The Alsace AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlées) was established in 1962 and its fairly stringent winemaking requirements reflect the pride and ambition by Alsatians to codify their vinicultural expertise. Anchoring the north-east corner of France, this is the largest of 3 related appellations; representing 75% of the region’s vintners; sharing geography with a smaller group of select estates that carry the AOC designation Crémant d’Alsace (sparkling) or Alsace Grand Crus. Their output of varietal whites such as Sylvaner, Riesling (Dry), Gewürztraminer, Muscat d’Alsace, Pinot Blanc (Klevner), Auxerrois Blanc de Laquenexy, and this week’s DéClassé featured Pinot Gris are widely regarded as the benchmarks for more fulsome versions of the sometimes, lightweight wines produced elsewhere. In embracing the challenges of high AOC standards, particularly the preference for quality over quantity, Alsatian vintners are guarding the regional character that’s taken centuries to forge. Arguably, they remain in a leadership role for the cultivation/refinement of these cool climate grapes and wine styles; just ahead of burgeoning competition across the German border!
Alsace’s most reputed wine-producing district is the geographic portion called the Haut-Rhin (Upper Rhine). Centered on the ‘wine capital’ town of Colmar, its vineyards line the foothills of the Vosges mountains and roll out onto the adjacent river plain. Conquered by Caesar in the 1st century BCE, this was a desirable agricultural tract in the Roman province of Prima Germania for about 600 years before becoming part of a Frankish Duchy in 496. After a long period of acting as a buffering borderland region in the Holy Roman Empire, it was annexed by French troops in the late 17th century as a territorial spoil of the 30 Years War. For the next 350 years, this contested strip of land traded Franco and Germanic occupation before settling as a hybrid people/culture within modern-day France; so it also is with their traditions of fashioning wine.
Amid this latter period of regional history, lies the familial legacy of Jean Sparr and the 9 successive generations that have culminated as one of Alsace’s best-recognized producers, the Maison Pierre Sparr Successeurs. Their modern renaissance begins after the devastating 2nd World War, during which the family’s village of Sigolsheim and its surrounding vineyards were largely razed. Rebuilding the long-held family estate and replanting 15 hectares of vines, in time, has led to an expanded collaboration with other dedicated local growers and the current, and very capable cellar master, Alexandra Boudrot. Judging by the mid-grade offering of Pinot Gris Reserve 2014, the reputation of this consistently accomplished winemaking dynasty remains well deserved; with a future that’s distinctively dressed in a tall and slender bottle called a Flute, and its content that has a bright straw-coloured hue!
PIERRE SPARR RESERVE PINOT GRIS 2014
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #983395 | 750 mL bottle
Sugar Content Descriptor: D
Made in Alsace, France
By: Cvb Maison Pierre Sparr Successeurs
Release Date: April 16, 2016
Plush and soft, with layered aromas of apricots, honey, and spice, this fruity wine also incorporates citrus and a dose of minerality to refresh the palate. Though well-suited to a traditional gastronomic mix of Choucroute à l’Alsacienne (pickled cabbage, steeped potatoes, and assorted smoked sausages), Pâté de Foie Gras (goose liver paté with truffles, wrapped in pastry) and Flàmmeküche (flatbread with crème fraîche, onion, and lardons), it would also add a tangy balance to spicy Asian cuisine loaded with fresh vegetables. Try the latter pairing first; well chilled!