What the heck is Récolte Blanche?

Récolte Blanche is a popular wine with Baillie-Grohman customers, and for good reason.

September 23, 2019

So what the heck is Récolte Blanche and why does it have that name? And why does it taste so darn good? Well, several years ago our winemaker made a blend of the white wines we grow here on the estate vineyards. A name was needed, and winery and tasting room staff were invited to submit their ideas. The winner was Bev Boyle, and her choice was Récolte Blanche. Récolte, you see, means “harvest” in French, and Blanche, of course, means “white”. And so Récolte Blanche was born (once upon a time there was also a Récolte Rouge, but it is no longer made). As for the taste, well, it draws from the flavours and aromas of some mighty fine grapes, and it has a remarkably full body for a white wine. In fact, I have been working all summer to convince hardcore red wine drinkers to try it, and the majority have been very impressed.

This year’s blend, as usual, is selling extremely well, and visitors to the tasting room continually comment about how smooth and easy-drinking it is. Our staff have taken to referring to it as a “danger wine”. It goes down easily and your glass might be emptied before you even realize it!

Available right now is the 2018 Récolte Blanche, which consists of 38% Schonburger and 35% Pinot Gris. Chardonnay makes up 11% of the volume and Kerner another 10%. Gewurztraminer (4%) and Sauvignon Blanc (2%) round out the recipe, which varies year to year depending on the volumes we harvest from each grape variety, and on winemaker Wes Johnson’s (Bob and Petra, and others, will also have a say, of course!) preferences.

2018 Récolte Blanche has 13% alcohol by volume, and its residual sugar content is 17.5 grams of sugar per litre. The total acidity is 7.8 grams per litre. By comparison, our Blanc de Noir Rosé has 12.5% alcohol, 21 g/l of sugar and 7.5 g/l total acidity. Those latter two stats are surprising to me, because I think the Recolte tastes more sweet and less acidic. Other factors come into play, too, of course, but still…

Schonburger is a relatively new hybrid grape of German origin, and is the result of the crossing of Pinot Noir (I like this, because Baillie-Grohman is very much a Pinot Noir “house” (see an earlier blog for more on that subject) and Pirovano I (a crossing of Chasselas Rosé and Muscat Hamburg). It is has delicate floral aromas and is typically sweet. Schonburger is also relatively low in acidity, but is not a particular abundant producer.

Pinot Gris (here we go again with the Pinot Noir influence!), from which we also produce a wonderful single varietal, typically has notes of pear, apple, stonefruit, tropical fruit and sweet spices. Our current 2018 has green apple and melon notes. It is fun to sip the Récolte Blanche and attempt to pick out the individual aroma and flavour notes while trying to identify which grape is primarily responsible for each.

Kerner (a crossing of Riesling and Trollinger grapes) also offers flavours of stonefruit, along with apple, pear and citrus. I’m guessing it is partially responsible for the distinct peach notes in this year’s blend, because I don’t get much in the way of peach notes from our Chardonnay (Fun Fact: Chardonnay is also a descendent of Pinot Noir!).

Numbers and facts aside, there is no doubt that Récolte Blanche is a real favourite with Baillie-Grohman customers. I advise wine drinkers to keep an open mind, and not to get stuck on “I only drink red wine.” Life is too short to make arbitrary decisions that might be shutting you out of some very good experiences.

(Thanks to the excellent wine-searcher.com web site for much of the information I have used in this blog.)