Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Get to Know a Grape: Seyval Blanc

This week, we're looking at a lesser-known white wine grape that's popular in Eastern North America and in England! 

I recently had the opportunity to chat with a winemaker from upstate New York who made some interesting wines, including wines from a grape named Seyval Blanc. As I'd never heard of this varietal before, I couldn't resist learning a bit more about it. In her Oxford Companion to Wine, Jancis  Robinson refers to Seyval Blanc as a "useful" grape varietal, largely due to its high productivity and its ability to ripen early. Seyval blanc is also resistant to cold climates and can survive the harsh winters of Canada and the North-Eastern United States.

In Ontario and New York, Seyval blanc is often blended with Chardonnay or other white wine grapes, although it is possible to find wines containing 100% Seyval blanc. Wines made from Seyval blanc tend to have a nice touch of minerality (not unlike a Chardonnay), and grassy or melon-like aromas on the nose. However, wines made exclusively from Seyval Blanc can sometimes lack character and complexity, which makes blending with a more powerful varietal like Chardonnay a popular choice. Aging in oak barrels is another way to add complexity to the wine, although given the price of barrels and their limited re-usability, this is a rather costly endeavour.

If you travel across the pond to the United Kingdom, you might be surprised to find Seyval Blanc being used in sparkling wines. Usually blended with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier, Seyval Blanc sparkling wines have a nicely crisp and clean palate with a good amount of acidity.

Food pairing with Seyval Blanc can be a slightly tricky affair, as it can be difficult to ensure that the food does not overpower the fairly light wine. Most Seyval blanc wines are great on their own, or can be paired with cold cuts, mild cheeses like Havarti, or salads. Light fish, such as sole, can also work well.

The Short Version
Names: Seyval Blanc, Seival, Seyval.
Best-Known Regions: Ontario, New York State, United Kingdom
Flavour Profile: Aromas of melon and hay, crisp and clean on the palate.
Food Pairings: Salads, sole, cold cuts
Price Range: $10-$50

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