Saturday, May 19, 2018

Exploring Alsace with Pinot Blanc, Gris and Noir

If I trace my love for wine all the way back, it starts in Alsace. I was living in the far southwestern corner of Germany, in boarding school for 11th and 12th grades, and Alsace was a quick trip. I made a few excursions into quaint villages there, scarfing down (and swooning over) the local food, hiking around steep hills —I was enthralled by the way vineyards carved their place into the hillsides, all over the place.

As I hiked, I noticed vineyards planted into what looked like pure rock, and there were so many different kinds of rocks and chunks of earth that changed from ridge to ridge. Each nook and cranny was different. After a hike, I walked into a bistro in a small village, ordered a bowl of French onion soup, and asked if the bartender had any wine from the huge vineyard that climbed up the steep hills above town. I spoke no French and he almost no English (there was much pointing and gesturing) but I was served a glass of white wine I understood came from the vineyard I had just hiked through.

My teenage mind was blown away at this concept. I don’t remember the wine, I think it was a Riesling, and I had no idea how to evaluate or appreciate it in any serious sense. But it was delicious. And, more importantly, it instilled in me a desire to find more about this relationship between specific places and their wines.

All this to say, to this day, I have a special appreciation for wines from Alsace. They continue to intrigue and excite me, so I’m always happy to review more of them. This week, I have a range of wines from Alsace, all hailing from the extended Pinot family (Noir, Gris, Blanc). Like a lot of wines from this region, they can be moderately priced, considering the high quality.

These wines were received as samples and tasted sighted.

N.V. Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Brut Rosé - France, Alsace, Crémant d'Alsace
SRP: $22
Bright and floral aromas with grapefruit, peaches, red apple peel, spicy herbal notes. Zesty and crisp on the palate with lots of red apples, grapefruit, red apple peel, along with notes of spiced tea, white pepper and floral perfume. So good for the money, this is fresh and lively and crowd-pleasing. All Pinot Noir. (87 points)

2016 Paul Blanck Pinot Blanc - France, Alsace
SRP: $16
Pale yellow color. Nose of crushed shells, raw almond, honeysuckle, over peaches and apples. Rich texture but medium-body, brisk acid meets plump apricot and peach. Notes of salty seashells on a dry and crisp finish – a summer day, oysters and shellfish style Pinot Blanc. (87 points)

2013 Albert Boxler Pinot Blanc Reserve - France, Alsace
SRP: $28
Deep yellow color. Aromas are rich with honey and bruised apple, but also bright and lively with lemon verbena, chalk and minerals. Crisp acidity frames the wine nicely, while medium-bodied and honeyed texture adds depth. Peaches, apricot, lime, lemon, doused in minerals, chalk dust and smashed rocks. Deep, focused, yet airy and elegant at the same time. Some interesting cellar potential here. (90 points)

2013 Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve - France, Alsace
SRP: $26
Light yellow color. Aromas of apricot, papaya, drizzled with lime, topped with seashells and floral perfume. Medium-bodied on the palate, crisp and nervy style with a long streak of minerals and crushed shells. Dry but packed with fruit (papaya, pineapple, lime juice), with some white floral tones. Lovely, crisp but complex Pinot Gris that has a few years of aging potential for sure. (89 points)

2016 Emile Beyer Pinot Gris Tradition - France, Alsace
SRP: $20

Light gold color. Aromas of apricots, yellow plums, yellow raisins, rich with honey but also some bright white floral notes. Plump and rich on the palate but moderating acidity. Yellow plums, juicy apricots, laced with honey, cinnamon spiced tea, some crushed chalk and mineral tones clean out the finish. Rich texture and fruit but also clear and pretty. (88 points)

2016 Lucien Albrecht Pinot Gris Cuvée Romanus - France, Alsace
SRP: $18
Pale yellow color. Plump aromas of peaches, nectarine, spiced white tea, honeysuckle, daisies. Rich and juicy fruit on the palate but fresh acidity, this shows peaches cantaloupe, nectarine, along with some floral, white pepper, mineral tones. Pleasant and easy to drink but sports solid complexity. (88 points)

2016 Domaine Osterag Pinot Noir Les Jardins - France, Alsace
SRP: $27
Interesting light purple color. Aromas of juicy black cherries and raspberries, a lovely spicy herbal and pepper element, with roses and violets and rhubarb. Bright and airy feel to this wine, even though the acidity is tart and the tannins show grip. The fruit is red, bright and delicious, and I love those classic Alsace earthy-spice elements (this one shows black tea, rhubarb, black pepper). I’d like to see how this shows in four to five years. (89 points)

2014 Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Noir Les Princes Abbés - France, Alsace
SRP: $29
Medium ruby color. Aromas of tart cherries, strawberries, along with pickling spices, roses, spices tea, earthy-tobacco notes. Medium-bodied, dusty tannins, zippy acidity, it all lines up very well. Tart cherries, strawberries, red plums, laced with tobacco, sage, mushroom, pickle notes. I tasted this a year ago, and it’s developed nicely since then and should continue to do so. (89 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

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