Trivento Reserve White Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina 2020, £8.25, The Co-op Malbec is absurdly popular at the moment. According to the Co-op, sales were up by almost a third in the past year, meaning it’s even more fashionable in the UK than sauvignon blanc. Indeed the only thing standing between this all-conquering grape variety and total world domination, it seems, is habitual white-wine drinkers, who can’t get past the fact that malbec isn’t a white-wine grape. Or so you may have thought. Enter Trivento, the Argentinian division of the Chilean wine giants Concha y Toro. Why, Trivento seems to have asked, let a strong brand go to waste when a little work in the winery can make it appeal to white- as well as red-wine drinkers? After all, by taking away the skins and using only the juice, you can end up with a soft, simple, gently stone-fruited white.
Litmus White Pinot, England 2016, from £23.99, Grape Britannia Maybe I’m being just a little cynical about the arrival of white malbec. There’s a long tradition of making white wines from red-skinned grapes, wines that are just a swatch or two from pale rosé on the wine-colour charts. With the exception of those made from varieties known as teinturier, which have red juice as well as skins, red wines get their colour, as well as their tannic texture, from the skins. The longer the wine spends in contact with those skins, the darker the wines will be. If you take the juice away from the skins as soon as you press the grapes, you’ll end up with a white wine which, when fermented and aged in French oak like Litmus’s White Pinot, makes for a seriously classy, savoury style that is a dead ringer for chardonnay from Burgundy.
Waitrose Blanc de Noirs Brut Champagne, France NV, £19.99, Waitrose Pinot noir is the red grape most commonly used to make white wines. The practice has become something of a specialism among English wine producers, see the genteel floral Albourne Estate White Pinot Noir from West Sussex 2018 (£16.99, Hennings Wine), and it’s also common in Oregon, USA – the source of Aldi’s Left Coast White Pinot Noir 2020 (£7.99). For my money, however, the best use of white pinot noir is still the original one: in sparkling wines, either from or inspired by Champagne. In general, sparkling winemakers turn to pinot noir to bring the bass to chardonnay’s treble in a classic champagne blend, a darker, more red-berried flavour range that is even more pronounced when it’s all red grapes in blanc de noirs wines such as Waitrose’s consistently excellent, well-priced example.