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Bridgette Smith
June 25, 2021 | Bridgette Smith

Petit Manseng for Breakfast, Wine Not?!

Hi again! Today we are talking the best meal of the day: BRUNCH! When I think of Sunday, I think of brunch and my mind immediately goes to mimosas. If you can drink a mimosa for breakfast, then wine for breakfast is quite alright with us. In fact, I could probably make a pretty strong argument to leave the juice out and just drink wine. You can drink sparkling for a special occasion, dinner, a light lunch and even breakfast and no one thinks twice. That is why when I enjoy brunch, I pop a beautiful breakfast bottle - and it’s usually not sparkling. I wanted to discuss wine pairings and brunch with you today as we gear up for our first Wine Club Pick Up, “Flights & Bites: Brunch Edition” on July 11. 

While you can enjoy any beverage your heart desires for brunch, I want to focus on our white wine lineup here at Williams Gap and pairings that Chef Marium Caternolo and I thought would pair beautifully. A great food and wine pairing creates a balance between the components of a dish and the characteristics of a wine. After tasting through the three Flights & Bites: Brunch Edition pairings, I have never agreed more. 

First up, our 2019 Vidal Blanc! Vidal Blanc is often just called “Vidal”, especially in the tasting room at Williams Gap. This is a white wine grape that is grown primarily in the northeastern US and Canada and is a French hybrid. The grape was "created" by pairing two different grape parents. This is sort of like breeding a poodle and a golden retriever and creating a goldendoodle. In the case of Vidal Blanc, the varietal was created from the parents Ugni Blanc and Seibel. I love talking about this to guests, as Ugni Blanc is also known as Trebbiano and is a white grape used in Chianti blending. Yes, the Italians sometimes blend white white into red wine and it still produces a red wine. It was once so widespread there that it was used in Tuscany's famous red wines. This practice was so common that the authorities were forced to endorse it in the appellation laws. “As of 2014, Trebbiano Toscano was still permitted (up to 10 percent of the blend) in red Carmignano”, according to Wine-Searcher. The French version, Ugni Blanc, is grown mostly in the Charentais (Cognac) and Gascony (Armagnac). On this Atlantic side of France, it is used to produce vast quantities of light, crisp, white wine which is distilled into brandy. So what is the big story on the other parent, Seibel?! This grape is another mutt (or if you want to jump back on the goldendoodle train - a “designer” grape). Seibel was hybridized by Albert Seibel in the 1950s. His creations went on to hybridize French varietals all over the world. 

Back to Vidal: Vidal Blanc is best known for the hardiness of the vines, and is usually grown in locations that are too cold for "well known" grape varieties. Here at Williams Gap, we don’t struggle with the cold temperatures as much but this varietal does brilliantly on our estate. Our bone dry Vidal Blanc showcases herbaceous aromas which translate to bright citrusy notes on the palate. The stainless steel aging regimen allows for this grape to sing - we only focus on the Vidal with this wine and I love that. We also fermented this wine so that no sugar was left - just that beautiful, citrus heavy white wine. This vintage provides mouthwatering acidity that begs me to take another sip. As for pairing this crisp wine with brunch, Chef Marium recommends pairing this wine with a homemade biscuit with local ham and local cheese. This creates a “contrasting pairing” which is a pairing that creates balance by contrasting tastes and flavors. The creamy cheese and salty ham balances the bright acidity in the Vidal wonderfully.

Next on the list is our 2019 White Blend. This is my favorite white wine on our current lineup and is a blend of 75% Petit Manseng and 25% Vidal Blanc, but we will get to the Petit Manseng in a bit. With 1% more alcohol than the Vidal Blanc and a touch of French oak, this wine showcases a bit more weight and a lot more complexity. 75% of this wine is aged in stainless steel and the rest in neutral French oak barrels. As to not dive into the barrel discussion this blog, I will just give a quick note on why we used a neutral barrel here. Neutral simply means that we have used it a few times so the oak will not impart as much flavor to the wine. Aging wines in neutral oak tends to soften wines without adding the extra flavors. For this specific wine, we chose neutral oak to maintain the fruit qualities while still getting some of the other benefits of aging in oak. If a wine is aged in 100% new oak, it will likely be very bold, rich, spicy and of course, oaky. We did not want this profile for the White Blend, as we wanted to showcase those fruity, floral characteristics. Back to neutral oak - wines pull these flavors out of barrels relatively quickly. After the first year of use, a barrel loses much of its flavoring ability and after three vintages, the wine has extracted most of the oak's flavors, thus it is considered neutral oak. Our 2019 White Blend showcases aromas of melon rind, which translates to crunchy white peach on the palate. This wine is smooth and complex and Chef Marium recommends pairing this wine with a pomme avocado toast, which is a crispy, savory potato pancake topped with avocado, seasoning, and an egg. Again, you will notice some contrast with this pairing - this vegetal, herbaceous dish contrasts the floral, fruity flavors of the White Blend. 

On to the beloved 2019 Petit Manseng. Petit Manseng has always been very interesting to me. I have visited over 130 Virginia wineries and I love to see their vineyard and cellar’s expression of this grape. According to the Virginia Wine Marketing Office, “Quickly gaining critical acclaim in Virginia, Petit Manseng makes distinctive dry white wines and, due to its loosely packed clusters, is also well-suited to survive late into the growing season to make fine off-dry and dessert wines." As you have probably seen right here in Loudoun County, our region produces this wine in so many different styles. A little history on Petit Manseng: this grape is a variation of the black Manseng grape, Manseng Noir and it gets its name from its small berries. Most Petit Manseng feature rich aromas of candied fruit and spice which are often complemented with flavors of honey, nuts, and pineapple. This varietal originates in the Southwest France regions of Gascony, Jurançon and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh. It’s perfectly suited for the climate in these parts of France and across much of Virginia due to its naturally high acidity that helps to maintain flavor and balance in the warmer late summers and fall. Petit Manseng is naturally very high in sugar, which lends to a bit more alcohol, residual sugar after fermentation and luscious, vibrant tropical flavors. This grape is one of our most hands-off grapes in the vineyard with loose bunches that help with airflow and prevention of mold and mildew, especially in wetter growing seasons. In fact, sometimes wetter seasons are best for this grape variety, especially later in the season as wetter days help to balance some of the grape’s natural high sugar content and acidity. While 2019 was pretty dry in Virginia resulting in a 2% residual sugar in our Petit Manseng, 2020 was a little wetter towards harvest. Spoiler alert: our 2020 vintage has much less residual sugar, which we are excited about in the tasting room. Our 2019 Petit Manseng is off-dry and showcases aromas of tree fruit, which translates to tropical pineapple on the palate. This vintage offers lively acidity to balance the sugar and Chef Marium recommends pairing this wine with chicken and waffles with a spicy honey drizzle. The ideology here is for the wine to offer relief from the heat. The Petit Manseng will almost cleanse your palate with this pairing. 

I hope this blog helped you plan your next Sunday Brunch and for our Wine Club Members, make sure you purchase your Flights & Bites: Brunch Edition tickets before July 6th by visiting this link: Wine-Club-Events. If you have any issues purchasing your ticket, send me an email directly at bsmith@williamsgapvineyard.com for assistance. 

Bridgette Smith

Tasting Room Manager


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