Chateau Dulac Blanc de Blanc NV
Wine: Chateau Dulac Blanc de Blancs
Region: South West
Grapes: Ugni Blanc, Airén
Wednesday before last I got a text around 10 AM from my friend Simone. "Interested in Champagne and fried chicken for lunch?" I mean, really. Yes! Especially since I was supposed to be writing ALL DAY LONG. I couldn't imagine a better distraction. She brought the chicken, a box of 10 pieces from McHardy's on N. Broad Street (we devoured 8 of them), and I opened the bubbles, still chilling in the fridge leftover from Christmas day. The weather bumped 70 degrees, and so we picnicked in the courtyard of my apartment building among the blooming Lantana and vibrant crotons.
I picked this bottle up at Hopper's on Magazine Street for about $10. Because Hopper's has a solid reputation, I trusted a $10 non-A.O.C. French sparkler would be fairly decent. That's the kind of trust you want in your local retailer.
I knew that for ten bucks it wasn't going to be from some tiny biodynamic estate, and as I began to research I discovered it is indeed from a mega producer (in Pig&Vine terms that means 50,000+ case production). Actually, mega is an understatement. This is not like the wines I typically promote, but in the words of Jeffery Tambor's character Maura in season 2 of Transparent to his daughter Ali, expertly played by Gaby Hoffmann,* "Be careful of overly dogmatic people." There's always a little room for some mass-produced joy.
Chateau Dulac Blanc de Blancs NV hails from South West France, below Bordeaux, close to the Spanish border. It's made from the ugni blanc and airén grapes, both used for brandy and Cognac production. Haven't heard of airén? We don't see much of it in anything but brandy, and even then it's highly unlikely the grape would get any recognition for its part. The airén is the most widely planted white grape in Spain, hogging more land area than any other wine grape on the planet. As far as I can uncover, it's not planted outside of its native country, which means this wine has to be a Spanish-French blend, something else we don't often see, but that explains the price and absence of legal designation, like Vin de Pays or an A.O.C. region. It is made in the Charmat method, typical of large production sparklers. The Champagne method or Traditional method requires the second fermentation - the one that makes the bubbles - occur in bottle. The Charmat method does so in tank, then bottles the wine. It's a less painstaking, inexpensive process.
The aromas and flavors are simple, bright and fresh, white flowers and orchard fruit. It is not a thinking wine, but well-suited to a mid-week afternoon of indulgence and great conversation with a new friend. Or an old one for that matter.
* I was unable to confirm this exact quote, but the sentiment is correct. She may have said wary not careful.