A Classic Wins Hands Down: Albert Mann Pinot Blanc 2010

alsaceI have to admit tthat I’m in awe of the fine wines of Alsace. They seem elegant, sophisticated, and delightful to drink… so why isn’t anyone drinking them??

In my corner of the U.S., Alsatian white wines are about as common on local dinner tables as Frogs Legs. By that I mean that many folks have heard of them, but hardly anyone actually consumes them. Let’s try to change that…

First of all, let me explain that Alsace sits on the northern edge of France, but it owes much more to Germany in its winemaking traditions.  Alsace’s wine grape growing region is sandwiched between the Vosges Mountains to the west and the Rhine River to the east, so they’re within spitting distance of Germany’s vineyards. The grapes they grow are similar to Germany and Austria — Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris — and unlike the rest of France, the Alsatians label their wines with the grape name instead of the region.

(Sidebar for those who find wine labels impenetrable: France and most of Europe name a wine for the region it’s from, such as Sancerre, rather than the grape it’s made from, such as Sauvignon Blanc.)mann

So Alsace follows Germany’s wine styles. The area also follows its climate: it’s pretty darn cool up there, but the Vosges Mountains at least protect the vineyards from the worst of the winds and keeps rainfall to a minimum. So despite its cold continental climate, all that sun helps the grapes ripen more than they otherwise would that far north.

But let’s get to the wine. I put Albert Mann Pinot Blanc 2010 in a blind tasting (that means the wine labels are hidden), and expected to smell and taste lots of acid (from the cool temperatures), plenty of minerals (from the soil), and not much more. Boy, did  I fool myself.

First, the nose was bright with tangerine, but softened by something like tapioca. The palate offered tons of tropical flavors, more tangerine and a wonderful creamy mouthfeel. The acid was balanced, not intrusive, just keeping the fruit from getting too rich. I’d say there was a touch of residual sugar, but it was pretty minimal because I didn’t pick it up until the wine had warmed in my glass and lost some of its snap.

I guess the folks at Domaine Albert Mann have this stuff figured out. The winery is a partnership between two families who have a combined 600 years winemaking experience. Their vineyards are organic and biodynamic, because they believe “the grapes should be nourished by soil, not fertilizers.” They believe “the wine is the memory of the grape,” which is a very poetic way of saying that good wine starts with good grapes.

They’re certainly doing it right. Their higher-end wines (the entry-level wine Pinot Blanc I tasted is priced under $20) have gotten huge ratings for years. And they’ve gotten me hooked: I want to taste their Riesling next, because after all, that’s one of the Noble varieties in the wine world and I bet they do a spectacular job with it. Try anything you can find from Albert Mann — I think you’ll be rewarded. Cheers!

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