Welcome back to our series on making wines based on taste profile, where this month we’re talking about our gold-medal winning Profile One. We think our wines have their own personalities and as we’ve described Profile One before, she’s the friend who shows up at your door, arms full of wine and food, ready to while away the afternoon sitting on the back deck chatting and playing lawn games.
So how is this lovely wine different than her varietal sisters? Most wines are a blend of some sort, but when your art is blending, like it is here at BOXT, we can take your taste experience to a whole new level. The art of what we do lies in taking aspects of what you like in several different varietals and combining them into a glass that will be your forever wine.
Because, unlike varietals, since we craft each profile by blending to meet taste expectations, (rather than relying on a single grape varietal), we are not as subject to the whims of weather and climate. If a certain grape we use in our Profile One has a bad year, we’re okay, we can still make a Profile One that you’re going to love. With a single varietal, whatever happens to the vines and grapes during the year reflects what’s in that bottle. If there were fires and smoke, if there was a drought, too much sun, too much wind, a change in soil composition – all of those factors will be found in the glass you drink. It also helps that we source our grapes sustainably from all over the world. So if one region has a bad year, there are always alternatives to bringing you that glass you love.
So let’s explore some of the wines that we might use in our Profile One to make it so crisp and light – and why they work.
We’ve talked a lot about grape lineage in this series and sauvignon blanc has a unique story. We know one of its parents is the savagnin grape, dating back 900 years or so to Orleans, France, which sits on the Loire River in the north-central part of the country. This savagnin grape is also responsible for savagnin musqué aka gewurztraminer, which we’ll talk about in a bit.
If you’ve been keeping up with this series, you won’t be surprised to learn that sauvignon blanc migrated from its original home in the north, down south to one of the world’s most fertile grape growing regions, Bordeaux. Side note: It was here that sauvignon blanc organically crossed with cabernet franc, giving us the cabernet sauvignon grape.
Brought to California in the 1800s by Charles Wetmore, sauvignon blanc was grown at high yields in California in the years after prohibition, and turned into a cheap jug wine under the name sauterne. For decades it was considered generally undrinkable, but then in 1966, the young wine upstart, Robert Mondavi, bought the To Kalon vineyard in Oakville, CA, which way back in 1949 was planted with the first sauvignon blanc vines in Napa.
It was here that Mondavi built the first large-scale, serious winery in the valley since prohibition. Two years later, in 1968, Mondavi created his answer to the inexpensive sauterne – the now famous Mondavi fumé blanc – which put him on the map as one of the few California producers of good sauterne.
Sauvignon blanc is known for its dry, sharp smell and wide range of fruit and earthy notes including things you don’t always think of in a wine – gooseberries, nettles, crushed blackcurrant leaves and tomato leaf. It also carries a range of less common fruit notes like figs, grapefruit, passion fruit, white peach and rhubarb. Sauvignon blanc is known for being crisp and refreshing, and depending on a host of factors, can range from bright and zesty to ripe and tropical.
This grape also has a wide range of growing regions, but like all wines, its flavor is highly influenced by its terrior (all the environmental factors of the vineyard). Sauvignon blanc grown in cooler climates tends to produce grapes that are heavier in herbal and earthy tones, while those grown in warmer climates tend towards the more tropical and zesty types like we mentioned earlier. This grape is also highly sensitive to amounts of sunlight – more or less exposure will affect its taste.
Since tannins come from the skins of the grape, and white wines are not usually fermented with their skins on, sauvignon blanc has very low tannins, which means it doesn’t pair as well with the heavier foods that our Profiles Four, Four Five and Five like. All those tannins are good at giving us the feeling that the fats and proteins we’re eating while drinking our wine are getting cleaned off our tongue. So with a low-tannin white (pretty muchly all whites are low tannin, though chardonnay can be higher) you’ll want to pair it with lighter foods like oysters and delicate fish, green vegetables and tangy dairy.
Let’s talk a little about the wine that can feel like thousands of tiny bubbles popping in your mouth as you sip. Gruner Veltliner is grown primarily in Austria, with the Czech Republic and Slovakia coming in as close seconds. Where it is not grown (for all intents and purposes) is California – with less than 100 acres devoted to the grape. For comparison, cabernet sauvignon, California’s most grown grape, takes up about 95,000 acres.
Peter Leitner is a fan, growing seven acres of grüner veltliner in New Jersey at his Mount Salem Vineyards. He started planting the grape almost 20 years ago and thinks he’s probably the first to plant the vine in the state.
“Grüner has depth and breadth that just keeps going that makes it adaptable to many different foods,” Leitner said. “It’s a utility player. It goes with fish, chicken and pork. Some of our customers actually enjoy it with a rare steak. It has the substance that can stand up to it.”
We don’t give away all of our blending secrets, but grüner veltliner is one of the reasons our Profile One is so special – so crisp, so tart, so fresh and so drinkable. The taste profile of this dry, acidic wine is unique: you’ll find tart citrus like lime, lemon, grapefruit as well as sweeter stone fruits like peach and unripe peach. Grüner can also have herbaceous and spice notes including iris, green bean, ginger, radish, tarragon and white pepper.
The first question you’re probably asking: Is pinot gris the same as pinot grigio? Yes, and no. Same grape, two great wines that are harvested and made differently to produce different results. Pinot grigio is made in Italy, where they use 100% stainless steel tanks, which helps give it a linear taste profile and keeps acid up. Pinot gris is made in France, where they ferment some of each batch in oak barrels. When they do that, they batonnage, which is fancy winespeak for stirring the grape leaves on bottom of the barrell, which mixes the yeasts and the proteins to create more roundness and gives the wine an overall fuller feeling on the palate.
Both of these varietals come from the pinot gris grape, which can vary greatly in color. Think bronze, pink, pinkish grey, pinkish brown, blue grey and brownish-black.
So how does a white wine come from a pink-grey-blue-bronze-brown grape?
No skins. White wines are made differently than reds, and the skins don’t come in contact with the rest of the grape during fermentation. There is no hard and fast rule and in the case of wines like rosé, there are many ways to get just a slight coloration.
But we digress. Pinot gris originated in the Burgundy region of France and is made in the Alsace style – it’s left on the vine longer which gives it a higher alcohol content and makes it slightly richer and sometimes gives it hints of sweetness. Pinot grigio is made in Italy where it is harvested earlier and tends to be a light, crisp, clean, dry wine.
Our first Spanish grape in this series is native to the coastal region of Galicia (pronounced Gah-lee-thee-ah) and dates back to the ancient Romans. Galicia is cool, rainy, windy, damp and foggy most of the year – unlike the rest of Spain. For those of you from California, think San Francisco, but with more rain.
This climate is perfect for the albariño grape and is part of why it’s not grown widely anywhere else in the world. Galicia sits on granite and sand, which produces a citrus-forward and highly acidic wine. When grown in clay-based soils it will still do well, but its fruitier characteristics come out and it becomes less acidic.
Albariño has notes of lemon zest, grapefruit, honeydew, nectarine with hints of saline and minerality from all the fresh sea air. It can often have a tingly and slightly bitter end note which is great for cleansing your palate and is why it is often used as an aperitif.
When we make our Profile One, we keep all these grapes in mind, as we’re looking to make totally dry wine with great aromatics which comes from the phenolics in grapes themselves when picked. We want that bright acidity, so we use grapes picked early which means they have a higher acid and lower sugar content – the longer you leave a grape, the more the acid converts to sugar. But we want the bright acidity to pop in this wine. We make it to be citrusy and lightly floral – think jasmine notes, totally dry and something that’s great cocktail wine, that also has the acidity to stand up to lots of different foods like cheese, fish and salads.
As always, we encourage you to have your own taste test and see what you think of the varietals we think about when crafting our wines. We suggest these four and we always love to hear what you think. Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Instagram @drinkboxt. Happy tasting!
- Prager Hinter der Burg Federspiel Gruner Veltliner 2019
Gruner Veltliner from Wachau, Austria
- Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc 2021
Sauvignon Blanc from North Coast, California
- Artesa Los Carneros Albarino 2018
Albarino from Carneros, California
- Hugel Classic Pinot Gris 2018
Pinot Gris/Grigio from Alsace, France