Tue 21 Mar 2017
It’s well-known that the principle grapes of Alsace, the most Germanic region of France, are riesling and gewurztraminer, but the area also produces, in an achievement of brilliant rarity, wine from all three “pinot” grapes: pinot blanc, pinot gris and pinot noir. That line-up could be reproduced, perhaps, in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and other cool regions, but the microclimates would have to be fairly specific. Anyway, here are reviews of a pinot blanc, a pinot gris and a pinot noir, made by a trio of venerable estates in Alsace. Very interesting is the oak regimen, because there’s scarcely any oak here, especially not new oak, and certainly none was needed. These products, each 100 percent varietal, are delicious and appealing transition wines from Winter into Spring, marrying the savor of the chilly months to the delicacy of the vernal equinox.
These wines were samples for review.
Domaine Paul Blanck dates back to the 17th century. The vineyards are tended by organic principles and see no chemicals. The estate’s entry in this roster, the Paul Blanck Pinot Blanc 2015, Alsace, was made all in stainless steel. The color is shimmering pale gold; what a lovely amalgam of fruit, flowers and spice this is, displaying notes of pear and quince, golden raspberries and yellow plums, green apple, apple blossom and cloves, in a seamless relationship flowing between nose and palate. The texture is lithe and lively, buoyed by bright acidity and a gently burgeoning element of limestone minerality. Really pretty. 12.5 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $16, representing Good Value.
Imported by Skurnick Wines, New York.
Many wineries boast about the age of their vineyards, saying, for example, that such and such a wine came from 40-year-old vines. In the case of the Domaine Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris 2014, Alsace, the wine aged in 40-year-old barrels, for eight months. I would like to see those esteemed elders among oak barrels; can you imagine the great wines they nurtured over the decades? Anyway, this estate’s origins lie in 1620; it is now operated on biodynamic principles. This whole effort feels purely golden, from its attractive burnished gold hue to its scents and flavors of slightly baked peaches and pears and quince, accented by ginger and cloves; though a completely dry wine, it feels a bit honeyed in its juicy richness and a bit smoky, but remains spare and elegant overall, enlivened by bright acidity and given just a hint of a limestone edge on the finish. A beautiful wine. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’24, if the wine is stored well and undisturbed. Excellent. About $26.
Imported by Kobrand Wine & Spirits, Purchase, N.Y.
The Schlumberger family purchased this estate in 1810; it is now operated by the sixth and seventh generations. The Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Pinot Noir 2014, Alsace, aged eight months in old wooden foudres, being large barrels of variable capacities but often 500 hectoliters or more, which is to say, about 13,200 gallons. Don’t look for a dark, rich Burgundian style pinot noir from this effort. The color is a transfixing transparent ruby-garnet; delicate aromas of red raspberries and cherries, lightly spiced, open to notes of potpourri and violets, dried currants and sandalwood; it’s an Audrey Hepburn of a wine that exhibits fine bones, a dry, lean and spare texture, a slightly resinous aura and a finish awash with hints of graphite, smoke and underbrush. Consumed with pork schnitzel and cucumber salad, we loved it. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $26.
Imported by Maison Marques & Domaines USA, Oakland, Calif.