2017 Clairette "Soulstruck"
Clairette is an unheralded white grape that is a native of the Rhone and Languedoc regions of Southern France. Sometimes labelled Clairette Blanche, it is listed as one of the traditional white Châteauneuf du Pape (Rhone) varieties. Our interest in this grape has been sparked along with our interest in one of its
relatives, Picpoul Blanc. Bryan has this theory that Picpoul’s high toned citrussy fruit will mesh really well with Clairette’s unctuous texture, ultimately giving us a beautifully rich, fragrant blend unlike anything we have ever tasted. This year, to get things rolling, we bottled up what little Clairette we had on its own.
With Picpoul there is a French Appellation known as Picpoul de Pinet, where they have been making very clean, crisp versions of this grape for decades. While this AOC is not well known, it does produce quite a bit of wine, and some of it is exported. In taking the time to taste a number of wines from Picpoul de Pinet, we think they are usually very pretty with ample levels of acidity. When it comes to
Clairette, the picture is more obscure with about the only appellation to speak of being Clairette de Die, where they actually make sparkling versions of Clairette blended with various types of Muscat. With Clairette, you don’t just stroll over to BevMo to pick up a few bottles. The stuff is just too rare. So you can imagine our surprise when we found out the Martian Vineyard over in Alisos Canyon is actually growing some! After begging for a precious ton-and-a-half, Bryan barrel fermented it to dryness last fall, and now he is beginning to wonder why this grape doesn’t have a longer, stronger rap sheet. The wine is simply stunning. It’s a little hard to describe because just about every fruit known to man seems
to be flickering somewhere in the nose. If this is how obscurity wants to smell, we are all for it. And the mouth is fat and full of rich texture that looks like it will be lending itself to our preferred in-house wine making recipes that include malolactic fermentation. In so many ways, it’s good to go! While this year, all Bryan could find out there in Santa Barbara County was the Clairette, by 2019 we
will also be crushing some Picpoul from a new vineyard whose owners are crazy enough to have planted some over in the eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley. So, for now, enjoy this enigmatic bottling of Clairette, and stay tuned.