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!

Pinot Blanc Alert

With a thousand years of cultural and regional history, the sometimes turbulent
story of the Palatinate began in the Holy Roman Empire’s early medieval period.
This fertile strip of land, barely 15km wide by 85 long, would eventually become
a coveted set-piece in the positioning between far-off Papal Emperors and the
emerging Protestants. In a middle ground, the successive line of secular princes
anointed as Counts of Palatine pursued a separate agenda of regional ambition.
Centuries of struggle eventually culminated in the 17th century during a so-called
War of the Grand Alliance, when French troops were dispatched northward by
Louis XIV, driving out much of the local population. Emigrating as a group, they
would become known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, though were mostly German.
Specifically, the lands they left behind are Rheinland-Pfalz: a modern state within
the German Federation whose bountiful grape-growing zones are bounded by
the west bank of the Rhine River and the densely forested Haardt Mountains.

The sheltered, relatively warm and dry microclimate in southwest Germany, has
helped Pfalz to earn an affectionate title: the Tuscany of Germany. Several steps
along in the region’s viticultural practice and shifting climate, they’re now able to
cultivate white asparagus, fig, almond, kiwifruit and lemons! The comparisons do
diverge though when it comes to the differing grape varieties that flourish in the
respective regions. In Pfalz, apart from the success in cultivating Dornfelder and
Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), it’s mainly about finessing their varietal white wines: Gewürztraminer, Riesling in various styles, Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), Sylvaner,
Muscat, and more recently for this vintner – Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc).

One of the visionary projects in the diverse portfolio of winemaker Ernst Loosen,
Weingut JL Wolf, now rebranded as Villa Wolf, is building on traditions begun in
the mid-18th century. The task of reinvigorating this particular estate just outside
of Wachenheim, is very much in keeping with the progressive mindset that has
methodically blossomed in the surrounding vineyards of the other 130 regional
villages; linked by the famed Deutsche Weinstraße (the German Wine Road).

Whereas Pinot Blanc has been derisively referred to as Pinot Bland elsewhere,
in this week’s DéClassé featuring of Villa Wolf Pinot Blanc 2014–this couldn’t
be further from the case. Certainly it’s a lighter wine style, but one that uniquely
benefits from the Pfalz’s sandstone soils and climate; better ensuring a harvest
of fully ripe grapes. The minimal processing and fermentation with natural yeast
yields a crisp, fruit-driven wine with a delightful purity. Stock up your wine-larder
now, knowing that 2 or 3 bottles – makes an excellent pairing for Thanksgiving!

Villa Wolf

VILLA WOLF PINOT BLANC 2014
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #374959 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 14.95
13% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in Pfalz, Germany
By: Ernst Loosen
Release Date: September 19, 2015

Tasting Note
Pleasingly tart and refreshing, the apple aromas and apricot flavours finish with
a light dusting of sweet herbs. Well paired with roast chicken or veal, fresh pea
risotto or smoked ham and cucumber salad as lunch fare.

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.