Alsace Pinot Noirs from the 2021 Millésimes Tasting

By / Wine + Drinks / September 7th, 2021 / Like

Our careers as wine writers have been impacted greatly by the pandemic, but probably not as much as the actual wineries and their employees, who are trying to continue selling wine around the world.

One of the major ways they reach people is at special conferences and trade tastings, including some rather large ones, like Alsace’s Millésimes event.  This event brings trade to Alsace to taste many (most?) of the region’s great wines, while also touring journalists around the region. I was honoured to attend a few years ago, and it is one of the most memorable weeks of my professional life.

This year was very different, of course, but the 5th version of Millésimes continued on! They were the first major wine region to host a full on trade event complete with tastings, via www.millesimes-alsace.com.  But how?

Those who wanted to participate registered online, and then requested samples from a select number of participating wineries. All in all there were 100 exhibitors, but journalists were only permitted to select 8 producers, and then there were 2 others that were selected for us, as an introduction to those Domaines.

After selecting the wineries, the organizers put together sampling boxes of 4 wines per producer, bottled in tiny tasting samples of 33 cl. Collectively this was a package with 10 X 4 = 40 samples – very impressive – from the following wineries: Lucien Albrecht, Emile Beyer, Paul Blanck, Fernand Engel, Gustave Lorentz, Schlumberger, Caves de Turckheim, Zind-Humbrecht, Edmond Rentz and Roland Schmitt.

They also allowed for one-on-one video tastings that we could book with producers, but that dance card was filled very quickly. There were also more general pre-taped seminars on various key topics featuring winery representatives.

This was an amazing way to stay connected with the region, taste Grand Cru Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris with top producers, as well as many other wines. Yes, there were a few samples that became oxidized in the packaging and shipping process, but most arrived unscathed.

There were a few Pinot Noirs spread around the various samples on offer. Here are my 5 top rated ones:

****  Paul Blanck Cuvée F 2015, Kaysersberg-Vignoble

Bright red, with nice varietal character of red cherry, like red Nibs (licorice candy). Fresh on the palate, yet soft enough in acidity to be approachable. Good structure from tannins, as well. “F” is for Furstentum; these are 30 year-old-vines planted on mainly ferrous-marly soils.

***    Gustav Lorentz La Limite 2015, Bergheim

Spicy cherry and oak dominate the nose of this biodynamic Pinot Noir, making it seem a bit New World in style, but very attractive. Lovely mouthfeel, a bit warmer climate style than is typical – perhaps due to vintage. Spicy, juicy, oaky finish. Needs a couple years to lose that oak signature, but it is tasty.

***   Emile Beyer Sundel 2019, Eguisheim

Small production, biodynamic Pinot with a medium cherry red colour and an attractive cherry nose that is VERY Pinot. Also a bit dusty/earthy, Burgundian, with good structure, from both acidity and tannins. Will improve with some age as it softens.

***   Roland Schmitt 2019, Bergbieten

Another biodynamic producer, this has very nice fruit on the nose, more berries than cherry. There is a bit of phenolic/medicinal complexity but it fits into the overall picture. Finishes very dry, and is a bit funky in a nice, tasty Old World style, with good grip.

***   Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés 2017, Guebwiller

This is a fairly large but 100% estate winery. This Pinot is at first a bit shy on the nose, with dusty, mineral notes, and tart cherry fruit, quite like rhubarb. Bone dry, and with firm acidity, this really needs food to shine, or maybe some age. It opens up nicely in a bigger glass, revealing pretty, floral and cherry notes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Craig Pinhey discovered good drink circa 1985 at Ginger’s Tavern/Granite Brewery in Halifax and has been writing about beer, wine and spirits for 25 years. A Certified Sommelier and BJCP judge, Craig lives in New Brunswick where he runs his own writing and consulting business and is the beverage columnist for Brunswick News. He is the only person to have judged all of the national wine, spirits and beer awards of Canada.

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