WTN / WineAdvisor: Serious Pinot Gris (Lucien Albrecht '05)

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WTN / WineAdvisor: Serious Pinot Gris (Lucien Albrecht '05)

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Jun 28, 2006 12:17 pm

Serious Pinot Gris

Last week, I argued the proposition that much of the Pinot Grigio grown in the hilly Collio, Colli Orientale and Trentino-Alto Adige regions of Northeastern Italy exceeds expectations for a grape variety that's hugely popular but all too often made in an insipid mass-market style.

Today, let's turn to Pinot Gris - which, you'll remember, is the identical grape using a French moniker - for a look at another region that can handle it with exceptional competence: Alsace, on the West Bank of the Rhine River, a picturesque but historically embattled region that's moved between Germany and France as a spoil of war so many times that it's sometimes hard to tell at a glance which country you're in. German family names abound in the region, often coupled with French given names, like today's featured wine from <B>Lucien Albrecht</B>.

Alsatian wines, indeed, are in a category all their own, boasting a style that - to my taste buds, at least - is neither characteristically French nor typically German but uniquely Alsatian. The wines are almost always white (and the few offbeat reds I've tried have rarely been compelling), and they're typically intense, dry or nearly so, and blessed with a lovely, stony minerality that many wine enthusiasts crave. The King of Alsatian varieties is surely Riesling, but other varieties earn legitimate places in the royal court, particularly Gewürztraminer and, getting to the point of today's sermon, Pinot Gris.

For many years Alsatian producers labeled Pinot Gris as "Tokay" or "Tokay Pinot Gris" on the basis of a purported medieval Hungarian connection (mirroring a similar Italian story about Tocai Friulano), but the T-word is being phased out after the Hungarians won exclusive rights to it in a long-running, controversial dispute in the European courts.

The name notwithstanding, the wine's the thing, and Alsatian Pinot Gris is almost always a safe choice when you're looking for a <i>serious</i> example of this not-always-serious grape. Today's tasting, the recently arrived 2005 "Cuvée Romanus" from Lucien Albrecht, is named after Romanus Albrecht, the family's first recorded wine maker, who lived in 1425.

<table border="0" align="right" width="170"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/albr0627.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Lucien Albrecht 2005 "Cuvée Romanus" Alsace Pinot Gris ($16)

Transparent straw color. Limes and honeydew melons, fresh and snappy aromas and flavors, with delicate notes of orange blossom and mint on the nose and a fine "rainwater over rocks" minerality on the palate. A slight touch of sweetness is nicely balanced by mouth-watering acidity in a rather full-bodied flavor, with tart and juicy limes in a very long finish. A very impressive wine, demonstrates the potential of serious Pinot Gris. U.S. importer: Pasternak Wine Imports, Harrison, N.Y.; Martin Sinkoff Selections. (June 27, 2006)

<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> It served well with a diverse collection of small bites - Hainanese chicken and lettuce wraps; fresh figs and mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto, and udon noodles in a light mix of hoisin sauce with a peanut and sesame oil and lime juice vinaigrette. The stunning match on the plate, though, was with chicken breast scented with fresh ginger and lemongrass, which beautifully echoed the wine's citric and herbal flavors.

<B>VALUE:</B> No complaint about a mid-teens price for a white wine of this quality.

<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> Drink up while it's fresh and delicate; a synthetic "cork" also argues against keeping longer than a year or two.

The U.S. importer offers a fact sheet about Lucien Albrecht and his wines at this link, with links there to PDF files on the various wines including the Cuvée Romanus. The winery Website is available in English, German and French. Click the national flag of your choice.

The U.S. importer provides state-by-state contact information for its sales directors at this link.
Compare prices and locate vendors for Lucien Albrecht Pinot Gris on Wine-Searcher.com.
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Robin Garr
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Re: WTN / WineAdvisor: Serious Pinot Gris (Lucien Albrecht '05)

Postby Jenise » Wed Jun 28, 2006 4:16 pm

Great value, these Luciens. I was thinking this morning about buying wines ahead for our neighborhood Christmas dinner--we serve 60 to 70 for a sitdown dinner during which every table gets its own bottles. We always need a white with the salad/fish course, and it's probably the easiest place to save a little money. I was thinking domestic but this would be an excellent choice--EXCELLENT.

So what's "Hainanese chicken"?
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Re: WTN / WineAdvisor: Serious Pinot Gris (Lucien Albrecht '05)

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Jun 28, 2006 4:45 pm

Jenise wrote:So what's "Hainanese chicken"?

Got it out of a new cookbook, called "Small Bites" or some such, that I'll probably review in tomorrow's FoodLetter. It's basically chicken breast poached with Asian flavors, then plated with thin cucumber slices and cilantro in lettuce wraps. I tweaked the recipe some, specifically to add lemongrass to make it IOTM-worthy, and much to my pleasure the lemongrass turned out to be a brilliant match with the Lucien. :)
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Re: WTN / WineAdvisor: Serious Pinot Gris (Lucien Albrecht '05)

Postby Dan Smothergill » Wed Jun 28, 2006 9:57 pm

Our AWS has an event each year known as "The Feast". It's a wine/food pairing and has become so popular over the years that attendance now has to be limited. This year one of the wines was an '04 Adam Tokay Pinot Gris Reserve from Alsace. I can tell you the food it was paired with, but the wine itself was so wonderful that it doesn't matter much. The guy sitting next to us, who is from Alsace, kept moaning, "This is heaven". And it was. And the price was all of $15.

We took a trip to Alsace last year and tasted many fine Rieslings and Gewurztraminers. But we didn't know about Pinot Gris. Now that we do we will be going back soon.
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Re: WTN / WineAdvisor: Serious Pinot Gris (Lucien Albrecht '05)

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Fri Jun 30, 2006 12:10 am

Speaking as the Pinot Gris leader on this forum (hic, hic cup), have found the `04 today!!
Canadian wine festival at a local store today and tomorrow, many PG on the list to taste including the Blue Mountain striped label. Hello Jenise, see what you are missing!
As an addition and in a vain attempt to highjack Robins thread here, I tasted a very nice Semillon this evening from Lake Breeze, Okanagan. Very tasty....as I expect the Albrecht will be.
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