Allison Levine, Please the Palate: The Beauty of Making White Wines from Red Grapes | Allison Levin

ALLISON LEVINE

To make a white wine, green-skinned grapes are pressed and the skins are removed. If the skins are left with the clear juice for some time, the wine becomes an “orange” or “amber” wine. To make red wine, red grapes are pressed and left with the skins and seeds for some time. To make a rosé wine, the skins only remain with the juice for a few hours to give them only a little color. But what about removing the skins from pressed red grapes to vinify a red grape into white wine?

Making white wine from red grapes is a common practice with sparkling wines. For example, a Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine is made like a white wine but with red grapes, such as Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

While vinification of red grapes into white wine for sparkling wines is common, finding still wines is less common. But recently, I drank red wines vinified in white and I was seduced.

I enjoyed Tolenas Winery Eclipse White Pinot Noir from the Suisun Valley, Two Shepherd Blanc from Cinsault Ancient Vine from Bechthold Vineyard in Lodi and Domaine Carneros Pinot Clair White Pinot Noir from Carneros. There is something about the texture of these wines that stands out. And that made me wonder why we don’t see more still white wines made from red grapes.

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So I reached out to TJ Evans, the Pinot Noir winemaker at Domaine Carneros to find out what inspired him to make a white Pinot Noir. He told me that in 2008 he was in Oregon to visit Jim Prosser of JK Carriere Wines, a fellow winemaker of his. Jim had had fun making white wine from red grapes. TJ was curious and thought he would give it a try too. And, for the last 14 vintages, TJ has made a white Pinot Noir 10 to 12 times.

But the question is, “Why waste a good thing?” As TJ explained, “You’re not kidding unless you can create something that interesting and compelling.”

And that’s what white Pinot Noir is, something that “combines a lot of things, exploration, new flavors/textures and fun. This is such a playful wine. TJ added, “I love Pinot Noir so much, and making bubbles, still red wine, rosé and Pinot blanc has given me lots of ways to see what a varietal can do.”

Plus, said TJ, Pinot blanc is so consumer friendly “because it can appeal to a wide range of wine drinkers, from the curious drinker to the commercial Chardonnay drinker to the Pinot Noir drinker who wants something new.” If you didn’t know what you were drinking, you could guess Marsanne.

TJ recommends trying white Pinot Noir alongside a Chardonnay you like and added, “in the comparison you can really see and taste the role of the oak, the level of acidity and the really smooth texture of the varietal. Pinot Noir.”

For Domaine Carneros Pinot Clair Blanc Pinot Noir, TJ explained that the grape variety, the temperature at the time of picking and the brix level are all important because the biggest challenge is getting the wine to be white.

With a selection of Pinot Noir clones to work with, the Pommard clone, due to its thinner skins, is the base of the wine. He picks the grapes at a level of maturity higher than those used for sparkling wines but not as high as for still red wines. The grapes are picked at night for the less soluble skins and then gently pressed.

Half of the juice is fermented in a concrete egg and the other half in oak barrels. The oak is mostly neutral with only 26% new French oak. The wine spends 14 months on the lees then ages six months in the bottle.






Domaine Carneros Pinot Clair Blanc Pinot Noir.


Photo by Allison Levine


The Pinot Noir Blanc Pinot Clair Domaine Carneros 2019 has an incredibly elegant nose with aromas of apple, pear, lemongrass, citrus, honeydew, honeycomb and subtle notes of red fruits.

On the palate, the wine has body and weight. From the first sip, the wine is juicy. Flavors expand and fill the palate for a beautiful mouthfeel with savory characteristics. The texture of the wine is oily and rich, but it has crisp acidity and a clean finish. It’s a compelling wine that can pair with dishes you might pair with red pinot noir, including salmon, tuna, and risotto.






two shepherds

Two Bergers 2020 Blanc de Cinsault, Old Vine, Bechthold Vineyard.


Allison Levin


Although white wines made from red grapes are not easy to find, I enjoyed the Deux Bergers 2020 Blanc de Cinsault, Ancient Vine, Bechthold Vineyard, Lodi. All the grapes of the bunch spent two hours in the press before undergoing a natural fermentation and resulting in a fresh and gourmet wine with an enticing minerality.

The other white Pinot Noir I have enjoyed recently is the 2020 Tolenas Winery Eclipse White Pinot Noir from the Suisun Valley. Owner Lisa Tenbrink Howard sells her Pinot Noir to the Biltmore Estates in North Carolina for their sparkling wine program. She kept some Pinot Noir in 2017. (The name comes from the 2017 solar eclipse.) As the grapes had low phenolic maturity, having been picked early for sparkling wine, she decided to vinify white wine and have always done so. because.

The grapes are picked and pressed in whole bunches immediately then fermented in 100% stainless steel vats. The wine has aromas of strawberry, cherry, white nectarine and grapefruit, with a hint of watermelon. It has a velvety texture and fresh acidity that lingers on the palate.

White wine made from red grapes is a niche category with a cult following and I am a part of that cult with joy, seeking out white wines made from red grapes wherever I can.

That bottle of wine you bought shouldn’t be wasted. Here are the best ways to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew. Rather than trying to pull the cork out, you should push the cork into the bottle with a blunt object like a wooden spoon. This is the safest way to open a bottle of wine, however, it can leave debris floating in the wine which is not ideal. Another fairly safe option is to use a bicycle or ball pump. Simply stick the needle into the cork and slowly push air through it until the air forces the cork out of the bottle. You should never open a bottle of wine with a knife, coat hanger or lighter, as these options are very dangerous. If you’re not sure you can find a corkscrew, it’s best to opt for the screw cap option.



Allison Levine is the owner of Please The Palate, an event planning and marketing agency. A freelance writer, she contributes to numerous publications while eating and drinking around the world. Allison is also the host of the Wine Soundtrack USA wine podcast and co-host of the Crush On This videos on YouTube. Contact her at [email protected]

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