As the world slowly recovers from having been turned upside down by a plummeted economy, there have been some nasty side effects but some exciting developments as well, such as the world demanding more diversity and authentic quality. At one time, a person’s future was predetermined by their childhood circumstances – if you didn’t fit into a particular box, then certain industries wouldn’t take you seriously. The same could be said for wine. But the times, they are a changin’!
There was a time when companies would solely hire people, or move people up to privileged positions, who fit into the “work culture” and were seamlessly part of the “club”… not worrying too much if they added to the productivity of their workplace or bottom line. In the past, I have even heard some brag that all they did was blow off work while bullying the honest, hard working people to cover them because they were “legacies” in one way or another and were part of the elite. But now, this seems to be less and less the case as many companies are not able to afford having people who don’t contribute in a significant way; even with recent US news articles claiming that the economy is on the rise, I think there has been a fundamental shift in the mindset of many that they do not want to go back to the days when only a few were given lofty opportunities.
This is exactly what is starting to happen in the wine world… as consumers empower themselves with information they are questioning wine norms… they are not so reticent to surrender to the idea that their tastes have to be altered to adhere to the classic wine profiles that are popular in their markets; wine drinkers are now discovering that there are numerous quality wine.
Alsace Pinot Gris
A great example of a wine that has been off the radar for a long time, but could quench many a serious wine drinker’s desire, is Alsace Pinot Gris. There is a legend that it could have existed in Alsace since 1565 when brought by Baron Lazare de Schwendi from Tokaj, Hungary. Pinot Gris is a mutation from the Pinot Noir variety, originating in Burgundy, and despite it making white wines, the grape bunches themselves have a bluish-gray color accounting for the word “gris” (meaning “gray”) in its name. Pinot Gris white wines may sometimes have a copper hue to them, indicating the interesting color of their grape skins.
Many know the “Pinot Grigio” style, although Italian Pinot Grigio covers the gamut with regards to quality, and wine drinkers tend to associate it with a style that is light and refreshing. The “Alsatian” Pinot Gris is completely different, with a richer body and more smoky/earthy flavors. I was reminded of it while attending the Wines of Alsace seminar at the Wine Bloggers Conference. Alsace has had a long, complicated history going back and forth as either a region of France or one of Germany, and so it did not fit neatly in a box when it came to promoting it. Also, there has been some confusion with regards to naming this grape in Alsace; before 1970 it was called Grauer Tokayer, then Tokay Gris, then Tokay d’Alsace, then Tokay Pinot Gris, and finally, on April 1st, 2007, it was officially recognized as Pinot Gris! No wonder this long established, noble grape variety of Alsace has had its issues getting its name out.
Our Tastes Being Recognized
There is a revolution happening; wine drinkers are demanding that the wine market appeals to their taste and not the other way around, and so there is more opportunity for those wine regions who where once hidden away in obscurity. This same opportunity extends to all of us to validate our own personal tastes… to say to the world that fine wines come in many different forms, just like people, and that fact can no longer be ignored. I look forward to continuing this journey that involves creating a fairer world for us all, and toasting each other (even if there is a different wine in each of our glasses).
**Photo Credit: Zind-Humbrecht’s website showing their Clos St. Urbain plot in the Grand Cru Rangen de Thann vineyard.
Alsace Pinot Gris tasted on November 11th, 2017 at Wine Bloggers Conference
Although the second and third wines in our lineup were remarkable Alsace Pinot Gris priced at $90 and $115 respectively, lovely Alsace Pinot Gris can be found from $15 and up, with some of their fine wines hitting around the $50 mark. But it was wonderful to be able to try the best of the best, with Zind-Humbrecht’s extraordinary site Clos St. Urbain in the Rangen de Thann Grand Cru, known for volcanic soil, and the special sweet wine of Albert Mann from the single vineyard Altenbourg, whose soil is marl-limestone dominant, only made in the best vintages.
Side note: Although there are general stylistic qualities that most Alsace Pinot Gris wines share, there is also a lot of individualistic expression as Alsace has around seven distinct soil types that highlight different characteristics of this grape.
SRP means Suggested Retail Price
-2014 Trimbach, Pinot Gris, Reserve (SRP $26): A seemingly dry wine (5.4 g/l residual sugar balanced with 6.3 g/l acid) with flinty minerality, floral notes and peachy flavors with a sustained finish that has nice precision.
-2012 Zind-Humbrecht, Pinot Gris, Grand Cru Rangen de Thann, Clos St. Urbain (SRP $90): Organic and Biodynamic producer. Enticingly spicy with brown sugar and grilled pineapple notes and a rich body, with only moderately sweet flavor at 38 g/l residual sugar and an intoxicatingly smoky note that danced in my head. A Knockout!
-2007 Domaine Albert Mann, Pinot Gris, Altenbourg, Le Tri Sélection des Grains Nobles SGN (SRP $115): Organic and Biodynamic producer. Only made in the best years from grapes affected by noble rot which desiccates the grapes and concentrates sugars and flavors. This wine did not taste as sweet as the 237 g/l residual sugar would imply but when a wine has great balance and complexity, I find the sweetness takes a backseat … this was killer with an exquisite golden color and orange marmalade, honeycomb and toasted almonds flavors all wrapped up in a lusciously sexy texture that was perfectly balanced by a zesty citrus peel note! Yeah baby!!!