Confusion Corner: Palate, Palette, Pallet, AOC Palette

Wooden Pallets

An artist might paint with a color palette, you might order a pallet of wine, and your palate might enjoy the wines of AOC Palette.

Sound fanciful? Well, all of the above could be true!

For starters—yes, this post is going to be a bit of a whine about word usage—but I hope my readers will realize that I do not present this information with a sneer. I need this post as much as anyone. So here goes:

If you finish an impressive project at work and are rewarded with a bonus, you might decide to purchase a pallet of wine. That’s a lot of wine. According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the standard size of a wooden pallet is 48 inches by 40 inches. This standard wood pallet (theoretically) can hold 4,600 pounds—in other words, over 100 cases of wine or one adult male rhinoceros.

Artist’s Palette

If you are a painter and you paint with all the colors of the wind, or even just those on the board that you use to blend and hold your paints, you are painting with a certain color palette—blobs of which you are holding on the palette in your hands as you paint.

Those parts of your mouth that allow you to taste wine—including your tongue, taste buds, the roof of your mouth and the surrounding soft tissue —so precious to us wine lovers—collectively make up your palate. As you test and improve your wine-tasting skills, you are building your palate. If you get really good at blinding wines, you might become known—far and wide—for your impressive palate. You can also describe a wine in terms of its attack (first impressions), mid-palate (what registers as you hold the wine in your mouth), and the finish (what lingers after swallowing or spitting).

Building the Palate

As a wine lover, you might appreciate the wines of the Palette AOC. Palette is a small AOC tucked into the area south of the large Aix-en-Provence AOC, and along the northern edge of the Sainte-Victoire AOC (itself a sub-zone of the Côtes de Provence appellation). Two plots of vineyards—one on each side of the Arc River—make up the region. Palette is the smallest appellation in Provence, and is named after the tiny town of Palette.

The Palette AOC is approved for red, white, and rosé wines. The white wines must be dry (max 0.4% residual sugar) and contain at least 11.5% abv. The appellation boasts a long list of allowed grape varieties. For the white wines, the following principal varieties must comprise (singularly or combined) a minimum of 55% of the wine: Picardin, Clairette (Blanc or Rose), and Bourboulenc. Other allowed varieties include Colombard, Furmint, Grenache Blanc, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Piquepoul Blanc, Ugni Blanc, Ugni Rosé, and Terret Gris. This list of allowed grapes also includes a few obscurities, including  Panse Muscade, Panse du Roy René, and Pascal Blanc.

Photo of Château Simone Palette AOC rosé by Michal Osmenda via Wikimedia Commons

For the rosés of the AOC Palette, there is a mandatory minimum of 10% Mourvèdre. Another regulation states that between 50% and 80% of the wine be comprised of the region’s principal varieties that include Grenache and Cinsaut in addition to Mourvèdre. The remaining 20% may include any of the AOC’s accessory varieties, which include Brun Fourca, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Castet, Durif, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Muscat Hamburg, Petit Brun, Syrah, Téoulier, Terret Gris, and Tibouren. The white grapes may be present only to a maximum of 15% of the blend.  The rosé wines of Palette may contain up to 0.4% residual sugar, and are required to contain at least 11.5% abv.

The red wines are produced using the same slate of allowed grape varieties as the rosés; however, the white grapes are not approved for use in the red wines. The minimum abv for Palette Rogue is 11.5%, and the maximum allowed residual sugar is 0.3%. For the red wines, there is a mandatory minimum aging requirement of 18 months in wood.

The Palette AOC contains only about 100 acres (40 ha) of vines and just a few producers, including Château Simone and Château Henri Bonnaud.

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net