Tag Archives: Pinot Noir

Savoyarde Wines: Not To Be Underestimated

by Ian Blackshaw

My wife and I have just spent a few days staying in a friend’s apartment in Le Grand Bornand, a winter and summer resort in the Haute Savoie, and actually enjoyed some warm sunny weather (30+ degrees centigrade!), unlike the Pas de Calais, where the weather pattern continues to be rain, rain and more rain! When will Summer arrive the locals cry in despair?

The Haute Savoie and the Savoie (Departements 74 & 73), which are located in the French Western Alps and form part of the Rhone-Alps Region, produce a wide range and style of wines, including sparkling wines. The one from Ayze, which bears its name and grown above Bonneville in the Arve valley, is particularly interesting, if a little stringent for some palates.

The traditional capital of the Savoie is Chambery, which is an important centre for the Continue reading “Savoyarde Wines: Not To Be Underestimated” »

Pink Champagne for Valentines Day

by Ian Blackshaw

With St Valentine’s Day – Le Jour d’Amour as the French, stereotypically, prefer to call it! – looming on the horizon, I thought I would pen a few lines about Pink Champagne, which is a favourite drink to celebrate the day – not only in France, but throughout the world!

Pink Champagne is made in the Champagne wine region of France by one of two methods.

Pinot Noir grapes

Either red wine is added to white wine until the preferred color is reached; or the skins of the black grapes – champagne is usually made from two-third black grapes and one-third white – are left with the juice after pressing, which dyes it a light red, or pink, colour. The latter method – using the grape skins as a kind of dye – is the most commonly used one and, indeed, is, generally, the preferred method for producing pink champagne – also, more correctly, known as Rose Champagne.

Most Champagne Houses produce Pink Champagne, so there is a wide variety to choose from – ranging from the great names – ‘les grades marques’ – to the lesser ones, to suit, of course, one’s pocket.

One of the great names to conjure with is Laurent Perrier, whose Rose Champagne is excellent and, apparently, the favourite tipple of Prince Charles – presumably Camilla likes it too! It is also liked very much by our two sons, who order it on every conceivable celebratory occasion at, of course, our expense!

Incidentally, Laurent Perrier was the first Champagne House to use the Chardonnay grape in the production of champagne. As far as Pink Champagne is concerned, Laurent Perrier uses only the Pinot Noir grapes, which are picked by hand and only the ripest.

This gives the wine its characteristic fruitiness, and some Champagne lovers find it too sweet. However, some producers of Pink Champagne are able to vary the sweetness.

The wine is kept in barrels for four years before being bottled. And the distinctive bottle used by Laurent Perrier dates from Henry V times.

So, go one, spoil yourself and indulge in some Pink Champagne in the name of St Valentine, whose existence, by the way, is surrounded by mystery and myth, apart from the fact that there may well have been at least three St Valentine’s to celebrate!


by Ian Blackshaw

It is not only the soil and climatic conditions that give wines their particular characteristics and flavours (gout de terroir), but also the grape variety (cepage) used in their production. There are more than 500 grape varieties used in the production of wine!

Chardonnay grapes after harvesting

Chardonnay grapes after harvesting


Pinot Noir grapes

According to wine experts, the well-known Chardonnay grape is the greatest dry white wine grape in the world. But not everybody likes Chardonnay – my sister-in-law, who prefers white wine to red, does not like Chardonnay, but prefers Sauvignon Blanc wine from the Loire region, with its dry aromatic flavour.

The Chardonnay grape is used in the production of the finest white Burgundies, such as Montrachet, Pouilly Fuisse and St Veran. It is also one of the three grape varieties used in the production of Champagne, along with Pinot Noir, with which it is often erroneously thought to be a member of the same family, and Pinot Meunier.

Another popular and widely used grape variety in wine-making in France is Gamay. It is the grape variety used in the production of wine in the Beaujolais wine region and, due to the vinification process (maceration carbonique) has a distinctive pear drop aroma.

An abundance of Gamay grapes

An abundance of Gamay grapes

The Merlot grape variety is use in the production of wine in the Bordeaux wine region and has a distinctive cherry flavour. It is the chief grape variety in the famous Chateau Petrus, the top name in Pomerol. It also combines effectively with Cabernet Sauvignon – a veritable versatile, noble and rich red wine grape variety with its predominant blackcurrant flavour – and Cabernet Franc to produce some of the finest classic Clarets, particularly from the Medoc wine area of Bordeaux.

Of other white wine grape varieties, mention should perhaps also be made of Sylvaner and Muscat – the one producing dry and the other sweet wines, especially dessert wine. The Sylvaner, originally from Austria, is now firmly established in the Alsace wine region of France and produces dry white wines with good acidity. Rather like Chardonnay, the Muscat grape variety is a very versatile one used in the production of mainly sweet wines, giving them their distinctive grapey/fruity flavour – a good and popular example being the Muscat Beaumes de Venise from the Southern Rhone.

Taking a lead from the New World wine producers, French producers are now marketing single grape variety wines, known as ‘varietal wines’ usually displaying a picture of the grape variety on the bottle label.

Although, apart from Chardonnay and Merlot, I much prefer a blend (cuvee) (literally from several cuves (wine vats)) of the main French wine grape varieties. But, like everything else related to wine and its enjoyment, it is always a matter of personal taste!

After all, one person’s meat is another person’s poison – as the old saying has it!