Secret agent wine

Champagne Laurent Perrier, https://twitter.com/Noble_Estates

Champagne Laurent Perrier, https://twitter.com/Noble_Estates

Most consumers regard the LCBO as the only source for purchasing wine in Ontario. That is understandable when you consider the blanketing influence a monopoly has over the public. The commodification of wine in this province can be like gasoline and health care. You know exactly where to go when you need a fill-up, a prescription or a bottle of wine. Or, do you?

There are options. The most obvious is a one or two-hour drive west on the QEW or east on the 401 from Toronto, to the Niagara and Prince Edward County wine regions. A bit further west you can find cellar door availability in the Lake Erie North Shore and Ontario South Coast areas. There is something else out there. You can also buy by the case.

The greatest little secret in Ontario lies in the briefcases full of fine wine in the hands of Ontario’s importers and agents. The importers tote portfolios of consignment wines rarely seen on LCBO shelves, often found on restaurant lists, ready and willing to fill cellars, wine fridges and passive wine racks in homes scattered across this province. You just need to know where to look, who to ask and get some sound advice on what’s worth purchasing, by the case.

Related – Buy the Case: Trialto Group

The thing is, you have to buy by the case when using an Ontario importer as your source and there are many reasons to do so. At WineAlign we break it down for you. Restaurant pours buy the glass, cellar-worthy wines, cases to split with friends, house wines, etc., etc.

There are some who might question the motive and the execution. It’s quite simple really and transparent. The agenda is straightforward and obvious. WineAlign is a dual-sided platform for wine commerce and education. One hand allows agents and local wineries to promote their wares and to introduce their hard work to a public that might not otherwise know they are there. The other hand allows critics from across the country to write independent reviews on their wines, the best of which are included in reports on those agents and vignerons. Some of the wines do not receive favourable reviews. As a consumer, do you want to see those reviews linked to in the article? Would you not rather be informed about what floated the critical boats and to know what to buy? The sponsored content is advertorial. The reviews are not.

“Importers pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, if any, is entirely up to each critic, as it is with our reviews of in-store wines.”

A Report on Consignment Wines in Ontario
Written by WineAlign

BuyTheCaseLOGOimageFor an explanation of the program, the process and our 10 Good Reasons to Buy the Case, please click here.

Over the past six months we have tasted wines from several portfolios. I wrote about the first Buy the Case with Trialto Wine Group, listed in the link above. Here are some of my reviews from the more recent tastings, from Noble Estates, Treasury Wine Estates, Cavinona and Da Capo Wines.

 

Noble Estates

Domaine Pfister Pinot Blanc 2013, Alsace, France ($22.99, WineAlign)

Hillside Marl sites provide the fruit and fodder for this precise Pinot Blanc. Auxerrois can be used to infuse brio bolstering punch for such a pristine white made by the deft hands of winemaker Mélanie Pfister. I have tasted this 2013 more than 15 times and it always come up the same; clean, polished, lithe and on a sure bee-line away from the honey comb. The need for development is not the crux of this pleasure. Sips alone and swallows alongside much varied gastronomy is the matter at hand and should be on many an occasion. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted many times, November 2014 to September 2015

Planeta Etna Bianco 2014, Sicily, Italy ($29.99, WineAlign)

From Castiglione di Sicilia (Catania) and the most ancient of Sicilian grape varieties, what more could be ingratiated in depth of Carricante and its carbon dating fascination. The rich mineral layering is intense and munificent at the same time. Herbs and salinity in candied flowers grace both nose and palate. This is a near perfect vintage for such a wine. Clearly built slowly by sunshine and long shadows. Finishes as philanthropic as it began. Drink 2015-2021.  Tasted September 2015  @PlanetaWinery  @WinesOfSicily

Planeta Etna Bianco 2014

Hedges Cuvee Marcel Dupont Syrah Red Mountain Les Gosses Vineyard 2012, Washington ($49.99, WineAlign)

Less than 3,000 cases were produced of this single-vineyard (Les Gosses), 100 per cent Syrah. This has the je ne sais quoi of Syrah meets Red Mountain AVA, in fact it has the JNSQ of anywhere in the Syrah diaspora. The regular attributes of meaty, gritty, peppery, pitchy and prime are all in. What sets it apart is balance and chivalry. “Everybody has their own opinion” and mine of this wine could lead to addiction. Addicted to the mountain song it sings in refrain, again and again. This is no Jane doe of a Syrah. It steals the limelight and puts on a terrific show. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted September 2015  @hedgeswine  @WINESofWA

Hedges Cuvee Marcel Dupont Syrah Red Mountain Les Gosses Vineyard 2012

Nickel & Nickel John C. Sullenger Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley, California (142546, $174.99, WineAlign)

Gorgeous aromatics from the depths of deep clay, raised on sunshine and held back from crossing any extracted or sullen wood lines. A keen sense of graphite shredded into wheat and concrete streaks through the purity that is pristine 2012 Oakville fruit. This is Cabernet for the cellar, to collect by the half dozen (or more if you can afford it) and open one every two years for the next 12 to 24. This has the legs and the agility to slowly braise and develop for at least that long. The balance and the length are as good as it gets. Drink 2017-2036.  Tasted October 2015  @NickelandNickel

Nickel___Nickel_John_C_Sullenger_Vineyard_Cabernet_Sauvignon_2012_web

Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle Grand Cuvée, Champagne, France (379982, $199.99, WineAlign)

Grand Siècle is a wine paid full attention in detail. The master’s blown glass should make that crystal clear. Chardonnay (55 per cent) and Pinot Noir (45), give or take a few approximating points is culled from a blend of 11 grands crus; Avize, Chouilly, Cramant, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Ambonnay, Bouzy, Louvois, Mailly, Tours-sur-Marne and Verzenay. If freshness, elegance and structure are the intent, here is a wine in kind of a perfect three for three, though elegance is the clear winner. When all aspects are aligned, where finesse talks in soft spoken tones and why Champagne can be so delicate is the mystery revealed in the Grand Siècle. A walk through this cuvée is getting lost in a ten foot flower garden, canopy overhead. A taste means delicate gastronomy. A glide to the finish is effortless. All this adds up to wonderful symmetry. Champagne can be great when it tows a direct, purposed line. This will last decades and it can certainly, twist my arm, be enjoyed now. Great combo. Drink 2015-2035.  Tasted September 2015  @ChampagneLPUSA

Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle Grand Cuvée

Treasury Wine Estates

Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, California ($19.95, WineAlign)

This California-designated Cabernet is composed from fruit drawn out of the North Coast and Central Coast. The North Coast vineyards stretch from Sonoma to Lake County and the Central Coast fruit in Paso Robles and Santa Barbara. A warm (13.8 per cent alcohol) Cab to be sure but several shades this side of hot. The tones are elevated and a bit jumpy, with fruit noting plum, pomegranate and ultra ripe to sweetened cranberry. Wood spice (from eight months in French and American oak) gives cinnamon and Goji berry. The perfume keeps wafting in waves, intoxicatingly so, prepping the palate for really solid fruit flavours. Though not the deepest nor the longest spoke on the Cabernet wheel, this CSJ works in the simplest, apropos ways. Highly aromatic, well-structured, righteously crafted and respectfully restrained. The sweet finish is dipped in chocolate. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted May 2015  @CSJWines

Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

 

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011, Tuscany, Italy ($22.95, WineAlign)

Always at or near the apex of CCR value, the 2011 is of a rich, modern, pitched deeply and highly purposed vintage. It elevates its game in all facets; fruit, acidity, tannin and warmth. A muzzle of bees seems to add muted, buzzing complexity in a Sangiovese with a faint if unusual smell of honey. In this Riserva, the “sun gets passed, sea to sea…with the breeze blown through.” The natural ripening leads to aromas indicating slow-cured plum, anise, and candied rose petals. The deeper tones are like hot autostrada surface, the gait slow roasted, with charred protein and dehydrating red fruits. In three years the fruit will seem fully dried, slightly oxidized and potentially caramelized. Express compliance of these instructions need heed by agreeing to drink this in the short term with an hour or two of radio air time. This to allow the astringent tannin to be tamed. Roger, Wilco that. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted May 2015  @castgabbiano  @chianticlassico

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2012, Yarra Valley, Australia ($29.95, WineAlign)

Culled from the upper and lower Yarra Valleys, the ’12 is a high-toned tome of rusty, dusty, ricochet in fruit. Seemingly warmer than its 13.5 alcohol suggests, but like the Arizona desert, it’s a dry heat. The metal urgency of sloping hillside impart is a bit tense. The is the OZ equivalent of terse Burgundy when mired in youth. The copious quantity of red fruit, both tart and ripe, is admirably in and with more time, beyond the current anxious phase, will come around again. The depth of flavour and grain ingrained in texture pushes the point. The finish is distinctly parallel and long. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted May 2015

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Etude Pinot Gris 2013, Carneros, California ($39.95, WineAlign)

Made in Pinot Gris exactitude, of inklings warm, in certitude dry, to intimations Alsatian, with nobly bitter flavours and a wealth of grape tannin. The preceding aromas recalled late August orchard’s stone fruit. With lieu-dit (think Altenbourg) premier cru (equivalent) ability, this is a very stylish Pinot Gris with layers of fruit and acidity. It’s certainly one for the cellar, to forget and allow for a secondary set of developments, in wax, honey and atmospheric, elemental aerified notions. Quite fearless PG. Were it $30, it would surely be a multi-case buy. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted May 2015  @etudewines  @CarnerosWine

Etude Pinot Gris 2013

Da Capo Wines

Mas Las Cabes Côtes Du Roussillon 2012, Ac Côtes Du Roussillon, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($19.75, WineAlign)

Beautifully funky southern French Syrah-Grenache meld, at once warm and then modern, entrenched in earth and laden with a smother and a smoulder. Syrupy but characterful far beyond simple, with spice, savour and garagiste intent. The garrigue accent runs across the grain in high altitude, windswept ways. Solid protein red for any day of the week and a candidate for restaurant list partner. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted August 2015  @LanguedocWines

Mas Las Cabes Côtes Du Roussillon 2012

Frank Family Zinfandel 2012, Napa Valley, California ($42.75, WineAlign)

A really lovely Zinfandel, of pure red fruits and just a fine, delineating, if zig-zagging swath of bramble. Though the alcohol (listed at 14.8 per cent) is anything but peckish, the heat does not overtake the fruit. This has so many barbecue forms and fetishes written into its DNA. It will comply with nary a complaint. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015  @FrankFamilyWine  @TheZinfandelOrg

Frank Family Zinfandel 2012

Albino Rocca Duemilaundici Barbaresco 2011, Piedmont, Italy ($65.95, WineAlign)

Point blank Barberesco, autarchic and traditional, built on memories and bent on making new ones. From a clay-limestone, south facing, single vineyard in a cru called Montersino (in the Treiso commune). Where it differs from the Ronchi is the natural cure coursing in slow food motion through its blood stream, carrying micro-oxygenated blood. There are notes of crushed aniseed and sweaty clay. The mouthfeel is silkier, more refined and the tannins sweeter. Can actually imagine this pleasing sooner and also for longer. Drink 2017-2032.  Tasted August 2015  @regionepiemonte

Albino Rocca Duemilaundici Barbaresco 2011

 

Cavinona Wines

Terre Di Giurfo Kudyah Nero D’avola 2013, Doc Sicily, Italy ($19.50, WineAlign)

Kudyah is the arabic name for the Sicilian town of Licodea Eubea nearest to Terre di Giurfo’s vineyards. Quite classic, rich, ruby red raspberry and earth Nero d’Avola. Tons of fruit, chews of liquorice and a mineral finish add up to a very direct, simple pleasure. A scrape of orange zest adds a florality to lift spirits and relieve stress. Just a bit salutary and saline on the finish. Very honest Nero. Tasted 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015  @WinesOfSicily

Terre Di Giurfo Kudyah Nero D'avola 2013

Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Rosé, Lombardy, Italy ($33.50, WineAlign)

Statuesque, rustic, ancient ruin of Franciacorta, on a clear day, of tall grasses, oxidative apples and slices of hard Lombardian cheese. A total, classical, storied package of gastronomy in a bottle. Not so much Rosé as much as bubbles with a fostered history of age. Arid as the desert and piercing from acidity. This will be misunderstood by some, reveled in by others. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted July 2015  @contadicastaldi  @Franciacorta

Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Rosé

Fattoria Di Milziade Antano Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2011, Doc Umbria, Italy ($50.50, WineAlign)

From arguably a better vintage than 2012, this Montefalco exhibits a deeper treasury of fruit, thankful and necessary to handle the wood it has been dealt. The fusion into such a sanguine and ferric stream has been achieved with more direct consciousness than the free-feeling and liberismo 2012 normale. The red fruit here is dense, steroidal even, yet still pure and direct. Largesse in rusticity is the plainly assessed goings on, chewy and dusty, a figure head for Sagrantino in Umbria. This is Italian wine to define the meaning of provinciale, deeply ingrained for place, history and tradition. Like its baby brother it will need time to settle but not so much that the fruit submits to the tannin. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2015

Fattoria Di Milziade Antano Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2011

Good to go!

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Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign: Michael Godel

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Giving Grand Cru Pinot Noir d’Alsace its due

The Vineyards of Domaine Albert Mann<br /> photo (c) https://www.facebook.com/albertmannwines "Pinot Noir, like Riesling, is a mineralogist."

The Vineyards of Domaine Albert Mann
photo (c) https://www.facebook.com/albertmannwines
“Pinot Noir, like Riesling, is a mineralogist.”

You won’t find a rare or carefully considered older vintage of Pinot Noir tasted and discussed at a Millésimes Alsace Master Sommelier class. Nor will it be featured in a magazine article’s varietal spotlight on the great wines of the region. The world may ignore the potentiality and the well-established roots of the expatriate Burgundian in Alsace, but there are winemakers who know. The future of the grape with a long history is already entrenched in the Alsace progression.

Pinot Noir is the only red grape variety authorized in Alsace. The official marketing and regulatory board for the region, Le Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins d’Alsace (CIVA) recognizes the trenchant antiquity. “What is today considered a novelty in the region is in reality a legacy of the past that is becoming increasingly successful.” According to the Wine Society, the oldest recorded grape variety in Alsace is in fact Pinot Noir, predating Riesling by at least seven centuries.” That exaggeration aside, records dating back to the 16th century indicate that the grape variety was stored in Abbey caves and poached in tithes by the Church.

Out in the diaspora the affirmation of what best indicates Burgundy is the requiem for respect. Oregon, Central Otago and certain pockets of (cooler) California are well into their seasons of repute. Yet sometime around 10-15 years ago the $60 Sonoma Pinot Noir became serious fashion. Thanks to darlings like Kosta Browne, the sky became the limit, in California and elsewhere. A host of producers joined the ranks of the rich and famous. Looking back now, the black cherry bomb initiative temporarily cost the New World its mojo.

Those growing pains have worked to great advantage. Today you have to be better and fashion elegant Pinot Noir to attract an audience and become a hero. This goes for Sonoma County, Napa Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, the Willamette Valley, Marlborough, Martinborough, Nelson and Otago. This applies to the Okanagan Valley and South Africa too. Niagara and Prince Edward County have followed suit. Vignerons like Norman Hardie, Thomas Bachelder, Moray Tawse and Harald Thiel understand what needs. Their wines have ushered in a $40-plus Pinot Noir era in Ontario. But Alsace? Please. Today a reckoning about Pinot Noir incites nothing but a series of car wrecks along the wine route from Thann to Marlenheim.

Burgundy and Bordeaux do not accept varietal expatriate inclusions. So, why should Alsace? For one, global warming. Say what you will about that load of scientific horse crap but the biodynamic culture that permeates much of Alsace is in tune and well aware of temperature change and ripening schedules. More and more growers are picking their whites earlier, to preserve freshness and acidity, not to mention the conscious decision to cheat botrytis and elevated residual sugar. Embracing Pinot Noir is on many of their minds. Some are ahead of the curve and have already made some exceptional wines. Many examples from the first eight years of the 21st century are showing beautifully in 2014. Phillipe Blanck poured a very much alive 1991. How many Alsace wineries can lay claim to one of those in their cellars?

It’s common knowledge to an Alsatian cognoscenti that white wines drive the mecca. Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer and their associations with the Grand Cru and lieu-dits are the it vines. Vendanges Tardives (VT or, Late Harvest) and Sélection de Grains Nobles (SGN, or selection of noble berries) sit on thrones of glory. Even traditional varieties like Auxerrois and Muscat continue to outshine and suppress the possibilities for Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir has yet to receive any proper respect both in and outside of Alsace. Can there be justice served in a wine region where a noble variety must share nomenclature with a bottom feeder like Pinot d’Alsace, which is not really a Pinot at all. The scavenging white blend draws attention while making unsubstantiated use of the Pinot prefix. Pd’A need only contain a small percentage of any type of Pinot (Blanc, Auxerrois, Meunier or Noir) in conjunction with other white Alsatian varieties. According to wikipedia:”Lack of acidity and complexity often prevent Alsatian Pinot Noir from achieving anything more than pleasant, easy drinking, quality levels.” Them’s fighting words.

That faux Pinot sideshow is really a whole lot of nothing. The real terror is that if you grow exceptional quality Pinot Noir on Grand Cru terroir in Alsace you can’t label it as such. If you produce Riesling in the Hengst, you are good to go. If you grow Pinot Noir in any of the storied “male horse,” vineyards, the resulting wine, with respect to the variety, is only considered lieu-dit and must be labeled as such. This is the Alsace Grand Cru taboo.

As part of his recent three-part report on Alsace, British journalist Tom Cannavan covers some of the wines of the Grand Cru Hengst. Cannavan so rightly notes that “the problem is, not only is Pinot Noir ineligible for Grand Cru status, but the name Hengst cannot even appear on the label.” He did sample some basic Pinot examples and wondered aloud about the injustice being a non-sequitur. He missed the boat. Case in point Domaine Albert Mann. Back that up with Pinot Noir made elsewhere by Pierre Blanck, Jean-Pierre Frick and Mélanie Pfister, among others.

Maurice and Jacky Barthelmé of Domaine Albert Mann shirk the system with the use of a simple letter, an “H” or a “G” in place of Hengst and Pfersigberg. Philippe Blanck of Paul Blanck & Fils does the same thing with an “F” for Furstentum. It’s a wink-wink, say-no-more kind of approach. A grand parade of life-giving packaging. The brothers Barthelmé and Mr. Blanck know what excellence lies in their Pinot Noir holdings and understand the bright red future for Alsace. “Pinot Noir, like Riesling, is a minerologist,” insists Maurice. Don’t think of the brothers as pioneers so much as pragmatists. CIVA has surely taken note and despite the resistance to add Burgundy to the charges, change is inevitable. The Pinot Noir eyes never lie.

Here are two dozen Pinot Noirs tasted in Alsace during a week in June.

Domaine Albert Mann

@Smallwinemakers

Diversity of the parcels of land, disseminated and however subtly intertwined, which are the particularity of the domaine

François Bruetschy

Pinot Noir (and Pinot Gris) of Domaine Albert Mann

Pinot Noir (and Pinot Gris) of Domaine Albert Mann

Pinot Noir Clos De La Faille 2012

Though geologically speaking this Pinot Noir out of 1997 plantings in calcaire and redstone soils is a fault on the hill of nature, as a wine it shows no discernible impropriety. This represents a tectonic shift for Alsatian Pinot Noir, a lithe and floral wine of articulation and an eye opener to prepare for the intensity of Mann’s Grand letters. It’s a lightly woven, silky soft Pinot, with a furrowed brow and the necessary Mann clarity of responsibility. Density is through a looking-glass, a gateway to Alsace and what future varietal decorum may be achieved.

Pinot Noir Les Saintes Claires 2012

From calcareous soil and still the Albert Mann zealous clarity, with similar intensity and protracted density. There is a lacuna permeated by a hint at black cherry but the ken is never fully realized. At 13 per cent abv and with a set of fine, sweet tannins (even more so than La Faille), these 20 year-old vines have procured a piled Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir Les Saintes Claires 2010

A top-notch (though cool and late harvested from a small crop) vintage for Mann (and Alsace) Pinot Noir, here the calcareous parcel at Sigolsheim above an old monastery called “Les Clarisses.” Some early rot and bottle reduction have both been stabilized as the wine peels off the rust and goes mellow, in full humanizing and sensual mystery. “How great the wine is when you can see the vintage, ” chimes Maurice. Controlling the effects of both nature and fermentation seems no biggie to the brothers Barthelmé. The act is of such minor tragedy, the climax characterful and sacred. A tingle of eastern spice twitches over bright fruit and a certain florality, materializing what can only be described as obvious commitment. It’s all about the journey.

Domaine Albert Mann Pinot Noir Les Saintes Claires 2008 and Grand P 2012

Domaine Albert Mann Pinot Noir Les Saintes Claires 2008 and Grand P 2012

Pinot Noir Grand “P” 2012 (Tasted from a 375 mL bottle)

From a blend of plantings (1975 and 2004) in Wintzenheim limestone-sandstone soils on the Grand Cru Pfersigberg. Whole bunch pressed grapes (60 per cent) saw a range of oak; 25 per cent new, 50 one-year old and 25 older barrels. A light filtration was used to combat some reduction. This P is a touch ferric, not unlike Volnay but also because of the vintage. The vines in ’12 were subject to cool, then humid, then dry weather. The flux makes for a full floral display, from iron through to roses, but the wave stays linear and rigid. In its youth, the P is calm and on a level plain along its ECG-considered PQRST journey. It will soon spike past Q, up to R and then settle in for the long haul. Will hit its glide at S and T at the end of the decade.

Pinot Noir Grand “P” 2011

From what Maurice Barthelmé describes as a “paradoxical vintage” that started out dry and turned rabidly humid. This has huge personality, less refinement but more delicacy than the Hengst. Once again it’s a touch reductive and that tenuity is in the form of cured meat. The style here emulates Burgundy more than any of the P’s, much more than the H’s and worlds beyond the Failles and the Claires. The iron gait exceeds ’12 with a railroading layer of grand P funk. A chain of earth-resin-tannin has “got the knack,” jumps up, jumps back, does the locomotion with “a little bit of rhythm and a lot of soul.” The 2011 Pfersigberg is unlike any other Alsatian Pinot. It requires plenty of air and even more time to unwind. Look for it to become a classic 20 years after release.

Pinot Noir Grand “P” 2009 (Tasted from a 375 mL bottle)

In the ’09 you can smell how five years of bottle time (slightly accelerated by the small format) brings Pfersigberg Pinot fruit into a Grand Cru station. This is in the zone and just about as perfect an example can be to represent the young cottage industry that is Alsace Pinot Noir. Five more years would send it into philosophical complexity. The classic “P” reduction is there, with amazing structure from the palate. Wonderful funk, the proverbial Brett-esque creature of Pfersigberg, along with cherry and resin of pine. Wonderful animal.

Pinot Noir Grand “H” 2012 (Tasted from a 375 mL bottle)

From a south-facing plot in Wintzenheim on the Grand Cru Hengst. The soils are deeper, the clive made of consolidated clay or marly limestone and sandstone. All aspects of the Pinot Noir here are enriched by the density of nutrition; extract, spice and tannin. Any thoughts of overripe character in any way are thwarted a circular saw of energy that cuts through the cake, breaking it down with extreme prejudice. Tasted at 9:00 am this is a wake up call of the highest order. Notes Maurice Barthelmé, “this must be planted in calcaire soil.” Strike another notch on the Grand Cru petition.

Pinot Noir Grand “H” 2009, 

Typically Hengst, with a whiff of reduction, though never as pronounced as the Pfersigberg. In the ’09, which was a star-caste vintage, the “H” stands for high. As in hue, extract and phenolics. It could be imagined that Syrah were blended in (Maurice said it) and like its namesake (German translation), “Hengst is a stallion.” The reduction is (sic), as Eleven Madison Park’s Jonathan Ross noted, “favourable flavour. A creaminess comes from grape tannin, not oak.” This is meaty Pinot Noir, seeking out rare flesh, in beef or game. It will travel well and live for a decade or more.

Kientzheim, Alsace

Kientzheim, Alsace

Pinot Noir 2008

This vintage preceded forward seasons that brought out warm, fully ripe and optimal phenol-realized fruit. From Maurice Barthelmé’s vineyard, between Mambourg and Furstentum, in Kientzheim. Clear, clean and precise. This was perhaps a bit ambitious in its oak soak from a year that Maurice considers “difficult and early,” but the parcel never lies and what a parcel it is. “Pinot Noir, like Riesling, is a mineralogist, ” says Barthelmé. This is Mann’s purest Pinot, if a touch under ripe, but that is the key. Whole bunch pressing and the oak envelopment has created a round flavour lock and Maurice feels he needs 10 more years to master this technique. Though this may have been the early stages in the development of the Mann Pinot candidacy, by 2018 it will reign in Alsace.

Paul Blanck & Fils

@rogcowines

“We’re looking for authenticity. Not wines of impression, but wines of expression.

Philippe Blanck

Phillipe Blanck, Domaine Paul Blanck & Fils

Philippe Blanck, Domaine Paul Blanck & Fils

Pinot Noir 2012

From granite and gravel soils, the former bringing a bitter component, the latter what Philippe Blanck calls “a facile aspect.” Dark fruits, like black cherry and plum are flecked with pepper and cloaked in a silky robe. “Almost a sort of texture wine,” considers Blanck. The bitterness is beautiful and offers a window of proof towards the ageing capabilities of Pinot Noir in Alsace. “Everybody has an idea of what is a Pinot Noir in the world,” says Philippe. “This is a classic one. And they age crazy.” Classic vintage too. From now and for 10 years.

Pinot Noir 1991

From 20-year old vines (at the time) and a low-yielding (20 hl/ha), cold vintage. The wine was not filtered and 13 years on remains very much alive. Retains the unmistakable smell of Fragaria Vesca, fraise de bois, the herbaceous and wild alpine strawberry. Mix in a metallic, iron and wine tinge and still viable tannins and you’ve got yourself a wonderfully aged Alsace Pinot. An example to encourage a future for the grape variety in Alsace. “So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten.” Blanck said “nothing to prove, just to experiment. Some wet, moldy berry in here.” Roasted game lends a note as well to this upward, over the “mountain wine.”

Pinot Noir “F” 2009 

The F is for Furstentum, the Grand Cru on the northern slopes of the Weisbach valley split between the communes of Kientzheim and Sigolsheim. The soil is marl. Philippe Blanck insists “we’re looking for authenticity. Not a wine of impression, but a wine of expression.” Here is cherry set on high, bright and exploding, with savoury wild herbs and direct linear of acidity. Authentic yes, silky no. Can age for 10 more years and somewhere along that line the direction will find a more approachable intersect.

Domaine Pfister

Pinot Noir 2009

From a vintage Le Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins d’Alsace (CIVA) called “precocious” and of irresistible wines. Mélanie Pfister’s ’09 comes from the calcareous Clos Bamhauer, went through two weeks maceration in Inox and then spent a slow 18 months in Burgundy barriques. Incredibly fragrant, with a rich density and a charge of wood spice. Its black cherry waft brings Burgenland to mind, that and the elastic, silty grit by way of some vines grown on gravelly soil. What sets it apart from everywhere else not called Burgundy is the lack of any sort of varnished note. Purity prevails.

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht

@TrialtoON

Pinot Noir 2012

To Olivier Humbrecht, the location and managing the ripeness of Pinot Noir is key. “You can’t hide green character in Pinot Noir,” he asserts. Fruit comes from the Heimbourg vineyard, from west-facing slopes out of marl and limestone. This is a cooler, later ripening position with a draught between the hills. At 13 per cent alcohol it is pleasantly ripe but not as rich and intense as 2009. Still ripe enough for positive and effective phenols. Tannins are present and accounted for, wrapping a veil over the chalky, chewy, slighted coated fruit. The mineral is felt in texture coming from what is a simple, proper and elegant palate.

Domaine Pierre Frick

“Wine is not intellect, it’s emotion.”

Jean-Pierre Frick

@LeCavisteTO

Pierre Frick Pinot Noir 2008 and 2009

Pierre Frick Pinot Noir 2008 and 2009

Pinot Noir Rot-Murlé 2009

This block is literally le muret rouge or, the red stone wall. From brown, ferric (ferrugineux), hard calcaire soils. In 2008 you could not write organic on the label (this changed with the 2012 vintage) so Frick sub-labeled the bottle Vin Biologique Zéro Sulfites Gioutés. Natural wine. Rustic, full of horns on acidity. The combination of clay, marl and the fact that the plot benefits from extended late-afternoon sun all lead to vigor, rigor and rigidity. This is Jean-Pierre Frick’s thickest and most Romantic brushstrokes. Richly textured like a Gaugin portrait of the The Schuffenecker Family. Post-impressionist Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir 2008

From the Strangenberg lieu-dit, a hill parcel known as la colline aux pendus. Soil composition is hard, durable brown calcaire. After a quick whiff of farm droppings blow off, Jean-Pierre Frick’s Pinot Noir reveals a bright, light and feminine side. It is now blessed by gentle, resolved tannins. The generous spirit, kind heart and gentle soul of this Pinot offer nothing but calm pleasure. Its coat has not even a trace of primer. It is simply thoughtful and considerate. The iron minerality persists but with static and clinging trace fibers. A wine perfectly suited for a middle course at today’s table.

Pierre Frick Pinot Noir Strangenberg 2003 and Pinot Noir 2008

Pierre Frick Pinot Noir Strangenberg 2003 and Pinot Noir 2008

Pinot Noir Strangenberg 2003

Sub-label notes this ’03 as Vin Biologique Vinifié Sand Souffre. Years before it was fashionable or righteous to farm and vinify organically and without sulphites, Jean-Pierre Frick was looking to the stars. The Strangenberg is a very dry part of Alsace, Mediterranean in climate. This is earthy Pinot, like reds from Corbières or Sardinia, with its mutton-funky and roasted game aromas. Here is proof that non-sulphured wine can age, with the simple equation of fruit, acidity and tannin. It’s actually hard to believe so much tannin can emit from the collines of Haut-Rhin in Pinot Noir. Crazy actually. There is an underdeveloped green note along with some roasted and cooked flavours so peak has been reached. When left for 30 minutes in the glass the tannins begin to dry out. Like southern French and Italian reds, another 10 years would bring caramel, soy, figs and raisins. Either way. now or then, this Frick will also be interesting.

Domaine Schoenheitz

Pinot Noir Linzenberger 2013 (Barrel Sample)

Spent six months in one-year old (Allier forest) barrels. Bright, tight, full-on red cherries. A quick, fun, pure expression, clean and full of cherry. A two to three-year Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir Sainte Gregoire 2012

From the Val Saint Grégoire lieu-dit, the historic name of the Valley of Munster (before the Protestant reform). The soil is decomposed granite rich in micas. Leans warm and extracted but with a high-toned, spiced coat tension. A generalization would place it more New World than Old, verging to black cherry, though again, the spirit is high. In contrast the yields were low (17 hl/ha) from the Cru, let alone the top-level of output from such a low yielding vintage. “When nature isn’t generous the yields go down fast,” confirms Dominique Schoenheitz. Good balance and well-judged.

Gustave Lorentz

@AmethystWineInc

Pinot Noir La Limité 2009

From the lieu-dit Froehn on the edge (the limit) of the Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim. Such a spicy florality and the underlay of calcaire from what is ostensibly hard limestone and Jurassic Lias marls meet one another in a geological confluence of fossils, red ferruginous soil and hard rock. A slow 12-month accumulation to fermentation has brought this Pinot Noir to land’s end. It bares un uncanny resemblance to the Prince Edward County Pinot Noir ’12 by Norman Hardie. Over exposure to sun, wind and everything else nature delivers gives this wine its vigor, its core strength and its vibrant personality.

Edmond Rentz

Pinot Noir Piece de Chene 2011

The Rentz take on Pinot Noir grows up in oak for 14-18 months, from a mix of new and used (no older than four years) barrels. The style is decidedly rich Pinot of a sweet tooth with a soft spot for quality chocolate. Spice supplements of orange and cinnamon, along with ethical acidity bring forth a wine bien charpentée, agreeable and ready for PDQ consumption.

Domaine Paul Zinck

@liffordretail

Pinot Noir Terroir 2012

Flat out fresh, mineral Pinot Noir. Only 100 cases were produced from a chalk and clay single parcel, on the Grand Cru Eichberg. GC yes to Phillipe Zinck, “but not official.,” Very little barrel influence here, in fact two-thirds of the Terroir was fermented in stainless steel, “to keep the mineral.” The cherry scents has tinges of plum, licorice and black olive, but just around the periphery. It’s otherwise bright and fresh with a quiescent streak throughout. Excellent.

Domaine Boyt-Geyl

Pinot Noir Galets Oligocène 2010

From the village of Beblenheim, this Pinot Noir gets the moniker from deposits of Oligocène of the tertiary period consisting of conglomerated rock on a base of marl. Jean-Christophe Bott considers the low-lying grapes of this terroir on lower slopes to be Grand Cru (in quality). Picked early to avoid resinning, cooked or jammy flavours, the wine was matured in (one year-old) barriques for 14 to 18 months. Quite earthy and spiced explicitly by cinnamon, though delicious, this is Pinot that flirts with what Bott wants to avoid. Served with a good chill it harmonizes its intent.

Good to go!

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In a Grand Cru state of mind

Grand Cru Riesling, Alsace

Grand Cru Riesling, Alsace

I have been in Alsace now just over 48 hours and already feel as though I have been introduced to a lifetime of wine. Yet with every taste of the Alsace pansophy I am reminded just how long the unfathomable road to the region’s enlightenment remains to be. The combination of nuance, complexity and acuity of the Alsatian wine spirit may have no equal. Some highlights of the first two days in Alsace with SOPEXA and CIVA.

Domaine Steuntz-Buecher

Domaine Stentz-Buecher

What a way to be introduced to Alsace in 2014. Les diVINes d’Alsace, an organization of 70 industry women and Domaine Stentz-Buecher rolled forth a genealogical pedigree of Alsace past and present with food station matching in the winery’s garden and in the barrel rooms. First Crémant, then whites of many incarnations; Pinot Gris, blends, Gewürztraminer and many, many Rieslings. The final prize at the end of a long scroll of grand achievements were Grand Cru Riesling from the vintage 2000. The eight acted out a Grand Cru finale of generous spirit via and the women of

Louis Haller Brut Crémant D'Alsace / @diVINeSDaLSACE

Louis Haller Brut Crémant D’Alsace / @diVINeSDaLSACE

Les vigneronnes Mélanie Pfister and Carolyn Sipp introduced the three year-old organization, the winemakers, winemaker’s wives and sommeliers that form the membership of l’Association des Femmes de la Vigne & du Vin d’Alsace. “We are feminine but not feminism,” quipped Sipp. The idea began in 2009, following in the footsteps of similar women in the Rhône, Bourgogne and the Southwest of France. Women who have banded together to promote their region’s wines.

Laurence Hauller showed the 100 per cent Chardonnay Louis Hauller Crémant d’Alsace, a fine, subtle, stylish, finessed and elegant interpretation of Chardonnay that is a different sort of Alsace discrimination. Eliane Ginglinger presented her bone dry, citrus in laser focus Ginglinger Riesling Vieilles Vignes 2012. Myriam Haag offered up Domaine Jean-Marie Haag’s Riesling Grand Cru Zinnkoepfle 2011, an enervating wine with richness bled from rocks and a finishing noble bitterness. Myriam Schmitt brought her Domaine François Schmitt Riesling Grand Cru Pfingstberg 2012 that though in sweet emotive intention remains buoyant in the persevering air of aridity. It defines the transformative trend towards Dry Alsatian Riesling. Josiane Griss of Domaine Maurice Griss’ Riesling Sonnenberg 2010 if asked the question, “how long have you been a Riesling” would surely answer simply, “from creation.”

Grand Cru Riesling 2000

Grand Cru Riesling 2000

The Riesling Grand Cru from 2000 were a varied and electric bunch. The Caves François Schmitt Riesling Grand Cru Pfingstberg 2000 is a baby still and in hallmark readiness of its necessary terroir. The Domaine Sipp-Mack Riesling Grand Cru Rosacker 2000, also young and primary teases and feigns late harvest but don’t be fooled by its sunshine. This chew of salted stones has a long, long finish. the show stealer was the Magnum of Riesling Grand Cru Kaefferkopf 2000 by Vins Jean-Baptiste Adam. Incredibly atomic with a vineyard flinty stink that exhumes and exudes the benevolent bitterness of time. Wildness and purity.

Godello and Pierre Gassman of Rolly Gassman

Godello and Pierre Gassmann of Rolly Gassmann

The main event of Monday, June 16th was the Millésimes Alsace, the professional trade fair for Alsace, Wines. Nearly 90 exhibitors showed off their terroir, in Crémant d’Alsace, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, Auxerrois, Muscat and Pinot Noir. A morning Master Class seminar featured eight world-class Sommeliers leading the room through seven “typical” Alsace wines. Maison Rolly Gassmann’s Riesling Kappelweg de Rorschwihr Vendanges Tardives 2000 is late harvest mineral expression in bitterness unchained yet restrained.

Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile 1990 and Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer Furstentum 1994

Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile 1990 and Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer Furstentum 1994

The afternoon Master Class covered older vintages. Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile 1990 lays in an evolution that has come to a balance in weightlessness. Domaine Weinbach Gewürztraminer Furstentum 1994 has a tannic impression and smells like flowers from warmer France. Caroline Furstoss reminded everyone that it is “an expression of a daughter.” Impeccable balance.

Mélanie Pfister

Mélanie Pfister

The third of a most excellent Alsatian vintage trilogy was represented by Domaine Pfister’s Riesling Grand Cru Engelberg 1990. With a clotted cream note the wise Cru remains youthful and nearly primary.

The wines of Jean-Marie Haag

The wines of Jean-Marie Haag

Domaine Jean-Marie Haag’s Riesling Cuvée Marion 1999 showed rich, viscous complexity with the sensation of star anise and menthol.

Kuentz-Bas Riesling 1983 and Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Grand Cru Kitterlé 1945

Kuentz-Bas Riesling 1983 and Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Grand Cru Kitterlé 1945

The high point of the day came with a rare and beautiful chance to taste the Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Grand Cru Kitterlé 1945. The heart and the hearth. Just the thought of producing this wine at that time is unfathomable. There are no superlatives to do it justice. This must end on that note. More on the Kuentz-Bas Riesling 1983 another day.

Good to go!

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