Alsace Pinot Gris

Firmly part of territorial France in the 21st century, Alsace has been enriched by its dual Frankish and Germanic cultural history while experiencing some geopolitical upheaval due to the competing aspirations of its two parent nations. Colonized by 1st century BC. Romans; allied with the Medieval Holy Roman Empire a millennium or so later; occupied by ambitious 16th century French Kings; annexed by Germans in the late 19th century during the Franco-Prussian War; ceded back to France in the terms of armistice following the First World War, and finally, after many areas were entirely destroyed in the second world war bombing campaign by Allied forces–reaffirmed as French again. Throughout all of this tumult, steadfast Alsatians have rebuilt and found imaginative ways to keep producing fine grapes and a highly distinctive quality of wines.

Pinot Gris is a white wine grape that originated in the neighbouring vineyards of France’s Burgundy, then was proliferated throughout Europe–notably, popularized in Italy in the latter part of the 20th century where it’s known as Pinot Grigio. Derived from the larger Pinot family of grapes, this pink-skinned version with low acidity and relatively high sugar levels does well in cooler growing conditions such as Alsace and across the border around Baden, Germany.

Dating to the early 1700’s, the family winemaking estate of Joseph Cattin has been based in the heart of the Alsatian vineyards south of Colmar, between the villages of Voegtlinshoffen and Hattstatt. This storied region on the west bank of the Upper Rhine near the German border has excelled at cool-weather grape styles since the Middle Ages. The namesake of the current estate, Joseph, was an early 20th-century pioneer in combating the Phylloxera pest which did so much damage in Europe and beyond. Apart from continuing the development and expansion of what was then a modest 7-hectare property, he also studied and subsequently developed vine grafting techniques that became the viticultural model for many Alsatian growers to overcome the blight.

Later Cattin generations expanded the estate to over 50 hectares, as well as, engaged numerous local growers to cultivate according to the family’s exacting standard. With most of the combined vineyards sheltered in among the south-east facing foothills of the Vosges mountains, these terroirs of the Pinot Gris AOC d’Alsace with their highly variable soils and moderate climate help the vines yield a broad range of early ripening fruit with a well-rounded character.

This 2016 offering won Gold at the 2017 Concours Général Agricole de Paris
– as a follow-on to a long lineage of medal accolades for previous vintages.

JOSEPH CATTIN PINOT GRIS 2016
VINTAGES/LCBO – Product #196956 | 750 mL bottle
Price $16.95
13% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in Alsace, France
By: Cattin Freres
Release Date: July 7, 2018

Tasting Note
As is typical with this wine style in an Alsatian version, it’s more fulsome than its Italian Pinot Grigio cousins with aroma and flavour notes of stone fruit, accented by hints of
almond and honey. Try serving this with a broad range of vegetable-based dishes, pasta and cream sauces, or as an apéritif with foie-gras.

Alsace Pinot Blanc

Alsace’s most reputable wine district is the geographic portion called the Haut-Rhin (Upper Rhine). Regionally centered on the ‘wine capital’ town of Colmar, its vineyards line the low foothills of the Vosges Mountains and roll out onto the adjacent river plain. First conquered by Caesar in the 1st century BCE, it was a desirable agricultural tract in the Roman province of Prima Germania for 600 years before becoming part of a Frankish Duchy in 496. After a long period of acting as a buffering borderland 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, the contested strip traded Germanic and Franco occupation before settling as a hybridized people/culture within modern-day France; so it also is with their traditions of fashioning wine.

joseph-cattin

The Alsace AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlées) was established in 1962 and its relatively stringent winemaking guidelines 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 designations Crémant d’Alsace (sparkling) or Alsace Grand Crus. Their output of dry varietal whites such as Sylvaner, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Auxerrois Blanc de Laquenexy, and this week’s DéClassé featured Pinot Blanc (Klevner) are widely regarded as benchmarks for more fulsome versions of the sometimes, too-lightweight counterparts produced elsewhere. In prudently 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 their burgeoning competition across the German border!

Dating to the early 1700’s, the family estate of Joseph Cattin has long been a fixture in the Upper Rhine’s west bank vineyards that lie between the villages of Voegtlinshoffen and Hattstatt. Providing the namesake for the winery, Joseph was a 20th-century pioneer in combating Phylloxera, a pest that wrought such widespread devastation in European vineyards for decades. Apart from carrying on with the development and expansion of a modest 7-hectare property, he also studied and developed vine grafting techniques that would become the viticulture model for many Alsatian growers to finally subdue the blight. Here now, in a prolonged period of critical and commercial success, note that this modestly priced Joseph Cattin Pinot Blanc 2015 is adorned with a Gold Medal from the prestigious 2016 Paris Concours Général Agricole; underscoring the
consistent level of achievement and value for this vintner’s mid-range wines!

joseph-cattin

JOSEPH CATTIN PINOT BLANC 2015
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #224642 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
12% Alcohol/Vol. that
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in Alsace, France
By: Cattin Frères
Release Date: November 12, 2016

Tasting Note
This lightly fruity white, marked by apple, lemon and pear aromas and flavours wrapped around a medium body of fresh acidity, is well-suited to a traditional gastronomic mix of Choucroute à l’Alsacienne (pickled cabbage, 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 balance to spicy or sweet and sour Asian cuisine with stir-fried vegetables. Try the latter first — well chilled!

Alsace Pinot Gris

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!

maison-pierre-sparr

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

PIERRE SPARR RESERVE PINOT GRIS 2014
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #983395 | 750 mL bottle
Price $16.95
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in Alsace, France
By: Cvb Maison Pierre Sparr Successeurs
Release Date: April 16, 2016

Tasting Note
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!

Muscat Alert

Suggestively expressing its dual, Franco-German, cultural-heritage, the dramatic Wolfberger branding logo and graphic also reveal its founding in 1902 – one of numerous, auspicious points in Alsatian history. At the turn of the 20th century, the region had regained a nominal degree of self-governance while under the banner of a still-fledgling, German federation. Flash forward 60 years, past three more territorial swaps – to discover that this resilient winery, having begun with a modest investment in 60 Hungarian oak barrels, has evolved into a prolific co-op of 450 vignerons (vintners), tending to vineyards that are, indisputably, a unique part of a diversified French republic and its northeastern, winemaking terrains.

The Alsace AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) established in the 1960’s, with its fairly stringent requirements, reflects the prideful desire to codify and project Alsatian grape-growing and winemaking expertise. In being the largest of the 3 related appellations, almost ¾ of the region’s vintners work within its guidelines, sharing geography with a small number of estates that are AOC designated as Alsace Grand Crus (select land parcels) or Crémant d’Alsace (sparkling wine). Their production of varietal white wines such as Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Blanc, Sylvaner, Auxerrois and this week’s DéClassé featured Muscat, tend to be regarded as benchmark examples. With the near-global proliferation of these adaptive varieties, Alsatians are deserving of and prudently cautious in guarding their regional distinction that’s taken centuries to forge. Arguably, they remain in leadership for the cultivation and ongoing development of these cool climate grapes and finishing styles – just ahead of the growing competition.

Sold in a distinctively shaped bottle known as the Flute, the tall and slender form personifies the wine source as being from the greater Rhine region; shared on both sides of the river that marks the modern, French and German border. It’s also suggestive of the content’s often refined and un-doctored nature, a result of the wise, practiced and unobtrusive touch by the winemakers. Their offerings of wines are well-suited to a traditional, gastronomic mix that can range from Choucroute à l’Alsacienne: cabbage with steeped potatoes, various meats and sausage, to Pâté de foie gras: pastry-wrapped, goose liver paté with truffles, or Flàmmeküeche: flatbread with crème fraîche, sliced onion and smoked lardons.

Not to be confused with the often-sweeter Muscats from the south of France, this dry wine, lightly chilled, is also lovely on its own – especially in summer. It’s Muscat time at the LCBO; it comes around far too infrequently. Buy lots!

Wolfberger

WOLFBERGER SIGNATURE MUSCAT 2013
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #408211| 750 mL bottle
Price $ 16.95
11.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in: Alsace, France
By: Wolfberger
Release Date: July 25, 2015

Tasting Note One of a very few white wines that noticeably imparts fresh table grape aromas and flavours, this pale yellow version also has subtle and intriguing notes of rose and lychee fruit. Try this as apéritif with Muenster cheese, as an appetizer with asparagus and hollandaise sauce or with mains such as light Thai recipes.

Sylvaner Alert

Firmly part of territorial France in the 21st century, Alsace has been enriched by
its dual Frankish and Germanic cultural history, but has also experienced some
geopolitical upheaval due to the competing aspirations of its 2 parent nations:
Colonized by 1st century BC. Romans; then allied with the Medieval Holy Roman
Empire a millennium or so later; occupied by ambitious 16th century French Kings;
annexed by Germans in the late 19th century during the Franco-Prussian War;
ceded back to France in the terms of armistice following the First World War
and finally, after many areas were entirely destroyed in the second world war
bombing campaign by Allied forces – reaffirmed as French again. Throughout
all of this tumult, steadfast Alsatians have rebuilt and found many ways to keep producing fine grapes and a highly distinctive quality of wines.

Geographically bookended by the banks of the Rhine River to the east and the
Vosges Mountains westward, an undulating, fairytale-like landscape of verdant
vineyards is punctuated by castles on hilltops and half-timbered, half-plastered,
colourfully painted villages and towns such as ancient Sigolsheim. This is home
to this week’s DéClassé recommended, varietal bottling of a Sylvaner: Alsace’s
lesser-known, golden-yellow grape. As is often the case with once-popular styles,
in cycles, careless overproduction of a high-yielding grape to satisfy the market, can 
result in the making of unremarkable wine; thereby depressing demand or
eroding a producer’s reputation. Arguably, this is somewhat more Sylvaner’s
legacy across the border in Germany rather than in northern France. Here, the
AOC standards established in the1960’s, better ensure a judicious practise of pruning to tailor yields and traditional, hands-on harvesting to boost quality.

Bernard Sparr is the current vintner heading Maison Pierre Sparr Successeurs,
following in the lineage of 9 family generations that date to 1680 and the reign
of Louis X1V. Proud Alsatians, the House of Sparr has been tending to their 37
hectares of vineyard in the Haut-Rhin (upper Rhine) for a very long time. In the
modern age, they’ve expanded collaborations with a select group of regional
growers, drawing fruit from an additional 150h. With this increased output the
brand has evolved into one of the region’s more renowned and identifiable.

Sylvaner is a delicate and charming summer white, whose release onto shelves
here should be on your calendar of time-limited selections to be on the lookout
for; this time of year. Stock up and serve this dry wine chilled, though not cold,
or you’ll miss some of its subtle layering of citrus, apple and pear flavours.

Sylvaner

PIERRE SPARR RESERVE SYLVANER 2013
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #408179 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 13.95
12% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in: Alsace, France
By: Cvb Maison Pierre Sparr Successeurs
Release Date: May 16, 2015

Tasting Note
Try serving this beguiling, light, white flower and lime-scented refresher with
salad and onion tarts, choucroute, smoked ham hock and sausages, all sorts
of freshwater fish dishes or as apéritif with pickled herring.

Pinot Gris Alert

Pinot Gris is a white wine grape that originated in the neighbouring vineyards of
France’s Burgundy, then was proliferated around Europe – notably popularized
in Italy in the latter part of the 20th century where it’s known as Pinot Grigio.
Derived from the larger Pinot family of grapes, this pink-skinned version with low
acidity and relatively high sugar levels does very well in cooler growing conditions
such as Alsace and across the border around Baden, Germany.

Dating to the early 1700’s, the family winemaking estate of Joseph Cattin has
been based in the heart of the Alsatian vineyards south of Colmar, between the
villages of Voegtlinshoffen and Hattstatt. This storied region on the west bank
of the Upper Rhine near the German border has excelled at cool-weather grape
styles since the Middle Ages. The namesake of the current estate, Joseph, was
an early 20th century pioneer in combating the Phylloxera pest which did so much
damage throughout Europe and beyond. Apart from continuing the development
and expansion of what was then a modest 7 hectare property, he also studied
and subsequently developed vine grafting techniques which ultimately became
the viticultural model for many Alsatian growers to overcome the blight.

Later generations expanded the estate to over 50 hectares, as well as, engaged
numerous local growers to cultivate according to the family’s exacting standard.
With most of the combined vineyards sheltered in among the south-east facing
foothills of the Vosges mountains, these terroirs of the Pinot Gris AOC d’Alsace
with their highly variable soils and moderate climate help the vines yield a broad
range of early ripening fruit with well-rounded character.

This 2012 offering won Gold at the 2013 Concours Général Agricole de Paris
– this win being a follow-on to numerous medal accolades for previous vintages.

Pinot Gris

JOSEPH CATTIN PINOT GRIS 2012
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #196956 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 16.95
13% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in: Alsace, France
By: Cattin Freres
Release Date: August 30, 2014

Tasting Note
As is more typical with this wine style in an Alsatian version, it’s richer than its
Italian cousins with aroma and flavour notes of stone fruit, accented by hints of
almond and honey. Try serving this with a broad range of vegetable-based dishes,
pasta and cream sauces, or as an apéritif with foie-gras.

Pinot Blanc Alert

Founded in 1958, La Cave du Vieil Armand is a co-op of 100 growers that tend
to vineyard plots distributed throughout the southern regions of Alsace. By local
standards, this is a small group, though one which favours delivery of premium
offerings over production volume. One demonstrative indicator is the willingness
to cellar their wines indefinitely – until they’re deemed to be fully mature. This is
certainly the case here, with a Pinot Blanc release that’s from a 2009 vintage!

With a history traceable to 1230, one of their sub-brands: Chateau Ollwiller is
considered to be one of only 2 properties to have birthed Alsacian wine-making
traditions in the Middle Ages. Originally overseen by the wine fief: the Count of
Ferrette, the Château’s vineyards cover 25 hectares on the elevated slopes of
the Le Vieil Armand (‘Old Armand’), a rocky spur in the Vosges mountains. Soil
composition is largely made up of marl and sandstone on a limestone base that
lends an aromatic complexity and minerality to the vine stock grown here.

Within this intriguing property is the so-called ‘Clos de la Tourelle’, a dedicated
sub-plot planted with only Pinot Blanc grapes. Punctuated by an ancient stone
watch tower, the single-vineyard nature of this bottling is iconoclastic both in its
geographical setting, vinicultural character, as well as, its classic, ‘flûte’ shaped
bottle. The variety is often referred to as the workhorse grape of Alsace and has
an undeserved reputation as being sometimes wanting in terms of a distinctive
flavor profile. This is perhaps missing the point as far as appreciating the subtler
charms that this very well-made varietal bottling has to offer. Produced with cold
and slow fermentation in stainless steel tanks with no oak in the aging, this very
typical Alsatian style yields a natural spiciness to compliment the bright, natural
blonde and crisp acidity – making them perfect wines to pair with lighter foods.

Grand Gold winner at 2013 Concours International de Lyon – buy at least 2!

Clos de la Tourelle

CHATEAU OLLWILLER CLOS DE LA TOURELLE PINOT BLANC 2009
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #377788 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 16.95
12.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in: Alsace, France
By: Cave du Vieil Armand
Release Date: Jun 21, 2014

Tasting Note
This wine has an intriguing tartness and a firm acidity with apple, pineapple and
sweet lemon flavours in the foreground. Try serving as a well chilled apéritif with
soft cheeses, summer salads, poultry and fish dishes.