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paumanok vineyards minimalist chenin blanc
Paumanok Vineyards minimalist chenin blanc. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

The Massoud family recently unveiled a new take on its popular chenin blanc, perennially one of the most buzzed-about wines on the North Fork.

Just 84 cases of Paumanok Vineyards‘ 2014 minimalist chenin blanc, which is naturally fermented with no added yeast, have been bottled. It will initially only be available to wine club members. Comparatively, the winery bottled 2,643 cases of its conventional 2014 chenin blanc.

“The wine club may eat it all up,” said winemaker Kareem Massoud. “But we’ll probably release a little bit later this summer.”

To make the wine, vineyard workers first select only “impeccable, perfectly ripe clusters” off the vine, Massoud said. Only grapes grown on the family’s oldest vines, planted in 1982 off Tuthills Lane in Aquebogue, are used.

“Whatever we don’t pick, it doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means it’s not perfect,” he said. “Then after that, it’s totally hands off.”

As the name implies, the wine is made without adding anything other than a bit of sulfites at bottling time.

“As my father [winery founder Charles Massoud] said, ‘I don’t earn my pay with this wine because I didn’t do anything,” Massoud said. “It’s a different expression of chenin blanc. It’s a little bit drier.”

Another difference: The wine is fermented in a stainless steel barrel, which Massoud said affects its taste. Paumanok’s traditional chenin blanc is fermented in larger stainless steel tanks.

“The shape of the vessel matters too,” Massoud said. “In a tank you will have a different ratio of surface area to lees.”

Like most of Paumanok’s wines, this one is available in a screw-top bottle.

The 2014 Paumanok minimalist chenin blanc has great acidity, engages the entire pallet and pairs well with seafood, especially oysters, according to Massoud (we can’t confirm as we didn’t try this very, very limited vintage). It has a pale-green yellow color and visually almost indistinguishable from its traditionally fermented counterpart.

“Most of what we make are not in this style, but it’s fun to do when we can,” Massoud said.

Expect Paumanok to once again offer fresh local oysters in the tasting room beginning Memorial Day weekend. A limited menu featuring offerings from nearby Petulant Wino are also available.

Paumanok Vineyards is located at 1074 Main Road in Aquebogue.

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