13 March 2006

Racing windmills

[pinotJF/Ernest Burn 2002 Pinot Blanc (Alsace) – A great (though sweet) pinot gris, from which one might assume that there’s a healthy proportion of extremely ripe auxerrois in this wine. Spicy and hugely peachy for pinot blanc, it’s massively sweet to the point of being dangerous to pair with anything other than the right food. Despite the sugar, there’s just enough supportive acidity to at least approach balance, and this isn’t a bad wine. It’s just way, way out in left field.

This used to be a solid producer of intense, rich, rarely dry and terroir-revelatory wines. Now? I fear it’s become a bit of a sugar factory. But then, that’s the way to points and glory in Alsace these days. Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Arborway. Web: http://www.domaine-burn.fr/.

Frick 2004 Muscat (Alsace) – An empty warehouse of a wine, with the sweet floral perfume of muscat in one corner; available, but not particularly present. Despite the sweet nose, it’s dry, with slightly clumsy structure and somewhat insufficient balance.

Dry muscat is a chancy proposition. Right off the bat, a certain percentage of consumers are going to reject its “smells sweet/tastes dry” character. Second, it doesn’t have many obvious utilities at the table (asparagus, yes, but that’s someone one has to learn; almost no one would ever guess). But when it’s good, in Alsace, it’s a delicately floral and perfumed take on what might otherwise be a light-bodied riesling from a cool site. Here, unfortunately, things are not quite what they should be. Alcohol: 13%. Biodynamic. Closure: cork. Importer: Violette.

Laurent Barth 2004 “Racines Métisses” (Alsace) – Clean, wind-tunnel aromas of hard steel and faded sweat, with the faintest hints of spiced pear and tomato. Somewhat vegetal and seemingly sylvaner-dominated on the acidic palate; too austere for its own good.

The term “edelzwicker,” which (sorta) means “noble blend” and is intended for wines of this type, doesn’t have much marketability outside the cheaper-is-better crowds that inhabit French supermarkets. Thus, savvy producers turn to proprietary names. What’s here: apparently everything but gewurztraminer, which is wise (though if there’s muscat, it’s very hard to tell). One looking for a good, quaffable edelzwicker would do better looking to Boxler or Meyer-Fonné, to name two that I believe are available in the States. Alcohol: 12.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Vineyard Research.

Ollivier “La Pépière” 2004 Muscadet Sèvre & Maine “Moulin de la Gustaie” “Sur Lie” (Loire) – Almost shockingly upfront for Muscadet, with clean and crisp but vivid salted white fruit and amber-preserved flower stems. The price one pays for all this “exuberance” (such terms are relative, after all) is a somewhat shorter finish, but it’s a fun Muscadet for right now.

Since the choice of a synthetic cork basically means that the producer is encouraging earlier drinking, it’s beneficial that this one delivers the goods so quickly. I’m getting hungry for oysters just thinking about this wine. Alcohol: 12%. Closure: extruded synthetic. Importer: Louis/Dressner/LDM.

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