All posts in

Pinot Gris/Grigio

Post comments
On the Up

Les Belles Collines’ (LBC) first vintage was the excellent 2007. Since then this Napa based wine label headed by Taiwan’s David Pan, has been on a mission to produce wine in which David can feel proud. This is easier said than done, David is refreshingly critical of LBC’s attempts so far but he need not be too harsh, they have already produced some excellent work. The wine-making model employed by LBC is to source the best fruit they can from various prime sites scattered throughout northern California but with the emphasis on fruit from Napa and Russian River. Contracts that allow LBC first refusal on certain fruit do not come cheap but it allows the wine-making team licence to be very selective.

Like most Napa based wine producers Cabernet is king. The two most significant wines at LBC both in volume and (arguably) quality are their White Label and their prestige cuvee, Les Sommets. Tasting the notoriously cool 2011 vintage there was little of the tell-tale greenness that haunts an unfortunate number of their neighbour’s wines. Both lacked the intensity and concentration of 2007,8,9 and 10 but they are drinking well already and will continue to be worthy drinking over the medium term.

Chardonnay, both in un-oaked and oaked forms, came to fruition with the 2012 vintage. At present I feel that both have a way to go before being considered among the best from the region but with the 2013 already better than the 2012, I would not be surprised to see an excellent LBC Chardonnay emerge in the near future. Where they have really excelled is with 2013’s Russian River Pinot Noir, this is everything (well, maybe not everything) that Pinot producers promise but so rarely deliver: elegant, fine-boned and perfumed. LBC, a producer to keep your eye on.

LBC Russian River Pinot Noir, 2013, 14.1%
Grape:
Pinot Noir
Wine-making: Delicate handling and 20% new French oak
Note: Dried rose, raspberry and just a whiff of oak lead to a palate of refinement and poise but super-fine tannins. Russian river’s answer to Volnay.
Price: 1600NT
Score: 17.5/20
Available from: Les Belles Collines 2 2755 6990

LBC California Pinot Gris, 2013, 13.4%
Grape:
Pinot Gris
Wine-making: Stainless steel. This is about fruit expression.
Note: With some spice and PG’s signature weighty mouthfeel this is definitely in the ‘Gris’ rather than the ‘Grigio’ style of this variety. Adept blending has ensured that the fat is nicely balanced by just enough acidity to please the palate whilst the price achieves the same result from the pocket.
Price: 900NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: Les Belles Collines 2 2755 6990

Sniff NL Bottle Block

Post comments
The Fat above the Belt

On speaking with Philippe Blanck, co-owner/producer of one of the great Domaines of Alsace (Domaine Paul Blanck), the conundrum which is Pinot Gris (PG), was finally resolved. For years I had tended to avoid PG, never sure that I really liked the hedonistic, gingery, musky, oily examples one can find from Alsace, this grape’s spiritual home. The problem is what to do with all of that fat, that extra timber; that PG, lumbering rather than lithe, lugs around in its wake.

Wherever one lives in the world, we have all encountered people who suit a little extra padding and look gaunt, even unwell if they decide to diet. The opposite is also true. On returning to Europe this Summer, I managed to add 10lbs in 10 weeks (I’m still not sure how) and for me Jabba the Hut chic just doesn’t cut it. PG experiences the same problem. Winemakers who know what they are doing (or who have exceptional terroir) seem able to leave exactly the right amount of alcohol, residual sugar and vitally acidity in the wine. This means that like Bob Hoskins (or an Ewok) these wines are comfortable within their own skin (or fur), still fat but definitely all that.

So how to find those Pinot Gris’ that sport this wonderful torso? This is not easy and as with the wines of Burgundy (where it is all about the producer), you will need to kiss a few frogs before you meet the chubby beauty of your dreams. Below are a couple of examples from producers that can produce mesmeric PG, full of musky charm but also blessed with vitality and a saltiness that encourages you to have an extra glass, just don’t expect these wines to be bone dry.

Domaine Paul Blanck, ‘Patergarten’ 2010, 13.5%, Organic but not certified
Grape:
Pinot Gris
Wine-making: 6-9 months on the lees in large old oak casks
Note: Exuberant, spicy, salty and with a nose of lemon oil and faded flowers. Medium dry that makes this an exotic partner for…well, all things exotic. Delicious.
Price: Not currently available in Taiwan
Score: 17.5/20
Available from: N/A in Taiwan

Rolly Gassmann, Rotleibel de Rorshwihr, 2008, 14%, Biodynamic but not certified
Grape:
Pinot Gris
Wine-making: No new oak
Note: Perfect Pinot Gris nose full of musk, gingerbread and allspice. Full bodied, medium sweet but with wonderful vitality that means for all the mouth-coating richness of the wine it never feels heavy or clunky. Very persistent.
Price: Not currently available in Taiwan
Score: 18/20
Available from:

Albert Mann, Cuvee Albert, 2011, 14%, Biodynamic but not certified
Grape:
Pinot Gris
Wine-making: No new oak
Note: The driest of these three wines. Off-dry with quince, musk and smoke dominating the nose. Again like all these wines there is richness but an accompanying verve.
Price: Not currently available in Taiwan
Score: 16/20
Available from: N/A in Taiwan

Sniff NL Bottle Block