Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Pinot Gris at 15

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Posted by Burke Morton On April - 16 - 2010

I decided I'd have an easier time adjusting to the missing finger if I was consuming wine while writing (after all, the old writer's adage is "write drunk, edit sober"), so on this beautiful, warm Spring day I pulled out a bottle of 15 year-old Pinot Gris from Alsace: the 1995 Clos Windsbuhl Pinot Gris from Zind-Humbrecht.

In the end I didn't drink enough to even get a buzz, because this is the kind of wine you want to stay sober for! Those of you who are surprised that a Pinot Gris lasted this long, I hope you'll revise your thinking, as this is not uncommon from the great sites in Alsace. Clos Windsbuhl is a single vineyard in Alsace that, for a variety of reasons (which I'll spare you unless someone asks about it) yields wines that generally age well, and are often very tense when young.

Since I was an insufferable newbie AND somehow also a know-it-all when I bought this wine back in 1997 (I was insecure and had a huge ego that was completely in the way of any sensory reception at the tasting I went to. To the extent that you care, we can thank maturity and my wife for feeding me the humble pie.), I have absolutely no recollection of what this wine tasted like back then. However, based on my unusually broad knowledge (umm...where's that humble pie?) of Alsace wine, I imagine that there was some residual sugar that was prominent. If so, this is no longer a principal feature, but has absorbed into the wine as a whole. This is not uncommon in wines this powerful as they age. Think of it this way: this wine was made for a long life, so it's sweetness and acids were not communing very well early on, whereas in some of the very, very popular Chardonnays from Napa Valley and Sonoma Coast--those that many people think are actually dry--are made to co-mingle this sugar and acidity more precociously.

A Pinot Gris like this would be a mind-bending alternative to fans of such wines. The Pinot Gris was fresh, didn't taste "old" at all, and had marvelously vivid stone fruit qualities to go with similar but significantly more suggestive aromas. It was hard to stop smelling this one.

Zind-Humbrecht wines are not inexpensive, but this estate makes some of the greatest wines you can buy. I paid $45 for this wine (at a time when this kind of price made my head swim). That $45 has paid huge dividends for me so far, and I don't doubt that it will continue to do so for the rest of the day (and tomorrow). Strangely, these wines are not as in-demand as they should be. I've known many people who buy those aforementioned Chardonnays--which shall go unnamed (to protect the innocent, since this article is not meant to deride them...maybe I'll write one of those later)--by the case and put them in their cellar, but then they don't drink them all within three years. Naturally they complain that the wines don't taste like they did or--my favorite descriptor--"should." I can only offer commiseration and a new buying strategy. The Clos Windsbuld Pinot Gris currently sells for about $65, equivalent to many of those California Chards, but this wine has no trouble lasting 15 years. Is it any wonder I still can't fathom the relative stagnance of Alsace wine sales at the upper end?

Oh well, I'll just go back to my glass and enjoy it. If I can't get other people to buy these wines, then that'll just leave more for me. But I like sharing, so I'm afraid you'll be in for a continued assault.

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1 Response

  1. Scurvychaser Said,

    I think that upper end “stagnance” comes from the uncertainty many of us have as to how they pair best with food and, in my case, the low end of the range is often too sweet.

    Posted on April 17th, 2010 at 6:02 pm

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