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Pinot Gris, Underestimated, Undersold


#1

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My final stop on my holiday road trip was at Kientzheim just outside Colmar, an area I know reasonably well and used this time as a break from the drive north and home, so just three nights two days and a severe restriction imposed on winery visits !
As good a reason for the stop as any aside from the stunning landscape backed by the Vosges mountains was to pick up some Pinot Gris, unlike its popular counterpart Pinot Grigio it is underappreciated as a wine which is a pity for it is good on its own and very good with food plus the quality is on another level compared with the Grigio version.
As an example of its current lack of appreciation the WS only has two versions for sale amongst the Rieslings and the Gewurtztramminers.

I was originnaly going to call in on Leon Beyer but Eguisheim was of limits “as we always go there” so I first pulled a sneaky before arriving at our destination and called at Albert Mann whos winery is at the southern end of the Alsace Grand Cru area, it’s a long time since I have drunk any of Manns wines as they have become difficult to find in the UK despite being available some years back.
http://www.albertmann.com/site/Home-page-79.html
There were two Grand Cru PGs for tasting the Hengst and the Furstentum, every major producer seems to have a piece of the Hengst vineyard rather like the Himmelreich and others in Germany.
Both were an intense golden yellow with green tints and both had the fruits of peach apricot to the fore, I thought the Hengst was slighly drier despite being fuller and prefered it over the Furstentum by a small amount time may prove me wrong but that was the one I purchased.

The following day I was allowed a morning to try two other wineries first Schlumberger
https://www.domaines-schlumberger.com/

were all three Grand Cru PGs were tasted plus their Princes Abbes, the Kitterle stood out but was in that range where you think you will only really enjoy a glass rather than the bottle so the Spiegel was purchased a much more food friendly wine and not as full on with the fruit and drier.
Whilst there I also purchased a single bottle of the PG Vendange Tardives, already aged as it was a 2010, lovely wine mellow golden all the tropical fruits dry, wonderful wine to have with strong cheese or fruit desserts or to sip on its own.
I also whilst there tasted a number of the Rieslings, all were good but I have always preffered the Rieslings on the other side of the Rhine so no buy for me but no one would be disappointed, very nice people here.

After that a quick dash to Trimbach

https://www.trimbach.fr/en/trimbach-estate/

Nice set up at Ribeauville, this was probably a mistake as a choice but it was nearby and I had to fit it in, the reason I say that is not because of the quality of their wines but the fact their PG selection is limited compared with other wineries and none at Grand Cru level so I tasted and left barren.

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Fortunately a trip to the supermarket was demanded for “essentials” the following day and they had at a good price some very good PGs and I got a couple of bottles of Schoffit GC Rangen and ditto two bottles of Gustave Lorentz 's GC PG both were 2015s so I was not going home without but obviously I didn’t taste them.
Amazingly the hotel we stayed at, which had a first class restaurant also had a wine list composed entirely of its own wines including all the late picked versions and Pinot Noir, I can’t say I had a bad wine on the three occasions we dined there and all were available to take away at very reasonable prices, but I was not allowed any more.

But why is it that PG is so undervalued, it has all the qualities from fruity to dry from soft to intense and is such a good food wine.
I have tried the new world versions of the grape but again they are quite different and lack the nuances and sublety of the Alsace versions.


#2

Thanks @cerberus for posting this. Your trip notes have been excellent. In answer to your question…

I just believe its so undiscovered and that the majority of people assume without trying that Pinot Gris will taste the same as a Pinot Grigio from Veneto. I adore Pinot Gris, both Alsace and some from the New world too.
Did you by any chance get to taste the Trimbach Reserve Personell while at the winery??
I’ve really enjoyed this wine the couple of times I’ve had it and has great potential to get better.

Some of the new world Pinots I enjoy include Urlar from NZ and also the Yealands Marlborough Pinot Gris . But definitely one of my favourites is Kooyongs Beurrot which appears to be increasing and increasing in price all the time, but worth it.
I’ll definitely have a look at some of your recommendations from Alsace though as I believe they are the benchmark when it comes to producing outstanding Pinot Gris.


#3

@cerberus Lovely to read your travels through Alsace and the wines you tasted. I also love Pinot Gris, especially from this area of France. It is a shame that TWS has a limited offering, but I can understand that if people are not buying it, for whatever reason.

I think the style of rich, but dry is a confusing one for some and it is really when paired with the local, (sometimes unusual for us) food that it works best; I’m thinking sauerkraut and onion tart as examples. Now feeling I must go and make the latter on this wet, autumnal afternoon…


#4

Hi Leah, yes I did try the reserve and the reserve personnell, both are good solid examples of the grape but they don’t do a Grand Cru though they do make some special, expensive cuvees occasionally, and they do make the late picked versions, so in reallity they do two PGs in their range but no Grand Cru whereas Schlumberger did three different ones Mann did two and almost everyone did one and that was what I was looking for.
I did try their Muscat that I thought was quite nice, aromatic, but the other grapes I ignored Pinot Blanc has never done anything for me other than just a decent everyday white and Gewurztramminer is lovely but not an everyday wine being a niche food wine.

Although I didn’t(wasn’t allowed) to go there Leon Beyer does make a very good PG bit firmer in style but the GC is very good but quite expensive and I don’t know if it warrants it anymore than Zindt Humbrechts Gran Cru does, certainly no better than the two I purchased at much better prices, and I am waiting to have a chance to drink the two cheapie PGs I brought back at under six euros and from decent producers it could be interesting.

Just a side note, the harvest was in full swing when I visited but only in parts yet it had been going on since late August because of the good weather yet there were grapes everywhere to pick still, it probably shows how the different grapes and styles of wine in the area dictate picking times, and the word is it should be another cracking year.
This gives me a chance to put up an old photo of Eguisheim, very touristy but very pretty.

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#5

Thanks, @cerberus , for an evocative illustrated report.

I thnk perhaps, like a number of thervarieties made in several style, the public doesn’t know what to expect when buying PGris…

The most stunning P Gris I’ve tasted was from New Zealand, but it’s not a variety that I have in my cellar.
(because, when we have white, Mrs M only really wants Savvie …)


#6

Can you remember which one it was ??


#7

Leah , I had this one from Waitrose about a year ago, very good clean cut and more direct, if that is the right word than Alsace versions, but still not for me as good as the top Alsace ones.

www.waitrosecellar.com/white-fine-wines/astrolabe-province-pinot-gris

I also tried the ARA single vineyard one at about the same time but it wasn’t anything special.
Again I add, there are now a lot of PGs being grown in NZ it is there at least on the up so it will be interesting as they come on stream and sale to see how they compare, the only worry with NZ is if like with SB they find a commercially selling style they are inclined to all go down the same route, it was not like that in the beginning but much is now.


#8

You are right, there is no definitive style and maybe that is the reason, similar in some ways to Riesling.
I should have added to my initial comment, I personnaly apart from the late picked versions of PG which are a different animal do not think they improve much with age, in fact the few I have kept for any length of time seem to lose one attribute their freshness which I think is fairly fleeting in the average cuvees for a sort of oily fruit cocktail, some may like this but I prefer the fresher earlier drinking ones.


#9

I was at a tasting at New Zealand House. There were many P Gris and I was bowled over by one after another. It was a few years ago now, and I don’t know where my notes of the tasting are


#10

I completely agree that Pinot Gris is both much underappreciated and at times misunderstood. It is in general much better than Pinot Grigio, and a great wine for Christmas time. I have still got some older PG in the cellar, including a Zind Humbrecht Vieilles Vignes and I think an Albert Mann, which are very different in style.

At lunch in The Gannet (an excellent restaurant) in Glasgow on Friday we ordered a carafe of a PG from Pfalz in Germany, which was fairly dry, more so than almost all Alsace PG and excellent with food - Pinot Gris, Villa Wolf 2017.

I have also had some very good NZ examples too - have just ordered a bottle of the Kumeu River PG which I see is now out of stock at TWS…

I think that it does need good and careful description of each different style, as what goes well with a rich game terrine at Christmas (I’m thinking the Albert Mann ones here) is not the one you would want with something like a stir fry where the NZ ones work well.

In the meantime, I will keep buying it and hope that the WS will keep stocking it…they do tend to have quite a few in their Alsace vintage offers when they come out.


#11

I have recently put in reserves a case of the Stopham PG which is excellent value, dry and food friendly.


#12

Weinbach Pinot Gris Cuvee St Catherine 2007 remains the benchmark for me. TWS used to sell a fair bit of this. Haven’t seen any for a while, but hoping the tasting next month might mean that’s about to change…


#13

Love Alsace Pinot Gris. There are lots of good ones just over the border in Baden and the Pfalz in Germany, Have enjoyed this one from the W/S recently:


#14

Same here! I’m a huge fan of Alsace PG as well as German Grauburgunder. The wine that made me sit up and take notice, and probably started me on this fun wine journey was a 2010 Domaine Schlumberger, Grand Cru Spiegel:

https://www.domaines-schlumberger.com/pinot-gris-grand-cru-spiegel-2010

:+1::+1:


#15

For the curious, this is the winery that is attached/owned by the Hotel we stayed at in Kientzheim, you have to click through to the Tarif to get the full range and the prices ! very reasonable and though I only sampled two different PGs at dinner there really was little wrong with them, a pleasant surprise in the mouth and in the pocket.

https://www.schwendi.fr/cave_1erpage_fr.htm


#16

An excellent discussion! I love Alsace Pinot Gris, and am delighted to see it getting more recommendations.

I don’t really have a lot to add that hasn’t been said already - maybe just to revisit the whole “richness” business.

It’s an issue with gewurztraminer too. In a nutshell, both grapes are often presented in a rich style (no doubt due to deliberately late picking). The consumer’s problem is frequently that you have no idea how sweet your wine is going to be, unless you have tasted it before. Some growers even let the fermentation take care of itself, so some years you get a sweet wine, whilst the same wine may be dry the next year. In any event, it’s an extra imponderable that merchant’s lists can only partly solve and I think it makes buyers wary.

Though I have had some lovely sweet PGs, I think for most purposes I lean towards the dry style wines. Whilst I agree that some are not worth cellaring, that’s certainly not true for all of them - they can gain a wonderfully creamy texture - similar in a way to white Graves from Pessac-Léognan.

Although it doesn’t say so on the label, the Trimbach Reserve Personelle is from a GC site I understand.


#17

From what I can gather the Trimbach Reserve Personelle is not from one GC site hence the lack of GC on the label.
The cellaring of PGs is normal, I just stated my view of how some of my PGs have developed and simply prefer the fresher younger style, that of course does not apply to the late picked versions which evolve in a different way.
For myself my taste has shifted over latter years and some styles of wine now do not appeal as they did in the past, I find that for the sweeter whites, auslese as an example in Riesling I cannot demolish a bottle anymore just a glass, probably that is how it should be, but it means you have to have friends round to share so those wines don’t get opened as much these days.
The drier style in PG like Riesling is now my preferred style but not exclusive.

Somewhere in my cellar I have a Beerenauslese that needs opening that like the Vendange Tardives purchased, something to look forward to.


#18

I’m thinking I will pop round later…


#19

Trimbach are one of those alsace producers who historically objected to using the term grand cru. From what they divulge, the reserve pinot gris sounds as if it might be part grand cru, part not, but they probably wouldn’t use the term even if they could, e.g. their Clos St Hune riesling, as I understand it, is from exclusively grand cru Rosacker and entitled to use the grand cru designation, but they choose not to. I think it’s something to do with them having a view that not all of Rosacker is as good as the bit that they own…?

Interestingly I see they have now launched some newer riesling cuvees which do make use of the grand cru designation. They and Hugel seem to be leaning towards doing this. I’ve never spotted them on sale in the UK, though I haven’t looked that hard. Has anybody tried them?


#20

Yes, there were several producers who objected to the extent of the GC designations and decided to ignore them (initially). Aside from Trimbach and Hugel, I think Leon Beyer was another, but I forget the rest.

On @cerberus’s point about the GC status of the Reserve Personelle PG wine, I was going by memory of what an importer had said, that a recent vintage came from the Osterberg GC. Having just looked at Trimbach’s website, there does appear to be a reservation for other unidentified sites in there too, so I’m not sure where the truth lies. Maybe both are true, or maybe there is some constructive ambiguity involved. Not that it makes any difference either way - it is a great wine.