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As Vidal Blanc Month comes to a close (and I had no idea there was such a thing until last week), I thought I’d explore the first vintage of this grape produced in Arizona.  Most people don’t really think of Arizona growing hybrid varietals, unlike most of the midwest, but we do have a few varietals which grow here.  Seyval Blanc is one we’ve seen before, but now it’s time for something new!  It’s also hotter than hell here right now, and a nice, refreshing white wine is the perfect thing for the record-breaking heat we’ve been having here lately.

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Introducing The Grape: Vidal Blanc, as I mentioned before, is a hybrid varietal.  It’s a white grape, that was bred from Ugni Blanc and another hybrid varietal, Rayon d’Or. Originally developed in the 1930’s for the production of Cognac, the grape is no longer authorized in France.  Vidal blanc is a very winter-hardy varietal, able to survive prolong exposure to cold temperatures during the dormant winter season and produce viable secondary buds that will still yield a crop even after a late spring frost–something essential here in Arizona. It is a mid-ripening grape able to accumulate sufficient sugar levels to make dry wines but can also hang on the vine long into the season to produce late harvest and ice wines.  This winter-hardiness has lead it to be the most northernly-grown grape in the world, producing wines just 500 miles south of the Arctic Circle in Sweden!

The Wine: The grapes for this vintage were harvested from Bruzzi Vineyard, near Young, Arizona.  This high-elevation vineyard just north of the Mogollon Rim is the only site growing this grape in Arizona, that I’m aware of. This wine was aged in stainless steel.  Made by the AZ stronghold crowd, this Vidal Blanc was charged with just a little bit of extra juice prior to bottling, which produced a slight bit of carbonation in the bottle.  In the glass, the wine sits gleaming in pale gold, with just a little bit of effervescence, looking very similar to a Vinho Verde.

The Nose: The Vidal Blanc opens with the aroma of bright green apples, intermingling with pears and a citrus cremé brulee note. There’s also a slight cheese note at the edge of the nose, a relic of this grape’s hybrid heritage.

The Palate: Overall, the palate of this wine is the same as the nose, with Granny Smith apples, pear, and lime. The slight foxy cream character adds an additional dimension and weight to the palate, and there’s an almost woody, herbal note which suprised me since I don’t recall hearing that this wine was aged on any oak whatsoever. This wine is also slightly effervescent. This wine has a vibrant acidity, almost like biting into an apple. The finish of this wine has notes of apple, thyme, and cinnamon, lasting for 50 seconds.

The Pairing: This wine is a great one for a day where the thermometer climbs above 100° Fahrenheit, while sitting poolside, or an evening on the deck overlooking the valley. In terms of food, I would pair this wine as I would a Vinho Verde: with sushi, or with hummus and vegetables. Spicy foods in general will work well with this wine.

Impressions: I think for those who know this grape with more familiarity than the average Arizonan may well be thrown off guard by this wine; I’ll be honest, the only other wines I’ve had from this grape were made as icewines. I can’t imagine many people are used to this grape being made in a drier form, at least here where the only other vintages to be found of Vidal (other than the sweet version in the AZ Stronghold tasting room) are to be found at Total Wine.

I am told that in regions where this grape is more common, there are lots of dry versions, but not having tasted them, I can’t honestly compare. That being said, I liked it, and it’s well worth checking out this wine.

This wine is a bubbly strawberry blonde who dabbles in watercolors and brewing beer.