This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, Aug. 18, 2008 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20080818.php.
Sparr, a hearty, friendly man who speaks excellent English, represents the ninth generation in his family firm, whose vineyards were first planted in the 18th century and which has been selling wine commercially since 1861.
Typical of Alsatian producers, Pierre Sparr holds a great deal of tradition; I'm particularly fond of the wines because, by and large, they have not succumbed to the make-it-sweet, make-it-strong movement that has changed the nature of many Alsatian wines in recent years.
But Sparr is also innovative and experimental: Sparr now bottles most of its more affordable wine ranges under sturdy metal screw caps - still a relative oddity in the conservative French wine industry - and Bernard says couldn't be happier with the results in terms of either commerce or quality. (Acceptance Down Under and in the Americas is excellent, he added, although consumer resistance in Europe is "still big." Accordingly, the higher-end Reserve and Grand Cru wines remain under natural cork. For now.)
He also favors a somewhat controversial move to disclose the exact sweetness level on the back-label of Alsatian wines. And, again in a selected range of affordable wines, he's experimenting with extreme label simplification, identifying wines by proprietary name ("Extrem," "Alsace One," "Red Silk") on bright, bold-color labels.
Bernard brought along a substantial collection of his wines for lunch at Corbett's an American Place in Louisville, where I joined him; Chris Webb of U.S. importer W. J. Deutsch & Sons Ltd; sales rep Niki Weissman with distributor Southern Wine & Spirits of America Inc., and Corbett's wine director Troy Ritchie.
Here are my notes on 14 Sparr wines, with the usual caveat that notes taken in a social setting with food (Corbett's excellent three-course prix fixe lunch including a shrimp and grits main course) are necessarily less analytical than my usual wine reports taken over time, with and without food, in quiet solitude. Even so, as I mentioned above, I find Sparr's wines in general give an excellent representation of the classic Alsatian style. The consistently show ample fruit, excellent body and structure that presents the table wines as dry or near-dry. Versatile and food-friendly, they generally - even the modest wines - show cellar potential.
Pierre Sparr Marquis de Perlade non-vintage Brut Blanc de Blanc ($13.99)
Pierre Sparr non-vintage Cremant d'Alsace Rosé ($19.99)
Pierre Sparr 2006 "Extrem" Riesling ($14.99)
Pierre Sparr 2006 "Alsace One" ($14.99)
Pierre Sparr 2005 Selection Pinot Gris ($17.99)
Pierre Sparr 2006 Reserve Pinot Gris ($19.99)
Pierre Sparr 2005 Reserve Riesling ($16.99)
Pierre Sparr 2006 "Red Silk" Pinot Noir ($16.99)
Pierre Sparr 2006 Selection Gewurztraminer ($17.99)
Pierre Sparr 2006 Reserve Gewurztraminer ($19.99)
Pierre Sparr 2002 Riesling Mambourg Grand Cru 2002 ($39.99)
Pierre Sparr 2002 Pinot Gris Mambourg Grand Cru 2002 ($39.99)
Pierre Sparr 2002 Gewurztraminer Mambourg Grand Cru 2002 ($39.99)
Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives 2002 ($54.99)
For more information in English, see the Pierre Sparr page on the U.S. importer's Website,
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Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns. Please note that for a summer break, we've put the FoodLetter on a short-term vacation and are skipping some (but not all) Friday editions.
An organic Zinfandel (Aug. 13, 2008)
Light and fresh (Aug. 11, 2008)
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