By Justin Taylor

The world of wine styles can be often daunting with the different grapes from different regions, all too seemingly make a wine choice a difficulty.  Once you open your mind to the possibilities, wine often becomes an adventure of regions, flavors, and history.  Once in a while you stumble upon a real gem that you have never heard of before that truly gets your attention.  The varietal that I currently see as up and coming in our region is Petit Manseng.

Petit Manseng originates from the region of Southwest France near the city of Pau.  The region for wine production is referred to as Jurançon.  The high sugar content in combination with a strong acidity, this varietal permits the production of wines that range from dry and crisp to round and sweet.  The early harvest fruit is best used in refreshing dry white wine and possibly even sparkling, although this is not a traditional production method.

The thick skin of Petit Manseng allows the fruit to hang on the vine well into the fall.  In the best years, fruit can stay on the vine well past the first frost, allowing the grapes to dehydrate and concentrate sugar and flavors.  The naturally high acidity of Petit Manseng lends itself to the production of beautifully balanced sparkling wine.  The sweet wine style of Petit Manseng is floral, rich, and full of flavor.  It is not as dense as wines like Sauterne, but shows the elegance to pair very well with rich dishes from foie gras to crème brûlée.

Plantings of Petit Manseng have developed greatly in the United States over the past decade.  You can find distinguished wines made from this grape in North Carolina, Virginia and California.  In our local market, Jones von Drehle, Raffaldini, and Burntshirt Vineyards showcase the versatility of Petit Manseng.  During your next visit to your local winery, adventure to taste the many characteristics of this lesser known wine.

The answer to the most recent Wine and Vine trivia is tannins.  Tannins are found in almost all plants, and in grapes they are extracted from seeds, skins, and stems during fermentation to create astringency in the final wine.  Trivia for next issue:  What does the term sur lie/sur lees refer to in aging wine?


Justine Taylor is Assistant Wine Make at Burntshirt Vineyards, Hendersonville, NC.