Wine Wednesday: Clairette Blanche

By: Cecily Gamba

Happy Wine Wednesday, everyone! It’s that time of week again for the next stop on our educational adventure through all things Rhône. This week’s topic: Clairette Blanche.

What was once the most widely planted white grape in the Southern France, but now rarely acknowledged as a varietal wine, is Clairette Blanche (sometimes simply referred to as “Clairette”). Today we will delve into this lesser known grape.

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To begin, we will start with the name. Clariette means “clear, fair, or bright,” and blanche translates to “white.” This is actually one of the few French grapes that was given a feminine name, hence blanche rather than blanc.

Clairette is first mentioned in 1575, and gained fame as a component of the well known Picardin white that gained exporting popularity in the 17th and 18th centuries. Up until the 1950’s, there were more than 34,000 acres of Clairette planted in southern France. That number has declined to about 6000, but the grape is still a major element in many white wines, with its popularity growing among producers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape as a blending component (for both white and red wine!). Clairette is also known as a grape used in some French sparkling wines, as well as Vermouth.

The grape has an ability to adapt to hot, dry climates, and is less vulnerable to spring frosts than many white grapes. The large oval grapes are vigorously grown if pruned properly. If picked early, the grapes show freshness and minerality, and if left for a longer hang time, richer and more alcoholic wines can be produced.

Wines produced from Clairette Blanche are pale in color and similar to Picpoul on the nose, with notes of tropical fruits and citrus. The palate is a balance between sweet and tart, characterized with varying green citrus flavors, apple and apricot, and finishing clean and nutty. These wines generally have a higher alcohol content and lower acidity, and are best drunk within their first year.

Try it at the girl & the fig!

Domaine Achard-Vincent, NV Clairette de Die Brut

“The Clairette de Die “Brut” is made using the méthode champenoise, or méthode traditionnelle. The “Brut” is comprised of 100% Clairette and is fermented dry at only 11% alcohol. The delicate liveliness of the wines from Domaine Achard-Vincent makes them refreshing, delicious, and perfect as an aperitif, dessert, or brunch wine.”

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