Though Blanc de Noirs (“white of blacks”) usually refers to wine made exclusively from dark-skinned grapes, Gruet’s Blanc de Noirs is a blend of 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay. The extraordinary vineyards as well as two years’ aging produce a wine that delights the senses: salmon color, silky bubbles, alluring aromas, and so creamy, rich and toasty.
One doesn’t need to know much about the French to grasp how remarkable it was for a Frenchman, the proud owner of a Champagne house, to look across the high desert near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, about 150 miles south of Albuquerque, and imagine vineyards producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for sparkling wine. Such foresight would have been remarkable in any winemaker; after all, while New Mexico did have a burgeoning wine industry in the 19th century, it had been entirely wiped out for three quarters of a century and was just getting restarted in 1983, when Gilbert Gruet and his family stopped to taste some local wines while touring the southwest on vacation. Where most people would have seen barren desert, M. Gruet saw potential: in the 4,000 foot elevation, where cold nights can extend the growing season; in the lack of humidity that causes mildew and requires winemakers to spray their vineyards with fungicides; and in the dry, sandy soils that would provide not only excellent drainage (and therefore, “stress” the vines) but protection from such pests as the dreaded phylloxera. In 1984, Gruet’s children, Laurent and Nathalie, relocated to New Mexico, planted a vineyard, and by 1989 released the first Gruet Brut N.V., and Gruet Brut Blanc de Noirs N.V. to great acclaim.
Today Gruet produces over 100,000 cases of sparkling wine per year at the winery in Albuquerque from the grapes grown near Truth or Consequences in the south. These wines are produced according to the Methode Champenoise, a traditional and natural process of making sparkling wine. When the fermentation of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines is complete, the blends of the two grapes are assembled. Just before bottling, a little yeast and sugar is added to the wine so that a second fermentation occurs inside each bottle. Because the bottles are capped tight, the carbon dioxide has no place to go and the wine is transformed into a magical elixir – so light, delicate and bubbly. Unlike still wines, sparkling wines are difficult to produce in a small-scale, artisan kind of way. The process is labor intensive and requires more expensive equipment and a lot more time as the wine must be aged in bottle for at least 2 years before release. Nevertheless, Gruet Winery stands out for producing award-winning bubbly at bargain prices.
|Varietal(s)||75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay|
|Bottle Size||9.0 x 32.5|
|Case Size||38.0 x 28.5 x 35.0|
90 points – Wine Spectator
Light salmon color; aggressive bubbles form a beautiful mousse. Aromas of apples, buttered toast and a hint of creamy vanilla. On the palate, juicy flavors of raspberry as well as crisp baked pear lead to spicy cinnamon scones on the finish.
After grapes are loaded in the press, only the free-run or very lightly pressed juice is used for the sparkling wine. Lots from different vineyards were fermented separately. The final blend of 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay included some older reserve wines to add depth and maintain consistency with earlier releases. After bottling, the wine aged en tirage (on the lees produced by the second fermentation) for two years. At the end, the bottles were disgorged (the lees removed) and prepared for shipping.