, the best being the Renaissance label (viognier roussanne marsanne), but Shelley’s Block also delivers the goods. Others include The Story (Westgate Vineyard Blanc Marsanne Roussanne Viognier), Tarrawarra (roussanne marsanne viognier), Torbreck (The Steading Blanc marsanne viognier roussanne), Turkey Flat (marsanne roussanne viognier) and of course Yeringberg (marsanne roussanne). These wines tend to taste rich, soft and complex, with generally moderate acidities, generous flavours, silky textures and some are enhanced by subtle barrel-fermented and lees-aged characters. They add extra interest to the wine-drinking diet.
There are of course any number of single varietals of the Rhône grapes, but that’s a story for another day.