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michael shepsPetite Manseng is a relatively little known white wine grape hailing from Southwest France. But it is now becoming increasingly popular in the U.S., especially in Virginia where the loose clusters and thick skins make the grape ideal for a humid environment in which rot and mildew are constant threats.

In France, it is usually allowed to raisin on the vine to concentrate the sugars and is blended into a late harvest sweet wine. Most of the bottlings I’ve come across in Virginia have been semi-sweet because the grape’s high sugar levels convert into excessive alcohol when vinified dry. But it also features high acidity that leaves a crisp impression despite the residual sugar; in Michael Shaps hands this is an off-dry wine that finishes dry and refreshing.

Intense, hedonistic aromatics showing red apple, pineapple, and citrus highlights promise a fleshy, colorful experience and in the mouth it delivers.  The weighty, unctuous opening of prominent tropical flavors acquire an underpinning of racy acidity as it evolves on the palate. This front-to-back textural contrast of velvet to piquant grabs your attention and leads to a long and vigorous finish with lemon tart impressions that persist for several minutes.

Left on the lees for about one week and aged for 6 months in neutral French oak.

This wine is so big yet crisp it will stand up to almost any food. The residual sugar means it will not fade or become tart when paired with sauces with some sweetness.

Virginians have designated Viognier their state grape—I think it should have been Petite Manseng.

Very impressive.

Score: 90

Price: $30

Alc: 14.3%

Hedonistic and colorful with a thick, brassy bass line like Bowie’s Fashion:

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