Wine Tasting Club – Savagnin
There are probably a fair number of you out there who have never heard of the Savagnin grape. Don’t worry – you’re not alone. In fact, you certainly would be hard-pressed to find a bottle of wine made exclusively from Savagnin in your local liquor store. But, this elusive grape has an interesting and somewhat mysterious past.
Savagnin is a variety of white grape. Grown primarily in the Jura region of eastern France, its fame results from the fact that it’s used almost exclusively to make Vin Jaune (yellow wine). The plants are hardy enough that the grapes can be left to ripen on the vine until December. After pressing, it’s left to age in casks under a flor, which is a type of yeast that forms a film that lies flat on the surface of the wine, for a minimum of six years, giving it a very sherry-like quality. The resulting wine tastes slightly briny with green olive and hints of toasted almond. (For more on Sherry, see “Sips ‘N Bites,” Tidings, April 2009.)
Most of the Savagnin that’s grown in France makes its way into Vin Jaune, but a small percentage adds its own particular aromatics to other wines. Read the labels closely and you’ll find it added to both sparkling and still wines. Ontario’s Hillebrand Winery, for example, is using it in its Trius White (see Final Word, Tidings, July 2009).
Savagnin, related to the Gewürztraminer grape (its more popular and aromatic cousin) was forced into the limelight last year when a French expert decided to do DNA testing on some Australian grapes. For over a decade, Australian winemakers had been producing wine from what they thought was the highly sought after Spanish Albarino grape. To their surprise, the results of the testing revealed that those Spanish grapes were, in fact, French – Savagnin, to be precise.
Next Month: Decanting