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Alsatian Pinot Blanc

La Maison Pierre Sparr

La Maison Pierre Sparr

I mentioned in a January post that I don’t know much about wine, but I do enjoy reading Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher’s weekly wine column in the Saturday Wall Street Journal. That earlier post was written in response to their article on Washington Syrah. Yesterday’s topic was Alsatian Pinot Blanc. Here’s some of what they had to say:

We’re partial to Alsatian wines in general, though we have raised some alarms over the past few years about a rising level of sweetness in Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. We have a special soft spot for Pinot Blanc because, to us, it just seems so very relaxed and easy—and inexpensive to boot. … Under the rules of Alsace, a wine called Pinot Blanc can actually be made from any blend of Pinot Blanc and a grape called Auxerrois, which is Pinot Blanc’s traditional blending partner in Alsace. As a result, some wines labeled Pinot Blanc are 100% varietal Pinot Blanc, while Schlumberger, for instance, is 30% Pinot Blanc and 70% Auxerrois. …

We always say there are no guarantees in wine, but we [are] convinced that there are few wines on shelves or restaurant lists as reliably pleasant and filled with personality as Alsatian Pinot Blanc.

In Dottie and John’s tasting, they found that their favorite was Domaines Schlumberger ‘Les Princes Abbés’ 2006. $14.95. Their best value was Pierre Sparr Reserve 2007. As they always note with their tastings, you may not find the wines they’ve tasted, but there are many more, with availability varying greatly from store to store, so just give it a try.

We don’t drink a lot of white wine, but I figured I would keep an eye out for a bottle of Pinot Blanc. And my opportunity arose just hours later, when I went down to our local grocery store, Bert’s, in Madison Park. They have a large wine selection and an in-house expert, who is usually there on Saturdays. But he was nowhere to be found yesterday. And I couldn’t even remember what it was I was looking for. I hadn’t thought about buying wine until I walked in and remembered the article.

Pinot something. And white. So not Pinot Noir. Alsace. So I looked for the import shelves, then the France shelves. And looked first at the recommended bottles, which are laid out flat in a rack for display, separate from the ones stored vertically on the shelves. One jumped out at me. The label said Pierre Sparr. Alsace. I found it! That was fast. Oh, wait. Pinot Gris. Oh darn. What color am I looking for? Not Noir. I want a white wine. But Pinot Gris is a white wine. Don’t I want Blanc though? Can’t find it. Well, maybe it was Pinot Gris I read about. Maybe I’m confused.

I bought it.

As soon as I got home I confirmed my stupidity. Still, I hadn’t done anything bad. I just didn’t get to experiment with an Alsatian Pinot Blanc. That will have to await another day. Meanwhile, we can drink the Pinot Gris.

Which is what we did. I made spaghetti, already the planned dinner. Whether Pinot Gris is the best wine for the food or not didn’t much matter. It’s what we were going to have. And it worked. I could imagine better wines, but we were happy. I lack a suitable vocabulary, so I can’t say much more. The label tells me that the wine has a “hint of peach and quince flavors. Good weight and outstanding balance. The finish is crisp and dry.” Maybe so. Not sure about the quince though.

After dinner, I read up a bit on Pierre Sparr. They go back to 1680, are now run by the 9th generation, who are ready to perpetuate the tradition and passion into the 21st century. (The website is in French. This is my attempt at translation.) And they’re in Sigolsheim, just outside Colmar. I might have driven past their vineyards during my one visit to Colmar, at the beginning of February 1983. Not the best day in my life. But that’s another matter.

Colmar itself is a little more than halfway from Strasbourg south to Basel, and is home most famously of the Isenheim Altarpiece, Matthias Grünewald great crucifixion. Worth a major detour. Maybe we’ll go next year. And have Pinot Blanc.

Categories: Stupidity, Wine
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