by Fred McMillin
for May 14, 1998

White Sparkler, Red Grapes


In the 17th century, Benedictine monk Dom Pierre Perignon made what would become the world's first outstanding sparkling wine. It was a blanc de noirs, a white bubbly made from red grapes (Pinot Noir).

...By Mansson and Loos in the Wine Spectator

The Rest of the Story

So, what's a blanc de noirs? The pigment in a red wine grape is located in the skin. The juice is colorless. When the grape is crushed, the juice immediately starts to extract color from the skins, becoming light pink in a few hours. Consequently, to make a blanc de noirs ("white from black"), the skins and juice are separated quickly. Nevertheless, the sparkler usually will have a salmon or pink-bronze hue.

The more conventional blend includes a good portion of tart Chardonnay. Thus, the charm of blanc de noir is the increased cherry-like flavors from the Pinot (and sometimes from another red wine grape, the Pinot Meunier). If you want to try it, here's a good, affordable one.

The Wine

Mumm Cuvee Napa Blanc de Noirs, Non-Vintage
Napa Valley Sparkling Wine
Composition—Chiefly Pinot Noir
Reviews—The Washington D.C. Times confirms the above, saying, "This wine tastes first and last of bright berry fruit."
Contact—Paul Wagner, (800) 709-7667
Price—$16 range


Mumm Napa is a joint venture of Seagram Ltd. And G.H. Mumm of Reims, France. The latter brings a lot of sparkling knowledge to the table, being founded in 1827. Their famous Cordon Rouge ("red ribbon") label was introduced in 1875. It was the trendy wine of Parisian artistic circles in the 1920's. You'll find a smaller version of the ribbon on your Mumm Napa bottle.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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