Before there is wine, there are grapes.
As we approach harvest, it’s difficult to think about anything other than grapes. This is our busiest time of year, and because it’s all hands on deck, we have little time or space to think about anything else! So before we disappear between the vines, we thought we’d help you understand our great appreciation of the grapes themselves.
Perhaps you’re a seasoned wine expert, and if that’s the case, you’ll already know your muscat from your merlot. If you’re still finding your way around the wonderful world of wine, here’s some insight into the four varieties we grow in our twelve acres of hilly Hampshire vineyards.
Whilst we have an abundance of Chardonnay at Penn Croft, it’s a grape used exclusively for sparkling wine production. We like to use Chardonnay for sparkling wine because of its great performance in the fermentation process. Chardonnay is particularly well-suited to barrel fermentation, which also allows it to adopt sweet and spiced flavours, depending on the age of the barrel.
Chardonnay is typically high in acidity and citrus flavours, including green and stone fruits in riper vintages. It’s a dependable grape that provides structure and backbone to blends, and because it’s not a particularly aromatic variety, it’s well-suited to autolysis, which is the complex chemical reaction that takes place when the wine is lees aged – the process of letting the sparkling wine mature in the bottle.
Again, this grape is reserved for sparkling wine production only. Yes, that’s right – red grapes don’t necessarily mean red wine. Pinot Noir’s fruity flavours suggest cranberry and raspberry in the cooler years but take on strawberry and peach characteristics when grown during warmer periods.
Pinot Noir is often characterised by its well-rounded, mid-palate body and weight. It’s a high-acidity grape, similar to Chardonnay, and it can also deliver spicy notes when barrel-aged.
We know we’re not supposed to have favourites, but it’s hard not to when Bacchus is about. We use the Bacchus variety for still wine and would class it as a semi-aromatic grape. Its flavour profile can vary depending on the vintage, but you can typically expect mineral characteristics with a fresh undertone of fruity, herbal flavours.
We’re highly experienced with Bacchus, with it being a Penn Croft staple. As such, we’ve found a number of ways to experiment with this grape and produce several styles that could suit different occasions and food pairing options. It’s safe to say that Bacchus offers ability and versatility in equal measure.
Last and by no means least, Meunier – another variety we use purely for sparkling wine production. Similarly to Pinot Noir, you can expect red fruit flavours but also a pleasant surprise from its floral and spicy edge. It’s generally a soft, round and acidic profile, and Meunier’s party piece is providing weight and texture to a blend.
So, next time you’re at a social gathering or perusing the wine aisle, remember this blog fondly. Impress your friends with your newly learned grape knowledge.
If there’s anything we love as much as wine, it’s helping others understand wine and everything that goes into it – grapes and all.