Pinot Blanc is Better than Pinot Gris
At least in the Okanagan it is—and this new cult bottle from JoieFarm is Exhibit A.
Chic Fille Pinot Blanc 2017 $30.35
The above headline is what we call “click bait” and there’s no point writing in saying “Get your head out of your ass McLennan,” because that’s exactly the goal of click bait. But I do personally like Pinot Blanc better than Pinot Gris. To me it’s the difference between an understated Aston Martin and a candy apple red Ferrari, an elegant Vizla over an eager-to-please Labradoodle. It’s a grape that doesn’t throw itself at you; it’s not exuberant; it requires some work. So it’s been dismaying to see the industry and the public (there’s a chicken and egg thing at play here) turn away from the shy grape in favour of its “hey look at me” cousin (there are only 267 acres of Blanc planted compared to 1114 of Gris). And for years anytime I wanted to proselytize I’d reach for a bottle of Blue Mountain’s superlative version, a $17.90 wonder of a wine that could be Exhibit A when someone asked you if Okanagan wines have any minerality.
But now there’s a hammer of an Exhibit B in the form of this ultra-low production version from Heidi Noble’s JoieFarm’s new Chic Fille label. Here’s how they describe the winemaking:
This was a fun two-barrel project. Half the grapes were de-stemmed and the whole berries were sent to a 400 L open-top bin fermenter. The grapes were left to start their ferment under the skin of the whole berries, in a semi-carbonic manner. Once the berries began to “pop” they were foot tread and left to ferment with skin contact until 10 brix. At 10 brix they were pressed off their skins by being dumped by gravity into the press. After a gentle pressing the remaining must was sent to a stainless steel tank to finish their ferment at a cool 16° C. The finished wine was racked to a neutral barrel by gravity. The barrel was left to go through a spontaneous malolactic fermentation. The other barrel was the free run juice from the press from our JoieFarm Pinot Blanc (same old-vines vineyard site). It was two days cold settled and then racked to neutral barrel for an ambient barrel ferment which took 8 days. The ferment was racked off its ferment lees and then put back into the same barrel. It was also left to go through a spontaneous malolactic fermentation. The barrels were left to age over the winter with a light bâttonage every 4 weeks. They barrels were combined in a stainless steel tank in June 2018 and then bottled in July 2018. They were unfiltered and unfined with a minimal sulphur addition at bottling.
Here’s what I can tell you—this wine is electric. If most Pinot Gris is all roundness, this wine is all angles: some steep, some less so but it’s a wine that is always in motion. Very citrus and a swack a saline all in a low-alcohol package. It’s a tremendous wine that evokes not gris but steely Chablis. So if you think Pinot Blanc is Pinot “Blah” be prepared to have your world rocked.